14th August, 2022
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Vaporwave: what is it and why do I love it so?

Vaporwave: what is it and why do I love it so?

Vaporwave is an internet-created subculture identifiable as a music sub-genre, visual art style and overall meme aesthetic that came through in the early 2010s. It’s a colourful, moody, electronic, calm, bold collage of retro visual and auditory aesthetics. It’s the re-contextualising of 80’s trends in a digital landscape – and I LOVE it.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here are some of my favourite youtube finds which cover the musical aspect of the genre:

Youtube Playlist – Vaporwave ✨

Visually, the aesthetic incorporates glitch art, early internet graphics, bright, neon colours and remixing, slowing and reverbing of elevator-type music.

I’ve made a pinterest board with some vaporwave images, for reference:

Before this week, I didn’t know this trend had an identifiable name, let alone an entire history and meaningful purpose. Vaporwave is a subculture rooted in criticism of the failings of the capitalist system. It’s a genre that has continued to remain relevant and appealing for over a decade while other aesthetic trends cycle through the internet in a matter of weeks.

I’ve appreciated products of the genre for years, unbeknown to the genre’s specified existence, but now I see it everywhere. The romanticization of 80’s fashion, technology trends (such as cassette tapes) and nostalgic music acts as a satirical/surrealist view of consumer capitalism. Because of this, artists who create vaporwave music often do so without profit, under pseudonyms. The reason I didn’t know the genre by name is embedded in its purpose. Popularising an anti-consumerist art form would directly remove its authenticity and overall purpose.

The simple existence of vaporwave supports McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” topic from last week, as the fact that the art form exists in the purposefully unspoken way that it does reflects it’s anti-consumerist message perhaps even more so than it’s actual contents.

As a side-note, you may have seen this tweet:

As it turns out, the latest Glass Animals record, Dreamland, is very much based on the vaporwave aesthetic. This is a realisation I came to after watching the lyric video for “Heatwaves’. I fell in love with their music in 2017 when good old Spotify recommended their track ‘Gooey’. Their nostalgic surreal electronic 80’s infused sound carried over into my music taste in general, which I feel is important to mention in light of my music-based DA.

Anyway, I made a thing:


That’s all,

Tyneesha Williams

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14 comments
  • Hey Tyneesha,
    Wow that Pinterest board you made is amazing, I love the pink theme! I agree with you in that Vaporwave acts as a unspoken message which is perfect in light of the medium is the message concept, vaporwave acting as the message. I never thought of vaporwave having an anti-consumerist message, which is a interested point of view. In my blog post I speak about how vaporwave is a different way of digital production. The medium acts as a perfect example of creating in an emergent media that is forever evolving. Overall, epic vaporwave creation and interesting blog post!

  • I really like the vaporwave aesthetic but i was confused as to why it has to do with network economy, i kind of just saw it as a type of aesthetic but i didn’t really understand where it came from until you said that it is “the re-contextualising of 80’s trends in a digital landscape”. I took a different approach for my blog this week, choosing to write about industrial and digital production as i didn’t really understand the vaporwave part of our lecture, but it’s good that you were able to understand it and break it down in this blog post. Good job! Gabrielle

  • I am delighted that you like Glass Animals and I appreciate your music taste! I would include more about digital production and network economy. To comprehended the non-industrialised paradigm does Glass Animals convey a message a story? something along those lines.

    • Thank you for your feedback! Full honesty I couldn’t quite understand that side of the lecture, so I went with what I knew. Once I figure it out I’m sure it’d be great as a fully-formed thought 😂

  • Firstly I love your pinterest board you have made as well as your vaporwave video – much better than my attempt. I had no idea that the subculture that is vaporwave actually originated from criticisms of the failings of the capitalist system so your post was really informative to read. I also loved your description explaining what vaporwave is and I didn’t put two-and-two together until now that you have pointed it out to me about the Glass Animals Heatwave lyric video actually being vaporwave – so thanks – and overall great post

  • This is unreal!! I honestly can’t fault this blog post. It’s highly interactive, and you’ve included links to things, as well as embedded content at exactly the right time! My only real comment that I can make is that the text may be a little too long, but even then I feel like it was all useful and was not made redundant in any way.
    I’m vibing to your Glass Animals remix! I don’t know how I didn’t make this connection. Awesome work!!

  • Love your analyis of the origins of Vaporwave, as someone who was yet to research it or even see an example of it your description was very helpful in my understanding. It’s roots based on anti-capitalist beliefs is particularly interesting in relation to the rise of the “free internet” and social values.

    I also like how you linked this week’s aesthetic topic to last week’s topic of ‘The medium of the message’, as everything we do is related to each other it is very important to understand why they are related.

    Looking forward to what you post next week!

  • Hi Tyneesha! wow, this post really conveys your thoughts and passions very well. I love it! The pinterest board is a great touch to incorporate your perspective on the aesthetic, and I love that I was visually invited me to explore this world. Your remediation is great and different to my own. I took the route of fashion, whereas I love you kept it with your interest in music. It was very relaxing to watch! I do think we share a common interpretation on ‘the medium is the message’ concept, relating art forms that exude the message. Wonderful Post! Cannot wait for more!!

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