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In Defense of Italo Disco
Eurasian electronic disco music that defines a subculture against modernity
Pitchfork published an article in 2015, titled “Let Me Be Your Radio: The Bizarro Universe of Italo Disco.” Followed by the tagline, “An overview of the most amazingly uncool genre ever created—Italo Disco—and how its absurd chintziness still inspires electronic artists around the globe.”
But it was this “uncool” part that sparked a Twitter controversy. A Twitter user wrote, “Retweet this if Italo Disco is cooler than Pitchfork.”
This lead me to investigate what exactly about Italo Disco is considered lame by music snobs?
I always knew Italo was a “problematic” genre even as a teen, because it incites the notion that Italian people are making good electronic disco while America started its rampant homophobia against disco during Disco Demolition Night. However, Italo Disco has its own tempo, form, and style, evolving past the funk cliché. For example, Bratt Sinclaire’s variant of "Eurobeat" is a hyped up, speed metal version of Italo, even though Eurobeat is a catch-all term to describe western Italian disco music in the Japanese market.
But again, I think about this whole dialogue about “authenticity,” where Pitchfork demands that no one would could ever take Italo seriously. But I guess "vaporwave" and being satirical is ok to their gentrification standards.
"Do you really like this!?"
This is unfortunately why we have Mitch Murder or Snythwave now. Or the deliberate attempt to try and proclaim, "I sincerely like this style of muzak! I want to be a cheesy porn star music composer!"
And yet, it never occurred to anyone, that most of East Asia, dances to Italo music. It's both an old, and traditional style of intimate music. Sometimes the word “City Pop” is thrown around. It’s all derivative of Italo or 80’s style synthpop.
Take a listen to Eddy Huntington’s Bang Bang Baby. Is it Japanese?
Or is it Eurasian?
“Uncool,” they say.
Liberalism sees traditionalism and romantic gestures as reactionary and racist, when dance genres like Italo and Eurobeat are the heart of Eurasian pop music. Again, the attack on anything “pop” is actually about the hatred of middle class values. This self-loathing attitude against the bourgeoises does not correlate outside the Eurocentric trans humanist. What "good" popular music is, for the casual liberal, is that "everyone is having an equal voice, and being real to the individual struggle."
And that follows with the promotion of decadent black music and rock music without whites. The rhizomic queer identity must exist, and it must vote for Joe Biden too.
Look back at the old Italo Disco records, like My Mine’s Hypnotic Tango, and you can see many influential traits that influence the electronic music of today.
In the early 1980s, “new wave” dance music took over disco, and it moved from the sleazy nightclub, into the animation of real-time synth-playing. Think about Depeche Mode, or Yazoo, and all those early “synthpop” bands that were derivatives of the Italo sound. A band playing synthesizers together are a bunch of geeks making… electronic disco?
As technology progressed, electronic music became automated, beats are programmed step by step, and performing with instruments became unfashionable. MIDI, or the Musical Instrument Digital Interface protocol emerged. And now House and Techno became possible. Everything was in sync.
Italo Disco preserved the unique discipline of playing music live.
Of course, we need to sync music nowadays. And fast Eurobeat is not possible to play live. …But I am digressing.
Let’s get back to the most important aspect of Italo Disco. …The subculture.
Consider this record.
Jerry Galeries - Tonight.
Aesthetically Eurasian. But why so?
As Fredric Jameson would say, there is an emergence of “the lowbrow” constantly being reproduced as high art. This is not a kitsch attempt, but how advance technology accelerates, and how materialistic nostalgia is constantly being reminded in the consumer culture present. Because Eurobeat, City Pop, and Italo Disco lose its authenticity, and becomes ultimately ironic to a new generation of inexperienced fans, the genres naturally becomes ideological, as both a consumer tradition of the past, and of something that incites certain cultural values it must adhere too.
And what values?
If anyone was sincere about Italo Disco in 2022, they would be a militant Eurasian.
I’m being facetious, of course.
Now compare these two records.
The first one, Shin Hae Chul (신해철) - To You (그대에게).
…And the second, a clone song in 2019, Jerry Galeries - Welcome to Paradise.
It’s not a real live recording. It’s an emulation, or inauthentic record trying to emulate the admired, authentic piece.
We cannot tell the difference between the original and this facsimile. The later is deracinated, and its purpose is ideological. The ideology tries to posses the original works intention.
What is that? Maybe it’s Korean nationalism expressed in crass, new wave music.
Or, is this something to take pride in? Pride expressed in both the aesthetics and presentation of a subculture, or a people.
Because of Pitchfork’s outrage with Italo Disco, it is “reinvented” for a new class of people. This “uncool” nature is about hipster irony, a byproduct of accelerating capitalism. The logic of postmodernity.
But if you actually serious about loving Italo Disco, you are no different than a retired nazi officer who use to work at Auschwitz. Perhaps the "we used to be a country" meme admits there is nothing special or nostalgic about lame commercial art. Pop art, whatever you make it out to be, is loved by our liberal elite for ironic purposes.
“How dare you actually love lame music! You must be lame yourself! Go buy a Thomas Kinkade painting!”
Because this irony worship does not end with music snobs, just imagine that by 2040, there will be a nostalgic wave of BTS clone bands in the West, setting the stage of ironic, “cool yet uncool” Eurasianism.
A mirage of “cool” things that were once “uncool.”
If I learned anything about being uncool, it’s that the anime-realist, Eurasian society is authentic. It’s not just the materialism that Pitchfork is telling everyone to worship.
It’s the people. It was platonic and intimate.
Jerry Galerie sings for Singapore. Italo sings for its people.
And liberal societies continue to be pretentious during their inevitable decline.