Vaporwave was created then destroyed by the internet (2016)

120 points88 comments2 months
by cols2 months ago

I’ll start out by saying I’m an avid fan of vapor/synth/whatever wave. I’ve heard this argument before and I can’t be the only one to think it’s silly, right? A cursory search of Spotify, Bandcamp, or YouTube will show that ALL the “wave” genres are alive and well some 5 years after this article was written. Some artists have moved on to other aesthetics, some artists have continued to produce the same sound they always did. How is this different from any other genre?

Incidentally here’s some sweet tunes!

As a side note, I just discovered another “wave” offshoot called “corporate businesswave”. What a time to be alive.

by tallies2 months ago

For some data, here's a rough number of Vaporwave albums released per year (source: RYM[1])

2010: 11

2011: 63

2012: 168

2013: 348

2014: 572

2015: 1193

2016: 1144

2017: 812

2018: 816

2019: 798

2020: 732

2021: 269


by tarsinge2 months ago

The classic Vaporwave tag may be on the decline because there are many offshoots, and also the sound and aesthetics are absorbed in other genres.

by scottmcdot2 months ago

I would say Chillwave peaked around 2009. I was at uni when I was listening to it and I feel to old to "get into" it now.

by slfnflctd2 months ago

You are never too old to get back into music you enjoyed when you were younger, if it was any good to begin with.

The only stuff I've found I can't go back to in the long run is the dreck-- the low quality, overly derivative or ethically questionable non-art. Everything else can fly again after you get over being burnt out on it. [That is, unless you grew up in the age of radio dominance, in which case there are probably several good songs that've been killed for you forever through overplaying.]

by JonathanMerklin2 months ago

Corporate businesswave is so perfectly my aesthetic, thank you so much for the recommendation.

by meowface2 months ago

You might also be interested in PilotRedSun's animations and music. He has a kind of similar sensibility.


(Most famous/viral one, though it's also the only one that isn't with music he made:


by httpsterio2 months ago

If you haven't heard, you should also check out Mitch Murder's Businessfunk mixtapes.

by tarsinge2 months ago

The Business Casual label on Bandcamp has some nice releases.

by aasasd2 months ago

Datashat's Businessfunk mixes are the grandparents of businesswave: and

by poisonheader2 months ago

I really like Spirawave and other "low fi" synth/vapor wave remakes of old video game music.

by noir_lord2 months ago

If you haven't seen there is a really nice documentary called "The Rise of the Synths". - it's beautifully shot and has John Carpenter as the narrator.

by fithisux2 months ago

Is it really killed? It is still produced but even more important it has evolved through CityPop to FutureFunk and even has touched a bit other genres. I you haven't yet, give it a try. There are many online radio stations that play both FutureFunk and Vaporwave.

As for the SynthWave (2.0 because the original SynthWave happened in very early 80s and I do not know why it is called that way since it is unrelated and I prfere to call it RetroWave) it is still produced. I suggest you try it, the more recent incarnations even have vocals which resemble a lot the US Pop Rock music of the mid 80s but in some songs you can even hear clearly the influence of ItaloDisco.

I really like both and they are very original and important parts of music history. Still carry in them the seeds of the very early 80s evolution in music aka "New Wave" but have completely different aesthetics (VaporWave is mid 90s nostalgia oriented).

If you search in discogs you can even find collections that fuse VaporWave/SynthWave/ItaloDisco and Funk to produce very ethereal music.

PS there also exists the very difference subgenre of SovietWave

by odiroot2 months ago

> As for the SynthWave (2.0 because the original SynthWave happened in very early 80s and I do not know why it is called that way since it is unrelated and I prfere to call it RetroWave) it is still produced.

The original was just called synth-pop. The name synth-wave is now retroactively applied to some 80's bands.

I myself got into synth-wave only 2-3 years ago and even started making my own songs this year.

by moomin2 months ago

If my memory serves me correctly the term for what British bands were doing in the early 80s at the time was "electro". Synth-pop became the dominant term as it went mainstream and artists cracked the formula for making hit records. (So John Foxx and pre-Dare Human League would be electro, post-Dare HL and Howard Jones it'd be synth-pop and Dare itself... well that's a matter of perspective.) But "electro" means something else completely these days.

by kregasaurusrex2 months ago

Italodisco is super underrated- it has a lot of the upbeat analog electronic dance music that many of the *waves try to recreate; and did it 40ish years ago. Always felt it was more poppy and fun than the Eurobeat songs that came afterwards like those featured in the anime series Initial D.

by fithisux2 months ago

I'm definitely in love with ItaloDisco. I watched it from its humble start, to this day. The emphasis has always been on quality

Italo house [1989-1993] + Eurobeat[British, Italian] + J-Euro + Classic Italodance (1992-1998) + Hyper-Techno

are derivatives of huge importance in the history of EDM and worth to listen filirting many times with their origins.

Catch: I consider Spacesynth to be ItaloDisco and the 1988-1993 Italo-energy movement to also be ItaloDisco

It is not only underrated. It is the King of the Dance Floor since 1978 with disco being the Queen.

Also it is the behind all the music revolutions since then in Europe.

And definitely is behind modern SynthWave and Vaporwave.

by kitsunesoba2 months ago

Here’s one that I’ve gotten a a lot of mileage out of.

There’s one other that I really liked, but it seems to have been DMCA’d. The creator of the mix has SoundCloud and Spotify versions, but both are missing tracks… I have the original saved locally as an iTunes playlist but there’s no way to share it.

by justaj2 months ago

I am a fan, but I don't have a Spotify account.

by navbaker2 months ago

My absolute favorite go-to mix while I’m at work:

by thinkingemote2 months ago

Vaporwave is dead. It's integral to the genre. They were saying at the beginning and five years ago also. Vaporwave cannot exist alive.

The thing to understand is that to exist or live in the music industry is incompatible with vapowave, mostly.

It's actually genius. To stay alive underground you have to kill it off before it can be adopted by the mainstream.

A software analogy could be a license which prohibits use in any professional serious setting. Or maybe the WTF license which many corps hate. Or maybe code which is itself mainly a copy of others. Stuff that can be enjoyed at home but would never be hosted by Microsoft and never be found in a company.

The other death metaphor is that it's about what has gone before, the music is about what is dead, musically and culturally.

by dhdkakfb2 months ago

This is probably as good of explanation as any, but still the real killer was Saint Pepsi.

by moth-fuzz2 months ago

I feel like vaporwave was dead as soon as people started taking it seriously. Seeing the genre at its inception - a critique on how corporations will use substanceless nostalgia to bolster sales - turned into that very thing with this faux-80s-revival music, that for one reason or another sounds nothing like what was actually popular in the 80s, has left quite the sour taste in my mouth.

Like, the very idea was to take old “nostalgic” stuff and mangle and distort into something only vaguely resembling that. The idea was to provoke those feelings in you while also detaching from what might actually make one nostalgic. After all, most of the audience can’t remember the 80s or 90s having been a child or not born yet. The idea is to poke fun at how corporations manufacture nostalgia by doing exactly that, except in a ridiculous and obvious way so that people would be in on the joke and so that it would be a transformative work of sorts. But people fell for the trick anyway and now we have kids who weren’t alive in the 80s yearning for the 80s listening to music that doesn’t resemble 80s music. It’s weird.

In short: I agree with the author. There are burgeoning genres and music cultures that may resemble vaporwave if you don’t know what it’s origin and intentions were, but the actual message behind vaporwave is lost to history in lieu of its aesthetic. The irony was, in fact, lost.

by lovich2 months ago

As someone who enjoyed vaporwave as it was being produced, “the idea” behind vaporwave was that it sounded good.

It may have sounded good because it touched on nostalgic sounds for millennials, but there wasn’t a wide spread movement “… to provoke those feelings in you while also detaching from what might actually make one nostalgic”

by user-the-name2 months ago

Maybe you just missed the point.

by 1vuio0pswjnm72 months ago

Who else accidentally read this title as "vaporware" instead of vaporwave. Kinda unnerving how that happens when scanning headlines.

by httpsterio2 months ago

I mean, they're kinda in the similar style and I think the naming of vaporwave is intentionally borrowing from vaporware.

Vaporware is tech and products that had a beautiful idea that never came to fruitition and vaporware makes music out of tracks that used to belong but don't any longer. There's a similar feeling of abandonment and emphasis on feelings of being in the wrong place and the wrong time.

by Stratoscope2 months ago

You are not the only one. I opened the HN home page two or three times before I clicked on this comment thread, and each time I thought "huh? we had vaporware way before the internet."

> "Vaporware" was coined by a Microsoft engineer in 1982 to describe the company's Xenix operating system and first appeared in print in a newsletter by entrepreneur Esther Dyson in 1983.

It also reminded me that a few days ago I read about some new ThinkPads that use vapor chambers instead of heat pipes. That sounds like it will be much more healthy for these high performance computers.

by drloser2 months ago

I read 4 chapters before reading vaporwaVe correctly.

by kilroy1232 months ago

I did the same and was confused. I'm only a 1/3rd of the way through my first morning coffee.

by rightbyte2 months ago

Nothing made any sense until I got to your comment.

by S_A_P2 months ago

As I’ve gotten older I just don’t have time for discovery. The proliferation of sub genres has added enough friction for me that I largely don’t try anymore. That said I play music pretty much every day and I have made music for 24 years. I have always liked downtempo music that wasn’t overly bright and was generally lofi. When describing what I like, sometimes it is golden age hip hop sounding. Sometimes it’s Boards of Canada sounding. Sometimes it sounds like Air. I occasionally bump into new music I like but the fragmentation of genres makes it difficult to discover new things. I wish that music was defined more by mood/mix/tempo and overall production aesthetic. I think there is a need for a Shazam like app that can listen to a song you like and find others for you that are similar.

by cols2 months ago

I feel you. My strategy of late has been to listen to a playlist of a genre I like but composed of artists I haven’t heard of on Spotify. I do this in the background while I am working. I heart the ones I like and add them to a special playlist and over time I’ve built up a few different playlists and expanded my inventory of tunes. Before being a programmer I was a studio musician and engineer and I swear I listen to more music now than ever.

Edit: incidentally, I totally agree with you about wishing there was a service that focused on mood/tempo more than anything. I’ve found that Spotify has been doing some of this type of aggregating and it’s not too bad. I’ve gotten a ton of good music from the Late Night Vibes playlist.

by httpsterio2 months ago used to be popular and still does an alright job at that. Usage numbers are down so there might be less variety, but I especially liked the "neighbours" to find people with similar music taste and then I lurked at what they played and I hadn't heard myself before.

by reedf12 months ago

This person claims to get it but they clearly don't. My feelings built until they misattributed the meaning of "ecco" in an album title.

by errantspark2 months ago

Oh my god. So wrong, such confidence.

> ... you can hear that the title is a play on the word "echo." It's an obvious nod to the production on the album ...

by meowface2 months ago

I mean, it's not entirely wrong. It's just missing the additional context of what else it's on a play on words of.

OPN/Daniel Lopatin did refer to his early pre-Eccojams creations as "echo jams":

>"I do these "echo jam" videos where I just loop stuff like a phrase from a pop song and repurpose it and put echo on it. It's like really Neanderthal sampling. Not flashy."

In 2009 and 2010, he posted the echo jams on his YouTube channel sunsetcorp: (All excellent and still worth watching/listening to today. Some landed on Eccojams, but some didn't. is my favorite; be sure to listen start to finish.)

Later in 2010, he compiled these tracks and others into Eccojams, which references both "echo jams" and the 1992 Sega game Ecco the Dolphin, which is what the cover art is derived from.

by errantspark2 months ago

You're right, but not mentioning the game feels wrong.

(yooooo that song is a whole ass trip)

by supernintendo2 months ago

My bf loves vaporwave and is sharing new artists in this genre with me all the time. 3D BLAST, Mélonade, Death's Dynamic Shroud and Runners Club 95 are a few of the producers / bands I like the most. I don't understand the fuss about labels; it's all electronic dance music to me.

by chrisco2552 months ago

I've heard this genre called vaporwave, synthwave, and retrowave. Which meme is going to win?

Also for anyone interested, a pretty good resource for retrowave related music, art, and games:

by stryan2 months ago

Vaporwave is a different genre from synthwave. Synthwave is based off synth-heavy 80s music, especially action and thriller/noir movie soundtracks. If you watched Stranger Things that has a very synthwave sound track.

Vaporwave is more sample based and is traditionally about looping distorted samples of 80s/90s songs, though it branched out a lot. Personally I'm a fan of naturewave, which is looped and edited "nature" or "new wave" sounds. But, key difference, it normally doesn't use a lot of classic synth sounds.

Retrowave I think refers to the over all aesthetic genre; so vaporwave and synthwave both fall under retrowave.

by ionwake2 months ago

Correction: Vaporwave is more based.

by ehnto2 months ago

If we are honest with the cultural aspect of it, vaporwave is the meme of taking old songs, slowing them down, making the time wonky, and occasionally overlaying software sounds or adjusting the phrasing.

Where synthwave describes a much broader range of music with a retro-futurist sound more often than not new original music, and not reliant on sampling phrases from songs outright.

by odiroot2 months ago

Vapor-wave is definitely on the meme side. Synth-wave is probably the most "serious" and retro-wave is usually just synonym for the former.

by cols2 months ago

Cool link. Thanks for posting!

by throwaway84512 months ago

Synthwave‘s cheery, Vaporwave‘s sad/depressed. I never liked the latter for that reason.

by wraptile2 months ago

That's not true at all. There are plenty of cheery vaporwave songs mentioned in the article itself: saint pepsi [1], macross 82-99 [2] etc. all early vaporwave entries based on city-pop which is as cheery as you can get! In fact that's probably the most popular remaining evolutions of the genre, both of the mentioned artists are still huge! (multi-million listens on spotify)

1 -

2 -

by Dracophoenix2 months ago

Saint Pepsi and Macross are generally classified as Future Funk artists rather than "pure" vaporwave in the vein of Macintosh Plus. For anyone who is interested in Future Funk (i.e. "cheery" vaporwave) a now-archived and inactive youtube channel by the name of Artzie Music [1] collected classics of the FF genre and is, for now, still available to peruse. The best ones in my opinion were uploaded between 2017 and 2018.


by fithisux2 months ago
by dhdkakfb2 months ago

Yes. Saint Pepsi killed vaporwave.

by fithisux2 months ago

Very good artists, additionally I can suggest

Jesse Cassetes.

And Stinkbug.

by kregasaurusrex2 months ago

I think overzealous copyright quietly killed Vaporwave. It focused on being anti-capitalist & satirical, where Vaporwave as a genre spawned out of this retrofuturistic desire to return to the 80's and 90's era of rosy nostalgia to chill electronic music like the K-Mart store tapes[0] fused with graphics from the era's games like Ecco the Dolphin[1]. The genre stood out because it was a new artform that encouraged stylistic experimentation, where listeners appreciated the nicheness and relative unpopularity.

One of the albums, Floral Shoppe[2], that helped create the movement was taken down on YouTube after receiving tens of millions of views because it directly used modulated (slowed down, reversed, autotuned, etc) samples from songs owned by Sony that fell outside the scope of fair use to the point the artist couldn't claim the album as an original work. This may have doomed it from the start to be a victim of its own relatively small success- as soon as more listeners discovered Vaporwave, it would be co-opted by the mainstream in the form of 'A E S T H E T I C S' and would cease to be the creative & original subgenre it set out to be.




by fzzzy2 months ago

Floral shoppe is definitely fair use. Getting taken down from youtube is not a court of law.

by pram2 months ago

Like “Esquire” has the cultural cachet to declare anything dead or relevant lol

by kunagi72 months ago

You can't kill what already is dead. That's Vaporwave [0]. Maybe I'm a bit biased since I'm an avid fan of Vaporwave. There's subgenres for everything, Mallsoft, Future Funk, Broken Transmission/Signalwave...

From sunsetcorp's "angel" [1] to 猫 シ Corp.'s "Palm Mall Mars" [2] there's a decade of really high quality releases.

Also, Bandcamp and YouTube provide endless days worth of Vaporwave. Thanks to them I discovered obscure artists like Kanal Vier (German), Canal+ (French) [3] or Jesse Cassettes.


[0] Phoenix #2772 - You Are Already Dead:




by scottmcdot2 months ago

A great example of hearing Vaporwave "in action" is when it's played in Dan Bell's Dead Mall YouTube series.

by larodi2 months ago

Vaporwave is well alive in 2022 and is actually gaining and transfusing its aesthetic essence in today’s Pop and EDM

by d3nj4l2 months ago

Hello, time traveller! Have we beaten COVID in 2022?

by larodi1 month ago

we have not beaten lots of things, in particular bad sense of humor, troll approach to strangers in forums, and least but not last using COVID as replacement for a good smiley face. here's one -> :D

by odiroot2 months ago

No, just entering the 5th wave.

by remarkEon2 months ago

We have a vaccine for the gamma variant, it’s fine.

by fithisux2 months ago

This type of comment Is usually done for synthwave.

by Nihilartikel2 months ago

The artist 'Haircuts for Men' is the one who made me stop smirking at vaporwave and start listening.

by 0des2 months ago

I concur, I originally found it on Vapor Memory YouTube channel [0] and it quickly became my go-to for during-the-day soundtrack.

[0] -

by tarsinge2 months ago

That make me think that maybe the mindset of well defined music genres coupled with fashion that is the staple of many publications (Pitchfork, Vice, ...) is just becoming obsolete with the fluid environment of today.

by nvarsj2 months ago

For anyone interested in exploring vaporwave:


* (interactive guide of the above)

by dhdkakfb2 months ago

Good lists. Vaporwave died with Saint Pepsi’s first release.

by fab1an2 months ago

Vaporwave is anything but dead - it's been completely absorbed into mainstream aesthetics instead.

by okareaman2 months ago

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

-- Martin Mull

by jianshen2 months ago

I never thought I'd see Vaporwave mentioned on HN. Anybody fans of Bandcamp here? I really feel like it's helped keep a lot of these microgenres going even more than Spotify.

by sammalloy2 months ago

Lots of call outs and links here, but very few text-based playlists in this discussion. Please, someone, give it to us straight, in ascii. Top 20 artists would suffice.

by jasonladuke03112 months ago

One of my favorite channels:

Play a couple of videos and your feed will be filled with all of the neo-80's *wave goodness you could hope for.

EDIT: I failed to read your comment.

by sammalloy2 months ago

Thanks. I wish there was a way to extract data from these files that gave us playlists in plain text. I know that some of these uploads have the full playlist in the description.

by jasonladuke03112 months ago

Yeah most of them these days have a full playlist in the comments. You could maybe use the YouTube API to search comments for multiple timestamps, which should be the playlist.

by newobj2 months ago

Vaporwave’s not dead

by Tabular-Iceberg2 months ago

Is there any QuickTime demo CD-ROM made with HyperCard-themed Vaporwave? That would be my personal idea of heaven.

by efields2 months ago

I’m elated by the sharing going on in this comment section. More like this!

by villgax2 months ago

I'd say it was re-discovered by reddit around 2015-2016

by dhdkakfb2 months ago

It’s true. Vaporwave died with Saint Pepsi’s first release.

by throw8ways2 months ago

One thing a lot of vaporwave artists do nowadays is use uncommon characters in the titles of their songs to make them harder to find. That could be part of why it seems to be disappearing.

by oldsecondhand2 months ago

Vaporwave just morphed into mallsoft.

by tus892 months ago

Add this to the list of things I'll just never understand. Subreddits with n*100k subs. For what? Something that sounds like tracker music from the 90s?

by isoprophlex2 months ago

The article gives a pretty comprehensive overview of why people might enjoy vaporwave and it's offshoots.

Politics, humor, the aesthetic itself.

Some releases even have a definite musical quality: Blank Banshee has put out very interesting music, and some production values in Vaporwave-esque music clearly made it into the mainstream.

by ntauthority2 months ago

Personally, I love 'tracker music from the 90s', and it's great to see things resembling it pop up in my streaming app's recommendation list every so often.

by grp0002 months ago

And the music that you listen to is what, objectively better?