Deep Dives Level Up Newsletters Saved Articles Challenges

What is vaporwave? Here’s everything you need to know about the viral music genre

By Malavika Pradeep

Mar 14, 2021

COPY URL

90s nostalgia is a key element in various aesthetics and subcultures. But what if an internet-born music genre revives tracks lost in the Windows 95 era and distorts them to a degree that is both recognisable yet remarkably different from its roots? Welcome to vaporwave, a viral music genre evoking nostalgia for an era that never truly existed yet feels eerily familiar.

What is vaporwave?

Vaporwave music takes samples from the 80s and 90s Muzak, late-night infomercials, loungy elevator tunes and shopping mall music to later chop, scramble and pitch them to a point that is distinct yet unrecognisable. Eerie and dazzling, vaporwave is said to echo the sounds of a ‘synthetic underworld’ also known as the internet.

Vaporwave draws inspiration from the 90s but depicts the era in a futuristic setting. The internet-born and internet-existing genre is heavily populated by users who frequent 4Chan, Tumblr and Reddit forums. Many vaporwave artists use aliases to disguise their identities—a practice made easier given its digital context.

One of the most popular vaporwave albums is Floral Shoppe by Vektroid. One track, ‘Lisa Frank 420’, collected over 40.5 million YouTube views before it was taken down due to copyright claims made by Sony. Oneohtrix Point Never is another well-known vaporwave musician. His album Eccojams Vol 1 is credited with pioneering the genre itself. The artist has also collaborated with The Weeknd, whose recent Super Bowl show, with its cyborg choir, neon cityscape and levitating brand names, is deemed the “most mainstream manifestation of vaporwave yet.”

When did vaporwave first appear?

Vaporwave arrived on the internet’s music scene in 2009, and since then the genre has been repeatedly written off and declared obsolete. Unlike seapunk and chillwave, vaporwave continued to evolve. Google searches for the term peaked in 2017 and have remained steady ever since.

Various music forums describe vaporwave as the “chillwave for Marxists” given the fact that the genre is often aligned with anarchy and anti-capitalism. The genre mocks highbrow culture and is deeply rooted in DIY culture. Even its name is a spoof of the term “vaporware,” which refers to non-existent products that are promoted and marketed without ever actually being produced to keep competitors at bay.

The music genre also has a lot in common with punk. “Vaporwave is similar to punk in its low barrier of entry,” said George Clanton, a vaporwave artist in an interview with Document. “You don’t have to know how to play an instrument to make it. If you have a computer, you can open up an mp3 you stole from YouTube and start manipulating it with your mouse. Boom, you just made your first vaporwave track.”

What is vaporwave’s visual aesthetics?

Simultaneously lurid and obscure, vaporwave’s visual aesthetics can be summed up as “ecstatic exhaustion.” Think of an empty shopping mall with loungy elevator music, a swimming pool with pale pink walls or glitchy, neon-dipped streets ripped off a Japanese anime. The artworks related to the genre are dominated by palm trees, dolphins, pink and blue neon lights, synthetic sunsets, Greek busts and tech logos from the late 70s to early 00s.

Vaporwave is also synonymous with corporate imagery. Some of the most common brand names and logos associated with this aspect of the genre are Coca-Cola, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh Plus, PlayStation, Arizona Iced Tea and Fiji Water. Drug depictions, altered realities and glitches are also featured in the community’s artwork.

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

Une publication partagée par @vaporstation.jpg

Vaporwave overall offers an aesthetic visual and sound experience that delights fans. The genre has also been credited with a number of sub-genres with new ones emerging ever so often. Some of the most pivotal ones are:

Eccojams

Eccojams are usually made from a single short loop of the source material. Featuring samples from the 70s, 80s and 90s, the sub-genre is distinct for its use of smothering effects like reverb and echo. Being one of the earliest sub-genres of vaporwave, eccojams were popularised by Oneohtrix Point Never with his album Eccojams Vol 1.

Future Funk

Termed vaporwave’s ‘happy-go-lucky’ sibling, future funk (also known as vaporboogie) takes samples from disco tracks produced in the 70s and 80s, and distorts them into groovy music. The sub-genre draws inspiration from French House and features looped GIFs of classic Japanese animes like Sailor Moon and Urusei Yatsura.

Mallsoft

Mallsoft (also known as mallwave) is a sub-genre magnifying vaporwave’s lounge references. It seeks to elicit nostalgia using shopping mall imagery and remixed soft-rock muzak one might hear in a mall. Mallsoft depicts the concept of these centres as large, soulless spaces of consumerism with directionless and echo-heavy tunes.

Vapornoise

Vapornoise music is subjected to a greater degree of chopping and manipulation than in classic vaporwave, with bursts of noise and static dispersed between verses, choruses and sound clips. The sub-genre, born in 2013, tends to emphasise hisses, static and post-industrial noises. Vapornoise is often confused with vaporgoth—a similar genre but with different goals and aesthetics.

Simpsonwave

Simpsonwave is a sub-aesthetic of vaporwave that emerged in 2015, characterised by its use of imagery from the iconic cartoon The Simpsons. The aesthetic was made popular by YouTuber Lucien Hughe and features videos mixing vaporwave music with clips from the American television series. Edited with VHS-esque distortion effects and surreal visuals, the video-based aesthetic is one of vaporwave’s most viral sub-genres.

What is vaporwave? Here’s everything you need to know about the viral music genre


By Malavika Pradeep

Mar 14, 2021

COPY URL


What is kidcore? Here’s everything you need to know about the latest internet aesthetic

By Malavika Pradeep

Feb 24, 2021

COPY URL

There are 589 internet aesthetics till date on Aesthetics Wiki. After dark academia, softboys and egirls, we at Screen Shot believe it’s time to strike another one off the list: kidcore.

What is kidcore?

Kidcore is an aesthetic targeting 90s childhood nostalgia. It includes the use of highly saturated primary colours like red, blue and yellow along with childish themes derived from cartoons like Rugrats and Hello Kitty. Glitters, rainbows, stuffed toys, slinkys and stickers are commonly sported by kidcorists who channel the aesthetic.

Kidcore involves the heavy use of nostalgic patterns and graphics ranging from retro flowers, checkerboards and smiley faces to brand logos of Mattel, Hasbro and Skittles. Lisa Frank is one of the most popular brands for this aesthetic. Apart from primary colours, kidcore can also include pastels and rainbow colours.

As for the fashion aspect of kidcore, preferred clothing includes graphic t-shirts, denim overalls, suspenders, puffy sleeves, sticker-adorned jeans, high-tops and knee-high striped socks. Pair these with some friendship bracelets, chunky Crocs charms, butterfly hair clips and stuffed toys to nail the ultimate kidcore look.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by 🌈🛸Dillie🍬🧚🏽 (@candyfae.luv)

Google searches for ‘kidcore’ have hit an all-time high. Nylon notes a 2,439 per cent jump in searches for the term on Etsy in just three months ending September 2020. With Pinterest reporting 9 times increase in year-on-year searches for ‘smiley face nails’ and 6 times increase for ‘butterfly eye makeup’, the aesthetic now has thousands of items and sellers on Depop.

Labelled the ‘extreme extension of normcore’, kidcore is an intriguing cultural shift, stemming from age-regression. A report by Trend Hunter notes the shift as a response to the hypersexualisation of the fashion world and the embracement of youth culture by older generations, forcing millennials to dive deeper into the realm of comfort, function and simple design.

The aesthetic, however, is not all about its style and clothing. Sure, the clothing targets comfort as a nostalgia for simpler times, but it’s also about channeling our 8-year-old carefree mindsets. Kidore hence emphasis on ease, both physically and psychologically.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by blobb (@_blobb)

Sub-genres of the aesthetic

Kidcore is often confused with other aesthetics like indie, babycore, cartooncore and nostalgiacore. Though these aesthetics have overlapping elements, they are distinct with their motifs and values. Indie, for example, includes the use of bright, saturated colours and filters similar to kidcore but the aesthetic differentiates itself with a focus on individualism, music and skater culture. Now that we’ve established that, let’s look at some sub-genres within kidcore:

Spooky kidcore

Spooky kidcore is a Halloween take on kidcore. Bright, pastel and rainbow colours along with cute cartoon characters of kidcore are mixed with witches, skeletons and jack-o’-lanterns to get this aesthetic.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ghoulie Ghoup (@ghoodles.doodles)

Loudcore

Loudcore revolves around loud, noisy toys and objects that trigger childhood nostalgia. Key motifs of this sub-genre include bells, fireworks, birthday party or treasure box related items and musical instruments like kazoos.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Anna Kempinska (@kempekprawdziwy)

Stickercore

Do you recall trying out one of those Instagram and Snapchat filters with face stickers? Candies, CareBears, My Little Pony, Sanrio and Lisa Frank’s artworks are commonly featured in stickercore. The sub-genre involves placing these stickers on faces and objects.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sküg/Newt/Fig/Cameron 💛🤍💜🖤 (@abandoned_clown)

What is kidcore? Here’s everything you need to know about the latest internet aesthetic


By Malavika Pradeep

Feb 24, 2021

COPY URL


 

×

Let us slide in your inbox

Sign up to our weekly newsletter

 

Don't show again