The Charms of Italo Disco

I just read this review/analysis of Johan Agebjorn's latest record and it got me thinking. The author is trying to explain why the trendy indie crowd needs to rationalize their taste by rejecting some music as tasteless. In this case they needed to have the italo disco trend to dig Sally Shapiro. I party agree but I admit I like the cheeziness of italo as well.

Let's watch this video of Gary Low and have a short analysis what I mean.

A small foreword: The term italo disco generally refers to medium tempo italian dance music made in the 80's by synthesizers and drum machines. There was for a long time in Italy a suspicion that Italians didn't know how to make disco, so a lot of the artists had American names and sung in English. Some of the time they didn't know English at all, so their pronunciation and lyrics are a bit silly.

Now, let's get to the video. Gary Low performs here in the Superclasifica show. You have to understand that most of the disco acts where studio bands who made records and didn't really perform. So the videos are mostly singers doing playbacks with silly dancing and weird tv effects.

Notice these:
* Dude dresses up on all white
* Really nice percussion beat in the intro
* Bit toy-ish and wacky wi-wi-wiiu-wi-wi-wi-wiiou-sounds from the synths. I like!
* The acted emotion when the singing starts
* AHHH, the moment when the verse starts. His voice is pretty flat with a hefty accent. He seems to force it a bit. And, hmmm, quite different from the chorus part
* But wait, when it starts to build on towards the chorus with the cowbell. Gary starts to jump because he too knows something amazing is going to come in the chorus. I LOVE HOW HE POINTS W/ HIS FINGERS!
* WHOOMP! A children's choir appears from nowhere. And it's really excellent, can't critisize it at all.
* Gary goes back to "singing" the second singers' part with a totally different voice
* When it starts going to the second chorus he knows again it's a winning song and he loosens up as a result
* And he also "sings" when the children are doing the second chorus

It's a silly video, but the song is really solid. Get a hold of the 12 inch, I guarantee it will work on the dance floors still. No irony needed.

Generally italo disco had an image that was and still is laughable. But beneath that surface there were numerous classically trained composers who maybe tried disco once or twice. And italo had a great influence on house music's birth in Chicago. And even if the vocals are a bit silly, they have that nice naive emotional or sometimes funny quality. Either way, when you hear it you end up loosing yourself up a bit, and that's only a good thing in a disco environment.

I'll promise to do a top 10 italo disco before the Suomi-Ruotsi-Disko-Ottelu, since I think I'll be playing a lot of that stuff.

- Peffis

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