Parody music has never sounded so good, yet the mission of Vaporwave goes beyond pointless humor or enjoyment. Stories are told in these nostalgic-obsessed pieces of music, but trying to describe Vaporwave is a lot like trying to describe salt. It's not easily done, but you know it when you taste it, or hear it in this case.
It tends to be an entirely sample-based genre that plays funk, easy-listening jazz, R&B, and elevator or hold music at a drastically slow tempo. It's an ironic mix of vibes and muzak that typically manages to really hit the spot, if you're tuned into your imagination. "Evening Shadows" by Seaside Lovers, released in 1983, is a fantastic example of proto-Vaporwave.
Not all Vaporwave artists follow the same formula. Some artists, like Donovan Hikaru, produce and compose their solo work entirely without sampling.
But back to the muzak. The whole point of hold music is to put the listener at ease while it deals with sneaky corporations. It's a weird way of selling a fasntasy within a nightmare – it's totally a mirage. And this theme is magnified in Vaporwave as brand names and corporate terms are used as song titles and aliases ("Between The Spreadsheets", Saint Pepsi) to reflect a culture where we're fed manufactured products until they seep into our conscious as fractions of real life i.e. things of value.
The term Vaporwave originates from the word vaporware which means: a product, typically computer software or hardware, that is announced to the general public but is never actually released. The genre is said to have been inspired by a mixtape known as Eccojams Vol.1, which was released in 2010 by Chuck Person, an alias of Daniel Lopatin a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never.
Since then the genre has grown to a massive cult status, proving itself to be a lasting form of music. Vaporwave is what it is, but its aesthetic has inspired many projects like it. Two incredible offshoots of Vaporwave have come in the form of Deaton Chris Anthony and S U R F I N G. Each of these artists have created albums that borrow elements of Vaporwave but differentiate themselves through the use of either live vocals or real instruments.
Vaporwave is a magical genre that has inspired thousands to fall in love with music again and create their own versions of slowed down, cyber environments. These comforting, and sometimes confusing, environments reflect our current emotional climate—one that's constantly trying to seek a connection and personal relationship through digital means. The whole aesthetic of Vaporwave could be considered a statement on the relationship of musician to fan—a relationship where a person falls deeply in love with a person singing to them that they've never actually communicated with face to face in real life. Other times they communicate a love relationship with inorganic products that emulate real life. And other times they simply reflect deep and meaningful experiences or memories that we've shared, or hoped to share, with loved ones.
Clearly, Vaporwave has a much larger impact than its kitschy samples and album covers reflect, and if you don't Vaporwave, then maybe it's time you start.
Many early Vaporwave albums, as well as current releases, can be discovered and downloaded at:
You can also follow our Vaporwave playlist on Spotify here.