Italo-disco is a genre of 1980s electronic dance music mostly derived from Disco, Europop and Progressive music. It originated from Italy
, hence the name. As its popularity reached around most 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. Milan was one of the centers of Italo-disco in Italy. Italo-disco's breakthrough year was 1983, when many of the most acclaimed songs (commercially and/or receptively) came out. The (pre-)1983 releases in Italy tend to be dark and minimal unlike most post-1983 releases, not to mention continuing evolution from its seventies predecessor. The genre died down in the end of the The '80s
when the Italo-dance, Euro Beat
and Italo-house genres grew.
A lot of Italo-disco songs are about love; few songs in the genre are only instrumentals, and most vocal songs from Italy 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its use of synths is principal; Italo-disco is less acoustic, one change being that traditional disco drum beats having been replaced by drum machines in all but few older songs. Italo-disco is more catchy and features arpeggios. The genre overlaps with Synth Pop
, Hi-NRG, and Electro in some releases. The genre has regional differences within Europe. In contrast to Italian tracks, German tracks may lack the Italian instrument-like sounds and contain elements of Schlager; sometimes it's described as a style derived from Modern Talking. In Spain, their songs may have higher energy and voice and synth pitches, and are also called the "Sabadell Sound". Some Italo-disco releases that made it to Latin America, eastern Europe, and the Pacific Asian nations became local hits.
The majority of this genre's releases never found popularity to the U.S., the U.K., and Australia 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 were popular at club, party, or radio broadcast ranks, although in Southern California and other places with Hi-NRG dominance the songs may have been played faster at 45 rpm. Chicago was one of the biggest Italo-disco markets in the U.S.; the genre was one of the music styles that helped spawn House Music
. Some songs from North American artists such as Bobby Orlando, Gino Soccio, and Lime have been labeled 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. Many original 80s releases are available in digital music stores, 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. The internet meme character Pepe the Frog and the related cult of Kek became associated with the Italian-sung track "Shadilay"
in 2016 thanks to the artist's name P.E.P.E. and an illustration of a wand-using frog in a record label design. 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 majority of commenters in Italo-disco Youtube videos.
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