Paolo Conte: Italian 'arthouse exotic'

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Journal Article
Popular Music, 2007, 26 (3), pp. 489 - 496
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Paolo Conte is the most internationally successful of the Italian singer-songwriters who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. He is also among the most idiosyncratic, eclectic and unusual exponents of what Franco Fabbri has defined as the canzone d'autore (author's song). Nonetheless he remains a rather arcane, cult figure in the Anglophone world - an example of what Simon Frith has called 'the unpopular popular'. A combination of apparent opposites - the provincial and the cosmopolitan - his music appropriates a global sweep of influences without being definable as 'world music'. Characteristics of both his rough, untrained singing style and wry, ironic and opaque compositions have strong affinities with US singer-songwriters like Tom Waits and Randy Newman, and he draws heavily on early American jazz influences, although he remains quintessentially Italian. This makes him difficult to categorise in the world music market. Copyright © 2007 Cambridge University Press.
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