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:

Pinterest: vaporwave

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:

Twitter: glass animals vaporwave

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:

YouTube: gooey by glass animals but as an amatuer vaporwave