One of the biggest Italo Disco hits ever was Ryan Paris’ “Dolce Vita,” a mid-tempo love song with a light, driving beat, some spacey, whimsical synthesizers, and Paris’ tender and smooth Italian-accented vocals. The song, which was released in 1983, has sold more than 5 million copies.
The song is not only Paris’ most successful cut but it’s also the one that convinced him that singing in English was the best route to success. It’s not 100 percent necessary, but most of the biggest and best cuts of the Italo Disco genre are sung in the best English the vocalist can muster.
In 1982 Paris, born Fabio Roscioli, was preparing songs in his native tongue to perform in an Italian rock festival. He needed a keyboard player and stumbled onto keyboardist and producer Pierluigi Giombini, according to a 2007 interview he did with italo-interviews.com.
Although Paris was more of a rocker in the early 1980s, he took interest in a song Giombini wrote, the gorgeously catchy “Vita,” Paris said in the interview. The song was released in October 1983 on RCA Records and Carrere, and charted in the Top Ten in most European countries and the U.K. (That same year, Giombini also wrote and produced the Gazebo song, “I Like Chopin,” which is another big Italo Disco cut that hews to a very similar vibe to “Vita.”)
The “maxi-single” version of “Vita” is my favorite incarnation of the song. It’s got the choppy and sweet edge of the radio version, but there’s a festive breakdown in the middle that kicks the song into overdrive. The tempered synthesizers and drum machine of the bulk of the song give way to a quick clusterfuck of joy. Paris steps aside and lets Giombini do his thing. It’s pretty great.
A quick bit of warning: For those who’ve never heard the song before, don’t go into it expecting a cocksure groover with fat bass and fat drums. This is a ballad at heart, even if it does keep people on the floor.
In the years since the release of “Vita,” Paris has milked the atomic essence of the song. I don’t blame him, though: If you’re involved in a song this great, it’s best to get out of it what you can. There was a 1989 remix of the song, and in 2009 Paris re-recorded it. [Update: July 29, 2017: Aziz Ansari used “Vita” to great effect in the second season of his exquisite show Master of None. You can buy the soundtrack via Mondo.]
Both are out there, but not in seemingly any official capacity on the Internet. You can’t trust the labeling on YouTube: A bunch of the so-called 2009 versions are actually the maxi-single or extended versions of the original. That said, check out the single version of the song below… on YouTube.
Single version of “Dolce Vita”
(Editor’s Note: The Beat’s Alive is my new, occasional column focusing on everything associated with the Italo Disco genre, from the artists and their music, to the culture and history that created them, and anything else that comes up. Because I’m so damn predictable, I got the column’s name from a Glass Candy song. Viva Italians!)