Italo-disco is a genre of 1980s electronic dance music mostly derived from Disco and Europop. It originated from Italy
, hence the name. As its popularity reached around most parts of Europe, German, Belgian, Greek, French, Swedish, Spanish and other artists have been influenced by the genre to produce their own similar-styled songs, sometimes labeled under "Euro-Disco".
Italo-disco started with the sustained popularity of Disco in Europe
after its death
in North America. Before that, Europeans, primarily in central or southern Europe, made songs featuring synthesizers in pop and dance styles, in part due to high song import and orchestra costs. Giorgio Moroder
and Cerrone popularized the use of synthesizers in disco in general, and Italian, German, French and Spanish disco in The '70s
had moderate synthesizer usage.
The majority of this genre's releases never found popularity to the U.S. and the U.K. due to possible backlash, the confusing and cheesy English lyrics
, and the poor music export record of Italy and other nations, but a number of those that did get released to those markets became big hits, such as Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy," Laura Branigan's "Self Control," and Taffy's "I Love My Radio". Other releases got popular at club, party, or city radio broadcast ranks, although in Southern California and other places with Hi-NRG dominance the songs may have played faster at around 45 rpm. Chicago was one of the biggest Italo-disco markets in the U.S., where it was so popular it was one of the music styles that helped spawn House Music
. Italo disco never reached massive popularity in North America and Australia, but besides Europe, some releases that made it to such places as Latin America, eastern Europe, and the Philippines became local hits.
A lot of Italo-disco songs are about love, few are only instrumentals, and most vocal songs have instrumental versions. Most songs are sung in English, and many artists used English-language stage names. Italo-disco is different from disco music most people are familiar with. While it borrows elements from traditional disco, its use of synths is principal; Italo-disco is less acoustical, one change being that traditional disco drum beats having been replaced by drum machines. Italo-disco is more catchy and features arpeggios. The genre may overlap with Synth Pop
, Hi-NRG, and Electro. The genre has regional differences within Europe. In contrast to Italian tracks, German tracks lack some of the Italian instrument-like sounds and contain elements of Schlager. In Spain, the songs have higher energy and voice and synth pitches. Non-Italian tracks are commonly labeled as Italo-disco. Italo-disco began to be mainstream in the breakthrough year of 1983. The (pre-)1983 releases in Italy are more darker, minimal, and underground-centered than post-1983 releases. The genre died down in the end of the decade when the Italo-dance, Eurobeat and House genres grew.
Italo-disco is currently going under a bit of a revival, thanks to American artists like Chromatics, Glass Candy and Johnny Jewel operating out of Washington state's Italians Do It Better label. There is a movement of new Italo-disco styled releases by old and new artists. Many original 80s releases are available in digital music stores, and some rare tracks received vinyl represses by labels in Italy and abroad. Poland even enjoys an Italo-disco trend after the 80s, and created their own genre called Disco-polo. The soundtrack to the 2011 film Drive
had an Italo disco inspired soundtrack largely composed by Cliff Martinez.
The German label ZYX Music owns the rights to a high percentage of the Italo-disco releases from the 1980s after acquiring the rights of prominent labels such as Discomagic, Time Records, Memory Records, Il Discotto, and Sensation Records. (Discomagic controlled Sensation Records and distributed Time Records releases) In Spain most contemporary Italo-disco compilations are from Blanco y Negro Music.
Notable italo-disco/euro-disco artists