The musicarello (Italian pronunciation: [muzikaˈrɛllo]; plural: musicarelli) is a film subgenre which emerged in Italy and which is characterised by the presence in main roles of young singers, already famous among their peers, and their new record album. In the films there are almost always tender and chaste love stories accompanied by the desire to have fun and dance without thoughts. Musicarelli reflect the desire and need for emancipation of young Italians, highlighting some generational frictions. The genre began in the late 1950s, and had its peak of production in the 1960s.
According to critics, the name "musicarello" is a reference to the successful TV series Carosello. In particular, the name "musicarello" combines the words "musica" ("music") and "Carosello": in fact, the singers who were the protagonists of the musicarelli, thanks to their notoriety, often appeared in many episodes of TV series Carosello.
The genre began in the late 1950s, and had its peak of production in the 1960s. The film which started the genre is considered to be I ragazzi del Juke-Box (1959) by Lucio Fulci. The musicarelli were inspired by two American musicals, in particular Jailhouse Rock (1957) by Richard Thorpe and earlier Love Me Tender (1956) by Robert D. Webb, both starring Elvis Presley.
One of the pioneering films of the musicarelli was the version for the Italian market of the American musical film Go, Johnny, Go! (1959) by Paul Landres starring Jimmy Clanton, Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens and Eddie Cochran released in Italy as Vai, Johnny vai!. Some sequences were inserted from scratch in the film with the Italian singer Adriano Celentano who introduces and concludes the story by playing some of his songs.
Musicarello is characterised by the presence in main roles of young singers, already famous among their peers, and their new record album. At the heart of the musicarello is a hit song, or a song that the producers hoped would become a hit, that usually shares its title with the film itself and sometimes has lyrics depicting a part of the plot.
Musicarello can be defined as the forerunner of the music video, a way of bringing teenagers to the cinema attracted by the plot as by the singers' performances. In fact, the films are born from agreements between record companies and film companies. In the films there are almost always tender and chaste love stories accompanied by the desire to have fun and dance without thoughts.
Unlike most film musicals, this subgenre has an evident age-based focus while musical films until that time had been produced in a way generally undifferentiated for tastes and ages, musicarello is explicitly targeted to a youthful audience and usually has in its plot a vague polemic against conformism and bourgeois attitudes, even if it does not fail to reflect the desire and need for emancipation of young Italians, highlighting some generational frictions.
The genre was referred to as a curious mix between fotoromanzi, traditional comedy, hit songs and tentative references to tensions between generations. The key figures in this genre were directors Piero Vivarelli, Ettore Maria Fizzarotti, Domenico Paolella, Sergio Sollima, Mario Mattoli, Ruggero Deodato, Enzo Trapani and Bruno Corbucci, and actor-singers Gianni Morandi, Al Bano, Mal Ryder, Tony Renis, Adriano Celentano, Bobby Solo, Orietta Berti, Little Tony, Mina Mazzini, Rita Pavone and Caterina Caselli.
With the arrival of the 1968 student protests the genre started to decline, because the generational revolt became explicitly political and at the same time there was no longer a music equally directed to the whole youth audience. For some time the duo Al Bano and Romina Power continued to enjoy success in musicarello films, but their films (like their songs) were a return to the traditional melody, and to the musical films of the previous decades.