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The term "Italo dance" originates from its early counterpart Italo disco in the 1980s. Except for their name, origin, and categorization within dance music, Italo dance and Italo disco do not have much to do with each other musically.
Italo dance is predominantly nightclub-oriented music and mainly produced in Italy. The genre never really became mainstream enough for the whole European market, but received much airplay on Italian radio, especially the dance radio station m2o, and in southern parts of Europe. Italo dance was also very popular in Malta.
Italo dance is often very positive and uplifting music; the lyrics mostly involve issues of love, partying, dancing or expressing feelings.
Almost all Italo dance involves percussion and rhythm like most other electronic uptempo genres. It usually has a metallic sound and a sound like that of the bass produced by a tuba except faster. The percussion is always produced by synthesizers, and the typical BPM is around 140 although it varies from 60-165 beats per minute.
Italo dance is often very melody-driven and is held together by the chorus and the main-theme (melody). Some progressive derivatives of Italo is just driven by percussion and a male vocal. (See: Hard dance style, below)
The style was popular in Northern England around 1993/1994 where DJ's Jason Bushby, Adrian Street and Full Effect imported Italian Vinyl which were played in raves such as Blue Monkey, After Dark, Club Fiesta and famously the Venue in Spennymoor. Tunes such TFO - Body & Soul and Phase Generator - Suicide were well played by many.
One of the first countries to adopt the style was Germany where the label ZYX began to release a lot of Italian-produced dance music. Some of the more notable and recognizable artists include Da Blitz, Einstein Dr Deejay, Taleesa, Double You and Co.Ro. It wasn't until the late 1990s when the genre became mainstream in most European clubs. Producer Prezioso had huge success with his single "Tell Me Why" from 1999 as well as Gigi D'Agostino with his highly successful hit single "L'Amour Toujours", also from 1999.
The genre had its golden age from 1999 to 2005. Others[who?] look at the period of 1993 to 1995 as being the golden age of this genre due to its infancy. Although such Italo hits by Eiffel 65, Prezioso, Gigi D'Agostino, Molella, Gabry Ponte and DJ Lhasa still receive lots of airplay, the genre is far from mainstream today where it has been replaced by mostly electro and house music. Prezioso and Molella now produce house and electro and many other artists have also changed their genre, however Gigi D'Agostino, Gabry Ponte and Luca Zeta still produce Italo.
Meaning "slow and violent" in Italian, Lento Violento is a subgenre of Italo dance developed by Gigi D'Agostino as a much slower and harder type of music. The BPM is often reduced to the half of typical Italo dance tracks. The bass is often noticeably loud, and dominates the song.
A much harder type of Italo originally invented by Roberto Molinaro and Provenzano DJ. It is reminiscent of some of the hard electronic genres.