Behind the sound – Vaporwave

The rise of the internet caused a big change in human civilization. Knowledge is now more available than ever, you can connect with people from all over the world, buy everything you need or don’t need without leaving your house, watch movies, series and documentaries anytime of the day, pay bills from your couch, etc. – the list is too long. Effects of internet use changed our everyday lives and our way of thinking.

Most apparent change is probably seen in our sense of humor. By that I mean memes. In various forms and sizes.

At the beginning they were just funny pictures described with a small line of text, but as time passed and the meme community grew, they developed… evolved. Now we can see memes everywhere, we can make meme out of anything and mix memes with anything. It’s probably one of the biggest effects Millennials have on the internet, well, at least the most visible one. When you mix that with underlying sentiment of the whole generation, and add the ultimate way of expressing oneself – music, you get vaporwave.

It started its carrier online, mysterious artists digitally releasing music, free for anyone to download. Music itself was inspired by 80’s and 90’s smooth jazz, lounge and elevator music, chapped and screwed, usually with samples. Aside from the music, AESTHETICS  play a great role in true perception of vaporwave. In both aspects we see bringing flashes of popular entertainment from 80s and 90s back to life, visualized with early internet web designs, rendered 3D objects and pastel neon colors. Japanese pop culture from that era also had a great influence.

Behind the soft electronic, synthy sound and glitchy visuals, irony and critique of modern society appears (as you might guess, vaporwave became quite popular on reddit and 4chan). When you look at it, it’s nothing new, rebelling against society through music, previous generations have done it too; but what is interesting and different is the way that it’s done – subtly, behind the scenes. Spontaneous emergence, immaterial attitude mixed with nostalgia and memes made it viral in relatively short time.

“Reinventing the old” in vaporwave has a double meaning; one side of the coin is nostalgia (we all like to remember ye olde times), and the other is critique of modern entertainment, constantly recycling the old, picking already written stories and dressing them in modern clothes. We can see this trend in most aspects of pop culture (music, fashion, movies), at least in some way. So vaporwave did the same, making it a game of irony. Some short time after the rise, various artists started making vaporwave remixes out of songs from all genres (continuing the “reinventing” irony).

As spontaneous as it came, it spontaneously left the internet spotlight – something we can explain as another sarcastic outlook on “one time hit” trend in popular music industry, or with tendency of younger generations to get easily bored, moving to the next new thing as soon as it arises. In both cases, the message is strong and quite clear – consumerism kills creativity and disables the process needed for making truly unique and lasting pieces of art.