“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.
- Deepside Deejays – Look Into My Eyes
- Sunrise INC – Toate Femeile Pleacă
- Alessandro Vinai & Andrea Vinai – Take Me Away Remix
- Allexinno & Starchild – Nada Sem Você
- Allexinno & Starchild – Yasera
- Allexinno & Starchild – Joanna
- Airplace feat. Marc Teyra – Drama
- Edward Maya presents Mayavin Show – Friends Forever
- Vescan – Live For The Moment
- Alex Velea – Minim doi (Andeeno Damassy Club Mix)
- Puya Feat. Cornel Ilie (Vunk) – Altcineva
- Akcent – My Passion
- Inna – 10 Minutes
- Inna – We Like To Party
- Alexandra Stan – Lemonade
- Alexandra Stan – One Million
- Ami – Trumpet Lights
- Edward Maya feat. Vika Jigulina – Desert Rain
- Edward Maya – Historia de Amor
- Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina – Stereo Love
- Alessandra – Eres Mi Vida
- Aroma – Summer of Love
- DJ Antoine feat. The Beat Shakers – Ma Cherie
- Laroxx Project – Sunshine Love (Zamli Remix)
- Sunrise INC – Mysterious Girl
- Sunrise inc – Niña
- Antonia – Jameia
- Miss Mary – Luna
- Lika – Coturo
- 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.