What is Vaporwave? A deep-dive into the definitive Millennial music genre

What is Vaporwave Music

Millenials are credited with a lot of things, chief among them is smashing tradition. Business Insider even has a running list of “Millenials are Killing…” that touches on everything from homeownership and diamonds to napkins and yogurt.

For all the things that young adults have slayed, let’s face it; it’s a new generation that’s simply creating a new way of life. It’s this generation that’s front and center now, dictating the way things are done in our modern lives.

Land of Electronic

There are plenty of styles of music that can be accredited to millenials, but the arguable chief of these genres is Electronic Dance Music. If you take the time to listen up, you’ll also hear distinctly electronic music driving past you on the street or taking up acres of land for music festivals.

Electronics drive our lives in a way that it never has in history, so it’s no wonder the new generation has turned this way of life into a work of art. Electronic music is a global genre, celebrated with massive festivals all over the world. There are scores of subgenres within electronic music, all with their own distinctive histories and characteristics. Sometimes it’s a completely new sound, sometimes it takes pieces of something more familiar.

Instruments that remind us of a simpler time get the 21st century treatment and are mixed, looped, and chopped from a computer screen, creating the vaporwave.

The New Wave

Splash Club 7

This is Vaporwave artist Splash Club 7… probably.

When it comes to music of the millenials, Vaporwave has turned itself into a zeitgeist. If the name itself doesn’t ring any bells at first, hearing a handful of songs might have you experiencing deja vu.

A Vaporwave Spotify playlist with nearly 200,000 followers describes it as “a deadpan recontextualization of glossy corporate music…[with] heavy sampling of popular songs and 80s/90s TV ads.”

Accompanying artwork here, and on most videos you’ll find from a Google search, are a blend of the old and new; dated and grainy images reproduced, recolored, and represented as new illustrations made with old software.

The songs are fun and poppy; sometimes even whimsical, with sounds of xylophones and chimes with a touch of futurism. Though it’s made to be feel-good music, there’s still some undertone of mass-production and consumerism cynicism.

For all the complexity that seems to surround this genre, its truth is just the opposite. In fact, in true millennial fashion, the genre first came to be all because of a meme. The first person to stylize the concept was James Ferraro, closely followed by others.

Ramona Xavier, who commonly performed as Vektroid, dropped Floral Shoppe in December 2011, and the genre had their blueprint. For this project, she went by the name MacIntosh Plus; another allusion to the emerging technology of the early 90s.

Is Vaporwave dead?

Because it came from a meme, some people are inclined to believe it is, and continues to be, one big joke. There are plenty of artists that will disagree, and dictionary.com will back them up.

Vaporwave is a real thing, come to life through the work of Blank Banshee, Giant Claw, and Skylar Spence (formerly known as Saint Pepsi).

It was this lineup of artists who made some of the biggest contributions to Vaporwave. Saint Pepsi’s 2011 Hit Vibes is critically-acclaimed. Oneohtrix Point Never made Replica was released the same year to similar fanfare, and reached the top 10 on the Billboard Top Dance/Electronic Albums charts.

Examples of Vaporwave around the world

Vaporwave made its way around the world, and New Zealanders are particularly tickled by the electronic genre. Some of them have taken it upon themselves to help the genre progress. Stef Animal, Satin Sheets, and Splash Club 7 feel the same draw to the time period revisited through vaporwave, and contribute to vaporwave’s enduring legacy.

Japan is also notably entranced by this electronic style, and there’s plenty of influence from Japanese city pop that weaves into the electricity of this genre.

As a whole, Vaporwave is very much alive and thriving. It reflects on a time in history that many people recollect with fondness, and it has set up shop in music and started a family. The genre is so healthy, in fact, that it has also inspired some of its very own offshoots, including future funk and hardvapour.

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