Why Do So Many Love Vaporwave Music?
Vaporwave is strange. It’s likely what a postmodernist would envision music to become. I say that because in many ways vaporwave has surpassed what we know as a traditional genre of music. It evades proper meaning and is sometimes too abstract for its own good. However, it is in this polarizing niche that vaporwave thrives.
Let’s start with the former: vaporwave is an offshoot of chillwave and internet electronic music. At its heart — and perhaps most criticized aspect — vaporwave is 80’s music chopped, remixed, and overdubbed with a ton of reverb.
As I said, it’s strange. And we haven’t even gotten to Ａｅｓｔｈｅｔｉｃｓ.
More on that later.
“Vaporwave is a trap, a siren’s call, a house of mirrors. A house of warped post modern advertisements. An air of false nostalgia. — Reddit user ‘sewkzz’
Vapowave wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve — namely 80’s pop, New Age, electronic, retro video games and unironicaly, elevator music. This isn’t to discount vaporware entirely, or to incorrectly label it as music that belongs in that YouTube playlist with the anime Japanese girl studying. Vaporwave is better than that. It has acclaimed critical albums under it’s belt to prove it, and is receiving more attention from mainstream artists.
Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), is an early vaporwave pioneer who recently did the soundtrack for Uncut Gems and collaborated with The Weeknd on his latest album, “After Hours.”
And the lesser-known James Ferraro created some of the most atmospheric electronic music of the last decade. In other words, there are vaporwave artists who are elevating the music — some to the level of “art,” or whatever that means.
The question is, however, what will be the lasting impacts of vaporwave, and internet music as a whole?
What is Vaporwave Ａｅｓｔｈｅｔｉｃｓ?
Vaporwave has only made it this long because of it’s small but passionate community. Much like hip-hop, the fans of this grassroots genre have stuck a battery up its ass and kept it running.
They’re the same community that coined the meme Ａｅｓｔｈｅｔｉｃｓ. It’s a term used to describe the style of vaporwave. Specifically, it’s 80’s nostalgia that has this overarching feeling of melancholy and eerieness. “It’s an air of false nostalgia,” as the Reddit user previously states. It’s that Bart Simpson video up there. Vaporwave is shrooms meets weed, meets heroin.
Often Ａｅｓｔｈｅｔｉｃｓ is represented by glitchy saturated images of retro video games, vintage anime, and Miami circa 1980. These representations are another polarizing subject that either feed into the meme or create more passionate fans of this polarizing genre.
James Ferraro captured this image perfectly on his album “Far Side Virtual.” Ferraro had this to say about his album in an interview:
“Far Side Virtual” mainly designates a space in society, or a mode of behaving. All of these things operating in synchronicity: like ringtones, flat-screens, theater, cuisine, fashion, sushi. I don’t want to call it “virtual reality,” so I call it “Far Side Virtual.”
“If you really want to understand ‘Far Side,’ first off listen to [Claude] Debussy, and secondly, go into a frozen yogurt shop. Afterwards, go into an Apple store and just fool around, hang out in there. Afterwards, go to Starbucks and get a gift card. They have a book there on the history of Starbucks — buy this book and go home. If you do all these things you’ll understand what “Far Side Virtual” is — because people kind of live in it already.” — James Ferraro, one of the founders of Vapowave
The Future of Vaporwave
Regardless if you think the music is a meme or an emerging art from internet culture, the future of vaporwave is unclear. While artists like Black Banshee, Saint Pepsi, Vektroid, George Clanton, and Windows 96 continue to make music, the sound of vaporwave is changing fast.
Like any postmodernist art, the fans are arguing what true vaporwave music is. This could be the downfall of vaporwave. As already mentioned, it’s too abstract for its own good sometime.But the genre will evolve, it won’t die out — I think. Even the fanbase has a satirical slogan for how uncertain the future of vaporwave is:
“Vaporwave is Dead, Long Live Vaporwave”
The very hypocrisy of this statement is what built vaporwave in the first place. It’s a contradiction of our very humanity, but somehow it’s also the most humane. It makes no sense and also makes the most sense. What is the future of vaporwave? I don’t know or care.