Italo-disco is a genre of electronic dance music in The '80s
mostly derived from Disco, Europop and Progressive music. It originated from Italy
, hence the name. As its popularity reached parts of Europe, non-Italian artists produced their own similar-styled songs labeled under "Euro-disco" or even "Italo-disco".
Italo-disco started with the sustained popularity of Disco in Europe
after its death
in North America. Before that, many Europeans 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, and disco in some mainland European countries in The '70s
had quite greater synthesizer usage, including the "Space disco" style. Prominent Italian disco musicians that would influence Italo-disco include Celso Valli, Giancarlo Meo, Mauro Malavasi, Stefano Pulga, and the La Bionda brothers.
In the early 1980s, a sound that is now purely defined as Italo-disco developed, which was influenced by not only local trends but also by the UK music scene of the time
. The breakthrough year of "Spaghetti Disco" was 1983, when many of the most acclaimed songs (commercially and/or receptively) came out. As the next years were the heydays of the biggest artists, there was also increased commercialization and production quality, in addition to Euro-disco booming in other countries. While the Italians made the material everyone loved, there's not too many Euro-disco releases from other countries that were popular in Italy. Some Italo-disco releases that made it to Latin America, eastern Europe, and the Pacific Asian nations became hits in these places. The golden age of Italo-disco died down in the end of the 1980s when the Italo-dance, EuroBeat
and Italo-house genres grew, although Eurobeat music resembled its predecessor up to the early years of The '90s
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synths is principal; Italo-disco does not feature the Philadelphia sound, one common difference being drum beats having been replaced by drum machines. Italo-disco is also more catchy and features arpeggios on occasion. Most songs are sung in English, and many artists used English-language stage names. A lot of Italo-disco songs are about love, and a massive number sound like they're straight from science fiction. Most singles from Italy have instrumental versions. The genre can be confused as Synth Pop
to those unfamiliar with it.
Subgenres include the highly instrumental "spacesynth" and a darkwave one. Several (pre-)1984 songs in Italy feature electro, a style found in songs with high regard. In the late 1980s some songs have samba-like sounds and a fast tempo, signalling the transition to Eurobeat. The genre has regional differences within Europe. In contrast to Italian tracks, German tracks may be more melodic and contain elements of Schlager; sometimes it's described as a style derived from Modern Talking. In Spain, their songs may have happier tones and higher synth pitches, and are also called the "Sabadell Sound".
The majority of this genre's releases never saw popularity in the Anglosphere 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 there became big hits, such as Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy"note
, Laura Branigan's "Self Control", and Taffy's "I Love My Radio". Chicago had one of the biggest Italo-disco markets in the U.S.; the genre was one of the music styles that helped spawn House Music
. Other releases went to club, party, or radio ranks, although in Southern California many songs were played faster at 45 rpm, except in the following demographic. The genre comprised a substantial part of a music phenomenon called "Asian New Wave"
in Asian communities in North America, particularly the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Koreans. Italo-disco has similarities to freestyle, an electronic dance genre from the States. Some songs from North American artists such as Bobby Orlando, Gino Soccio, and Lime have sometimes been labeled as Italo-disco.
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 songs by old and new artists since the 2000s, although the genre is still in obscurity or nostalgia in Italy. A handful of original stars have also done concerts in various places such as eastern Europe and the Asian New Wave locales. Many original 80s songs are available in digital music stores and CD's, and some rare releases received vinyl represses by labels in Italy and abroad. Poland still enjoys Italo-disco after the 80s, resulting their own genre called Disco-polo. The soundtrack to the 2011 film Drive
had an Italo-disco inspired soundtrack largely composed by Cliff Martinez. In internet culture the genre got a boost in exposure by a meme relating to the Italian-sung track "Shadilay"
in 2016, and some Vapor Wave
songs sample an Italo-disco song.
According to Google Trends as of February 2017, people looking up Italo-disco tend to come from Poland, Hungary, Russia, and three of the four most populated Spanish-speaking countries, which also reflects the demographics of the commenters in Italo-disco YouTube
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
Tropes present in Italo-disco