Romanian Love

“What kind of music do you like?” I could imagine someone asking me.

“Classical, particularly baroque – including the famous oratorios,” I might respond. “Lately I’ve also gotten into the solo repertoire – Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto 3 and the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, for example.

“I also like jazz,” I envision myself adding, with a vague shrug, gradually becoming irritated at the blank face staring in front of me.

“No. Not the music you intellectually enjoy, or that which evokes colors and geometric images, or that which connects you culturally, or that which makes you feel curious and calm. I’m talking pure, unadulterated, dopamine release.”

This person knows how to hit where it hurts.

“Romanian popular music,” I finally utter, in a voice barely above a whisper, turning away in embarrassment.

This unknown “someone”, of course, is me – or my conscience, if you like – demanding an answer for this inexplicable pleasure.

There is no explanation – not an easy one, at least. I know very little about Romanian dance-pop. I don’t know who makes it; I don’t know how long it’s been around; I don’t know who – in the real world, that is – consumes this stuff. I don’t know where it comes from.

What I do know comes from Youtube, where, for some reason, there reside hundreds and hundreds of videos featuring compilations of recent Romanian pop songs. The community is vast. A few quick searches seem to suggest that there are more Romanian music compilations on Youtube than there are k-pop or moombahton videos combined. A Youtube search of the single word “romanian” produces – for the first hit – a two-hour-long video called “Romanian House Club Mix 2012 Best Romanian Songs – Club Music Mixes #18”, with 45 million views. (Many of the videos feature static images of scantily clad women.) “i love it <3 <3 <3 so much it’s my best one <3,” writes one struggling English-speaker in a comment. Other comments include “Respect to Romania from in peru”; “Romania is our friend. Respect from Poland!”; and “RESPECT TO ROMANIA, FROM MÉXICO!! :D”. I found my first video by accident.

Josh once googled the genre (which I refuse to do) and learned that Romanian pop music is considered a distinct genre. It’s also apparently regarded poorly. Some Romanian music is indeed bad. Much of it is shallow, musically bankrupt, dinky, and cheaply produced, featuring the voice of a whining female or a wannabe-gangster male (or both), and with lyrics understandable with the language skills of a kindergartener. Don’t forge unaided into the world of Romanian music.

A decent chunk of Romanian music, though, is truly amazing, and unique. The lyrics are admittedly weak – those in English that is; about half of the songs are written in Romanian. Typically electronic rather than instrumental, Romanian music employs a distinctive set of synthesizer sounds, and delivers a modern, seamless electronic flavor which avoids the manifestly artificial character of self-styled EDM. These sounds are arranged into effectively calibrated chord progressions and melodies. The music taps into a distant emotional well in the brain which generates an overwhelming feeling that everything is going to be okay.

Romanian music conjures a faraway land — Romania, I suppose? — and a never-ending party in the early hours of the morning where young people laugh and dance. This scene is regularly conveyed with startling effectiveness. Take the lyrics of Sunrise INC’s Mysterious Girl at 1:46, which overlay a beautiful chord progression:

party ’till the morning light
party like nobody make you cry

The goofy “MC” in Alessandro Vinai & Andrea Vinai’s Take Me Away plays a similar role. “Let’s start the party NOW!” he screams, as the drumbeat and chord progression kick in early in the song. I can’t help but take his invitation seriously.

Similar things are true of the Deepside Deejays’ Look Into My Eyes:

wherever you go, wherever you are
I feel so close even when you’re so far

These words can’t but touch the heart of one who feels fondly for someone.

And in a sense, my love for this music is easily explained. The recurring vision of Romanian music — a carefree, wild nighttime party rich in unadulterated joy — is the antidote to my current life, characterized by ceaseless struggle through an abstract, often joyless mathematical world. Romanian music offers hope.

I’ve spent hours trawling the Romanian compilations. Here are just a few of the best Romanian songs I’ve found, sorted roughly with the best placed first. I’ve generally avoided videos, unless the video is noteworthy. I’ve included titles as well as links in case the videos are removed. If you prefer, the videos are collected in a Youtube playlist here.

  1. Deepside Deejays – Look Into My Eyes
  2. Sunrise INC – Toate Femeile Pleacă 
  3. Alessandro Vinai & Andrea Vinai – Take Me Away Remix 
  4. Allexinno & Starchild – Nada Sem Você 
  5. Allexinno & Starchild – Yasera 
  6. Allexinno & Starchild – Joanna 
  7. Airplace feat. Marc Teyra – Drama 
  8. Edward Maya presents Mayavin Show – Friends Forever 
  9. Vescan – Live For The Moment 
  10. Alex Velea – Minim doi (Andeeno Damassy Club Mix) 
  11. Puya Feat. Cornel Ilie (Vunk) – Altcineva 
  12. Akcent – My Passion 
  13. Inna – 10 Minutes 
  14. Inna – We Like To Party 
  15. Alexandra Stan – Lemonade 
  16. Alexandra Stan – One Million 
  17. Ami – Trumpet Lights 
  18. Edward Maya feat. Vika Jigulina – Desert Rain 
  19. Edward Maya – Historia de Amor 
  20. Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina – Stereo Love 
  21. Alessandra – Eres Mi Vida 
  22. Aroma – Summer of Love 
  23. DJ Antoine feat. The Beat Shakers – Ma Cherie 
  24. Laroxx Project – Sunshine Love (Zamli Remix) 
  25. Sunrise INC – Mysterious Girl 
  26. Sunrise inc – Niña 
  27. Antonia – Jameia 
  28. Miss Mary – Luna 
  29. Lika – Coturo 
  30. Vivo feat. Orel – Bitchy Girl 

Should I feel guilty for enjoying Romanian music? Music takes on many different forms, and likewise serves many different purposes. I enjoy this music, albeit for reasons which are limited in scope. I shouldn’t expect Romanian music — or any other single type for that matter — to do everything. This is good at what it does.

I’ll add, as “appendices”, two additional categories of music which give me pleasure.

One is amateur Russian rap of a particular sort. A few of the songs come from a band called Многоточие. The others belong to what appears to be a strange trend whereby songs are set to videos comprising clips taken from Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo (Three Steps Over Heaven), an Italian romance film from 2004. I know nothing about the movie, or about the songs for that matter, but these are very good Russian songs. Musically, they are perhaps more sophisticated than Romanian music, and acoustic rather than electronic. Emotionally, they (especially the Tre Metri songs) are sappy. Nonetheless, these songs make me feel great, young, with infinite possibility. A playlist collecting these be found here.

Finally, I’ve taken a liking to a particular type of amateur Italian rap, drawing songs from an obscure band called One Mic and an all-but-unknown singer called DJ Matrix. These songs are not sophisticated either, but the lyrics are often quite good, and they’re enjoyable to listen to. I’ve made a playlist of these songs too, available here.

This entry was posted in Music.

5 comments on “Romanian Love

  1. Josh says:

    An old line of question we’ve talked about is, does the connoisseur gain more pleasure from his passions, than the novice does from his?

    For example, someone with little taste in food might love Burger King (that someone might be me). On the other hand, a food critic, who’s had plenty of food in his life, both good and bad–and who knows the difference between the two–might get little pleasure out of eating at Burger King. On the other hand, he’d get great pleasure out of eating at Jake’s Seafood. But does the pleasure he gets at Jake’s exceed the pleasure I get at BK? The argument goes that the answer is probably no, and therefore that it pays to be a novice.

    The question, however, is probably oversimplified. I’ve written previously about the joys of expertise. It’s likely that the connoisseur gets a complex, textured, and altogether rewarding joy out of his endeavors, while a novice gets a mere reptilian dopamine rush out of his. Such a conclusion seems fairly non-controversial.

    I think the more interesting takeaway to be had here is that, at least in your case, it’s possible to have both. As I mentioned earlier, the expert would not enjoy BK much. And, to me, Romanian evokes Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, which depicts a dysutopian world where everything is dumbed down; the music in this story is described as “cheap, silly, false.” So, either you’re not an expert in music, or one can have one’s cake and eat it too.

    • Ben says:

      I think we can overcome this apparent tension by placing my consumption of classical music and Romanian music into different “categories”. In a way, this is what I did, but it’s good to bring these distinctions out.

      I might argue that when I listen to Romanian music, I’m doing something different, or engaging in a different practice, than I am when I listen to classical music. Because they’re different, my taste in the latter need not affect my enjoyment of the former.

      After all, nothing stops the most exacting food critic from enjoying, say, kitschy art, trashy novels, or mindless video games. Perhaps this critic is of generally refined taste. Yet even he probably enjoys eating or sleeping. The pleasures “of the flesh” can’t be eliminated. There are others I’m not mentioning.

      Like the critic, I too am guilty, and more so than most, of attempting to keep my pleasures excessively “refined”. I guess my point here is that even in the face of such attempts, the good old-fashioned dopamine rush remains as powerful as ever. (Caffeine, anyone?) We can’t escape being human.

      • Josh says:

        Alright, so we can agree that a chef might be prone to enjoying B-movies, and a film student might enjoy cheap Chinese takeout. It’s fair to say that, in fields we’re novice in, we regress to the least common denominator.

        I would be more reluctant, though, to say that there are disciplines that are exclusively dominated by the “fundamental” pleasures, while others are more amenable to loftier pleasures. Consider romance: even here, we can draw a comparison between a one night stand and a committed relationship. No matter which “discipline” you choose, there are higher pleasures and lower ones.

        So, are you right in enjoying Romanian music? Sure. But are you right in saying that “Romanian” is a category in its own, and from this category one can ONLY draw a reptilian dopamine rush? I would be more reluctant to grant you that.

        Any good categorical scheme should cut nature at its seams, and placing Romanian in its own category doesn’t seem to achieve that. Rather, it seems like Romanian should be placed along with all other “party music”, and, at risk of offense, Romanian would be at the bottom of it.

        A few songs I would put near the top?

        And, of course….

        On the bright side, if I’m wrong, then you’re master of the Romanian discipline. And if I’m right, a world of better music awaits you.

  2. Ben says:

    Josh, I gathered up the courage to google Romanian music, as you once did. I think you struck on this Wikipedia sub-entry: Romanian Dance-Pop (Popcorn)

    Based on my observations during a few google searches, it seems to me that the “popcorn” Wikipedia refers to is close to, but not quite equal to, the sort of music I like. In fact, popcorn seems closer to the vast majority of Romanian music I have to look past in order to find the good stuff. I think the stuff I like constitutes a small minority of the Romanian Dance-Pop movement which rejects the slimy “shininess” and instead delivers more solid, melodic works. I think this should be considered a distinct sub-genre, or even a different genre.

    • Josh says:

      Whatever helps you sleep at night, haha.

      Seriously, though, I see no reason why the music you have posted shouldn’t be classified as Popcorn. “‘shiny’, danceable melodies, hooks sometimes based on synthesized accordion” sounds about right to me. In fact, 4 out of the 5 artists listed on Wiki as producing Popcorn– Inna, Edward Maya, Alexandra Stan, David Deejay–are also featured in your playlist. So I think the defense’s case is weak.

      On that note, though, I do acknowledge that some popcorn might be better than others, and the fact that you dislike the majority of it at least shows that your discretion is at work. And, let’s face it, some of those songs you posted are pretty catchy.

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