How the Emerging Success of Internet Music Created Vaporwave
Vaporwave is strange. It’s likely what a postmodernist would envision music to become. I say that because in many ways vaporwave has surpassed what we know as a traditional genre of music. It evades proper meaning and is sometimes too abstract for its own good. But it’s in this polarizing niche that vaporwave thrives.
So what is vaporwave? And what are Ａｅｓｔｈｅｔｉｃｓ for that matter?
Well, before we get into the latter, vaporwave is an offshoot of chillwave and internet electronic music. At its heart — and perhaps most criticized aspect — vaporwave is 80’s music chopped, remixed, and overdubbed with a ton of reverb.
Like I said, it’s strange.
But along the way, there were artists who made incredible music out of the genre. Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), an early vaporwave pioneer who recently did the soundtrack for Uncut Gems and collaborated with The Weeknd, has become a legendary producer in the industry.
And the lesser-known James Ferraro created some of the most atmospheric electronic music of the last decade. In other words, there are vaporwave artists who are no joke.
The question is, however, what will be the lasting impacts of vaporwave, and internet music as a whole?
What is Vaporwave Ａｅｓｔｈｅｔｉｃｓ?
Vaporwave has only made it this long because of it’s small but passionate community. Much like hip-hop, the fans of this grassroots genre have stuck a battery up its ass and kept it running.
They’re the same community that coined the meme Ａｅｓｔｈｅｔｉｃｓ. It’s a term used to describe the style of vaporwave: 80’s nostalgia that has this overarching feeling of melancholy and eerieness. Its shrooms meets weed meets heroin.
Often it’s represented by glitchy saturated images of retro video games, vintage anime, Miami circa 1980. These representations are another polarizing subject that either feed into the meme of vaporwave or creates more passionate fans of the genre.
James Ferraro captured this image perfectly on his album “Far Side Virtual.” Ferraro had this to say about his album in an interview:
“Far Side Virtual” mainly designates a space in society, or a mode of behaving. All of these things operating in synchronicity: like ringtones, flat-screens, theater, cuisine, fashion, sushi. I don’t want to call it “virtual reality,” so I call it “Far Side Virtual.”
If you really want to understand “Far Side,” first off listen to [Claude] Debussy, and secondly, go into a frozen yogurt shop. Afterwards, go into an Apple store and just fool around, hang out in there. Afterwards, go to Starbucks and get a gift card. They have a book there on the history of Starbucks—buy this book and go home. If you do all these things you’ll understand what “Far Side Virtual” is—because people kind of live in it already.
The Future of Vaporwave
Regardless if you think the music is a meme or emerging art from internet culture, the future of vaporwave is unclear. While artists like Black Banshee, Vektroid, George Clanton, and Windows 96 continue to make music, the sound of vaporwave is changing fast.
Like any postmodernist art, the fans are arguing what true vaporwave music is. This will likely be the downfall of vaporwave. As already mentioned, it’s too abstract for it’s own good.
But the genre will evolve, it won’t die out. Evidence of this is Daniel Lopatin, James Ferraro, and other artists’ success. You might not know it, but vaporwave played an influential role in the last decade of music. Now it’s time to see where it goes next.