Vaporwave: Where Nostalgia And Postmodernism Collide

Vaporwave: Where Nostalgia And Postmodernism Collide

This music is meta and it's awesome.

So, it's 2016 and we are pretty far out from the genesis of rock 'n' roll in the '50s. Since then, pop music has become a mainstay genre that has evolved many times through the decades and descending from that are many sub-genres of music aimed at targeting specific audiences. None, though, could be as oddly specific or as spot-on as vaporwave. This semi-obscure music genre has gained popularity in recent years and for interesting reason.

Vaporwave parodies pop music, specifically older styles from the '80s. Through the use of sampling and computer made music, vaporwave pushes music to some interesting places. It combines popular or obscure songs from the '80s with a commercial or lounge jazz sound. What you get is a very meta piece of music that not only asks you to take it how it is, but also consider what it was made from and what those musical materials mean. It's almost as if aliens were asked to make an example of human music and for reference were given stock corporate music, some not-very-popular '80s pop songs and elevator music all on worn-out cassettes and CDs with scratches on them. It's pretty bizarre and hard to explain, so below is a video of a popular vaporwave song.



Moving on, I'm specifically going to focus on the album "Floral Shoppe" by Macintosh Plus. It's one of the more popular vaporwave albums and the best example of the potential of the genre. It's a good place to start, though, as just the artist name and album cover give us an interesting idea of what this genre is about.



First off, the fact that the artist's name is Macintosh Plus is an obvious throwback to the popular Apple computer line from the '80s and our first introduction into the commercial themes. The album artwork itself is a conjuration of imagery meant to give a mindset of what this music represents. There is a focus on older technology. The word "MAC" next to the Japanese text evokes the idea of innovative tech products from Japan. Under it, the image of New York is another throwback to old tech. The pixelated image quality and the presence of the Wold Trade Center is there to remind us of something we would find on an old computer before the turn of the century. Dominating the left side of the cover is a marble sculpture which juxtaposes the pixelated art, checkerboard pattern and Japanese text. The sculpture itself, which would be popularly considered as art, is placed next to graphics that stem from the creation of consumer culture. Taking old computer graphics and putting it next to the sculpture is challenging you to consider: what is art? The computer graphics are a result of hundreds of years of human progress and were made by artists for commercial purposes. It isn't the traditional idea of art but falls in the definition, yet as a society we do not praise it like the sculpture. What you get is an image that's a bit hard to understand without listening to the music, but it's totally what this entire genre is about.

Now switch out the re-use of old graphics with the re-use of old music: pop songs, lounge music, synthesizers, etc. Taking all this and re-contextualizing it into something new is the bare bones of vaporwave. This isn't a recent development in music, artists have sampled older material for decades, but what vaporwave does and specifically this album is very interesting. "Floral Shoppe" makes the sampled music sound older.

The "Floral Shoppe" song "Lisa Frank 420/ Modern Computing" samples music from this Diana Ross song. If you listen to just the first few seconds of both, the similarity is pretty clear. Instead of taking the Diana Ross song and remixing it into something new (maybe a modern dance remix or something) the melody gets slowed down. There is even probably a filter that makes it sound grainier and the result is this song that is reminiscent of popular music trends of the '80s/'90s. The song sounds as if it came out of an old TV commercial and that is totally the point. It's oddly nostalgic and hypnotic.

The first song in the album "Booting" has skips in the music that you would find on scratched CDs. Instead, though, it uses those skips to further the song and create rhythm. The album is filled with these sort of things. It takes old sounds or music ideas birthed from consumer culture and re-contextualizes them out of the music computing limitations of the time.

Many are quick to judge vaporwave as it being a "joke". Not that the music is bad, but it itself is a joke. I really disagree with this statement. Behind the memes and aesthetic, vaporwave wants you to seriously consider what has been forgotten. The "consumer culture" music, the music that was made for advertisements and corporate videos that have been forgotten, are remembered here. The music is sincere and there are some beautiful songs in this album.

Jonathan Dean of Tiny Mix Tapes put it best, "['Floral Shoppe' is] one of the best single documents of the vaporwave scene yet, a series of estranged but soulful manipulations of found audio that carefully constructs its own meditative headspace through the careful accretion of defamiliarized memory triggers." Vaporwave is innovative and unique. It'll probably never be mainstream, but it is definitely the best example of postmodern music yet.

Cover Image Credit: derpibooru.org

Popular Right Now

Why You Really Should Consider Spending the "Day In Bed"

A Great Life Lesson from Morrissey

I don’t know why I’m writing this because this song needs no interpreting. It’s pretty simple. But still, I wanted to share it. I love the lyrics. And I know I’m not the only one who does (or might).

Morrissey’s second-most-recent single, “Spent the Day in Bed” is about—well—spending the day in bed. And forgetting the outside world and all its problems. We might look at this and think this song is promoting being a hermit or giving up, but actually, the lyrics are pretty brilliant since there is only one way to separate yourself from this hectic, crazy world, and that is to, at times, avoid it.

Let’s take a look at the lyrics:

“Spent the day in bed

Very happy I did, yes,

I spent the day in bed

As the workers stay enslaved

I spent the day in bed

I’m not my type, but

I love my bed”

Pause here to note Morrissey’s always-hilarious dark humor ("I’m not my type”). But as usual, despite the irony and dark humor, this song’s message is really serious:

“And I recommend that you

Stop watching the news

Because the news contrives to frighten you

To make you feel small and alone

To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own”

Truer words were never spoken! This is exactly what the news does. An article on Consequences of Sound says that Morrissey “rails against fake news” in this song, but I beg to differ. Morrissey rails against all news. Because as much as the media exists to bring us important information, it also gets its money and views/likes/etc. from hyping things up—intriguing people to the point of scaring them, so that they feel they need to rely on the news. It’s a vicious cycle.

I stopped watching the news, and I am so much happier. I’m not kidding. I still find politics interesting, I still find world events interesting, but life is so much more than news. I can serve people and address world issues without watching the news.

“I spent the day in bed

It’s a consolation

When all my dreams

Are perfectly legal

In sheets for which I paid

I am now laid

And I recommend to all of my friends that they

Stop watching the news

Because the news contrives to frighten you

To make you feel small and alone

To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own”

Here’s another reason to spend the day in bed: you can daydream all you like, and no one’s there to tell you, “That’s not possible,” or, “You’re silly,” or “That’s not how real life works.” You are free, with only yourself and God as companions. And God is love, and personal—dare I say the exact opposite of the news?

But I digress. Notice how the news makes you “feel small and alone.” Obviously Morrissey is opposed to this, which implies that he is pro-community and friendships. And having someone tell you “You’re not alone” or “I’ve got your back” is one of the most comforting things you can hear. Of course, while you’re spending the day in bed you may not be inclined to call a friend, but you might. Perhaps tomorrow you can call a friend. I don’t say this to preach; I often resist doing this, but when I do I’m always glad I did. It really does get you out of our own (depressing) head.

To continue:

“Oh time, do as I wish

Time, do as I wish

Oh time, do as I wish

Time, do as I wish . . .”

This can be read as “This is my time to do as I wish” or as a command: “Time, do as I wish!” Of course none of us has control of time, but perhaps this is Morrissey’s way of expressing his wish to slow down time. I often wish this. Sometimes, lying in bed really does make time seem to slow down.

“I spent the day in bed

You can pleasure yourself

But I spent the day in bed

Pillows like pillars

Life ends in death

So there’s nothing wrong with

Being good to yourself

Be good to yourself for once”

I love this verse. Morrissey can’t help but mention death, but for those of us similarly inclined it’s only a good, solid reminder that nothing here is permanent and suffering will soon be over. And as a result (and on a much happier note), be good to yourself! This is as cheery as Morrissey gets, and it’s pretty surprising and wonderful. So many of us forget to care for ourselves in this dreary world. But in order to make any kind of positive impact on the world, we have to be in good health—mentally and physically (as much as possible). So be good to yourself. Thank you for this message, Morrissey.

“And no bus, no boss, no rain, no train

No bus, no boss, no rain, no train

No bus, no boss, no rain, no train

No emasculation, no castration

No highway, freeway, motorway

No buss, no boss, no rain, no train

(Line repeats)”

This is a sigh of relief from not having to deal with chaotic, post-modern life. It’s also quite funny, in that Morrissey equates this lifestyle with being both castrated and emasculated. That’s pretty harsh, but also humorous. By not having to engage in this frenetic non-stop world, Morrissey can be himself—a man. And we all can be our real selves, not having to hide behind facades or respond in “appropriate” ways the world promotes.

This song makes me want to spend a day (or several) in bed.

And on those days when I want to spend the day in bed but can’t, I remember this song and relax a bit, knowing that I don’t have to rush around quite as much as I think I need to. Life is not worth it, and this postmodern, fast-paced world is not real life. Real life is slowing down and reflecting and taking action as needed. Real life is, sometimes, spending the day in bed.

Cover Image Credit: The Daily Beast

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Life Lessons We Can All Learn From 'Polar Express'

Polar Express is a classic holiday movie that can teach us all important lessons about life!

"The Polar Express" entered our lives thirteen years ago. The film followed a young doubtful boy who got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a trip to the North Pole via a magical train, the Polar Express. The boy learned to not only believe in the magic of Santa Claus but also in himself. While rewatching the movie this holiday season, I took note of the several life lessons that the movie taught.

Seeing is not always believing.

At the beginning of the film, the young boy does not believe in Santa Claus as he has never actually seen him. But through the belief of the other kids on the train, he is able to believe that Santa Claus exists at the end of the film, showing the viewers that sometimes belief in the something is most important.

Anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

Throughout the film, the sleigh bell becomes an important symbol. In the beginning, the boy is unable to hear the sound of the bell as he has no faith in Santa Claus. At the end, however, the boy persuades himself to believe in himself to believe in Santa Claus. Once he does he is rewarded with the sound of the bell. This scene shows the viewers the value of believing in ourselves.

Hot chocolate makes everything better!

This one's an obvious one, who doesn't love hot chocolate! But apart from that, the young boy makes some of his best friends in the film over a warm cup of hot chocolate proving that hot chocolate is always the best remedy!

Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.

It is only when the boy allows himself to push his boundaries is he able to embark on an extraordinary adventure and discover the magical world of the North Pole.

Friends can come in all shapes and sizes.

The boy meets some pretty interesting kids on the train and while at first is a little taken aback by the different types of kids, he eventually learns to love and accept them all.

"The Polar Express" is an iconic film because of its lovable cast and stunning visual animations. But it is also loved by adults and children alike for the important, relevant life lessons it teaches.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

Related Content

Facebook Comments