As an internet created genre of music, Vaporwave has made quite the name for itself throughout Internet forums such as Bandcamp, Tumblr, and 4chan. First making an appearance in the early 2010’s, Vaporwave has captivated artists in a new way. Stringing from indie dance genres such as witch house, seapunk, and chillwave, vaporwave is still currently hanging around the Internet scene.
When Vaporwave began, it was based around cyberpunk imagery that was made popular by an obsession of 80’s and 90’s culture. Visuals such as Roman busts, early graphic design, japanese culture, glitch art, and tropical scenes gave Vaporwave it’s well-known aesthetic. The origin of Vaporwave is still is unclear, but there have been albums that gained Vaporwave the recognition it has today. Daniel Lopatin, an electronic artist, who some say created the foundation of the genre, released Eccojams Vol. 1 under the alias Chuck Person, starting the initial use of 80’s jazz slowed down, chopped up and looped over and over again. Whether Lopatin did this as a joke, or he was truly interested in this new experimental sound, it soon intrigued people all over the Internet.
Following Lopatin, another artist, James Ferraro, emerged from the scene to
deliver an album that turned this small internet sensation into something of a seriously thought out music genre. Lopatin and Ferraro have both been known to have been the start of this interesting music genre though both are distinctively different from each other.
Later in the year another album was released, combining both styles of Lopatin and Ferraro and creating what is now known as the original Vaporwave sound. An American music producer, electronic artist, and graphic designer, Ramona Xavier aka Vektroid, released one of the most popular albums of Vaporwave, Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus. This album threw the genre’s critics off by the popularity it was getting after it was released. Many people were using this new genre of music as a joke, “meme music” and today some may still see it that way.
Despite critics, there is a major following of Vaporwave and people who take the music very seriously. Floral Shoppe got so much attention, that it even got the attention of a YouTube music critic and “the internet's busiest music nerd”, theneedledrop also know as Anthony Fantano in 2012. Fantano is well-known in the indie music scene since most of his videos surround indie music. In Fantano’s video reviewing Floral Shoppe, he talks about how the album, and a few other albums are being described as “the dawning of a new genre”, the new genre being Vaporwave. Though Fantano only gave the album a 4/10, he still recognizes that maybe people are onto something with this new genre and maybe it has the potential to not die out as other internet genres have in the past.
During the review of Floral Shoppe, Fantano describes Vaporwave as a sub-genre of Plunderphonics. Plunderphonics is defined as a term created by John Oswald from his essay Plunderphonics, this means taking one or many audio recordings and changing them enough to recompose them as your own. It’s also considered “music collage”.
Other genres that are considered sub genres of Plunderphonics would be witch house, chillwave and seapunk that have been previously mentioned. Some think Vaporwave will be another short lived internet created genre that will soon die out. What is noted that makes Vaporwave stand out and different from previous, short lived genres is that it is almost entirely focused around 80’s and 90’s culture and popular music styles. For example, in Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus, one track features a well-known Diana Ross song “It’s Your Move” that has been chopped, looped several times, and pitched down, giving the song a smooth jazzy, but almost creepy sound to it.\
After the release of Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus, Vaporwave definitely gained more fans all over the internet. Already there had been supporters on websites such as Bandcamp, Turntable.fm and Soundcloud, but the music genre blew up in the underground internet music world. What is most mysterious and different about internet based genes is the anonymous aspect to it all.
Most Vaporwave artists have multiple aliases, and release albums using different aliases. The anonymity makes this genre the internet’s for the taking since really anyone can post anything they make and it has the potential to blow up within a few days or hours. Since most people creating Vaporwave music are anonymous, that means that there are hundreds if not,
thousands of different artists producing Vaporwave content. Going onto Bandcamp, you can easily find the majority of anonymous Vaporwave artists and their work for download, for example, Eco Virtual.
Though Vaporwave can potentially be created by anyone for any reason, some known Vaporwave artists have their own interpretations of what the music actually means and why it was created in the first place. Vektroid, previously mentioned, says that her album, 札幌コンテ ンポラリ, is “a brief glimpse into the new possibilities of international communication” and “a parody of American hypercontextualization of eAsia circa 1995.". One other artist, who has been inspired by Situationalists, says her work is “the degrading of commercial music in anattempt to reveal the "false promises" of capitalism”. Those interpretations are why Vaporwave has been called a “cyberpunk movement”. There are some people who think this genre is aesthetic garbage and nothing more than “meme music”, but the successful artists themselves say that it is a punch at modern capitalism.
Current Vaporwave may not have the same underlying message as earlier Vaporwave artists intended, but even today the genre still exists and new music is still produced regularly.
The sound of Vaporwave also hasn’t stayed completely the same. Newer artists such as Blank Banshee, Skeleton, Infinity Frequencies, and Eco Virtual have since changed the initial sound of Vaporwave and have turned it into a much broader music genre. However, the visual aspects of Vaporwave still hover around the original imagery. Vaporwave is changing, but it hasn’t quite died out yet despite the hopes of its doubters.
Vaporwave is an internet created genre of music that is either made fun of, taken seriously, or just something to give a listen every once and a while for aesthetic purposes.