Nostalgic ’80s Noise: The Greatness/Awfulness that is Vaporwave

I love the ‘80s, anyone who knows me knows that. Everything about it, the cheesy movies, the cheesy music, the cheesy fashion styles, the whole shebang. But sometimes I get the feeling that modern ‘80s nostalgia, and by that I mean from people who were barely alive and/or not even born yet, has sort of reached its natural peak. Nothing exemplifies this more than the weird mix of anti-capitalism and fetishisation of ‘80s Japanese culture that is Vaporwave. It’s a stupid music trend that tends to be a skin deep high school level English class theosophy at its best. And as a result it’s become the music that I love to hate the most this past month or so. Like its predecessor Dubstep before it, Vaporwave has earned the ire of, well pretty much every music critic alive (and there are so many of those now). At its best it is a funky, slightly catchy low effort genre of music. If you can take a bunch of different samples from the ’80s and mix said samples up and or down you too can make passable Vaporwave. At its worst, Vaporwave is just friggin’ noise stacked on top of noise. But I posit to you, dear reader, that Vaporwave is simultaneously the best/worst thing to come out of the pseudo techno music camp. And what better way to do this than to go through some examples. So strap in my friends, were going to delve deep into the depths of moronic anti-consumeristic Japanese Weeaboosim* that is Vaporwave.

It’s not really fair to put Saint Pepsi on this list. His newest singles “Fiona Coyne” and “Fall Harder” seem like he’s trying to break from his Vaporwave roots into the nebulous Indie pop genre. But the past is still the past my friend, and this one’s a doozy. I’ll admit, the beats that Saint Pepsi creates in “Private Caller” are actually pretty great. It’s a pulsating, driving, in your face sort of music that propels you forward. The “vocals” such that they are fit perfectly within the context of the mix. But it still falls into that dreamlike trap that all Vaporwave seems to fall into. Its hypnotic, but it also loses almost all of its novelty in the end. On the flipside “Enjoy Yourself” is the perfect length for what it’s trying to do. Racking up to a grand total of 1:57 minutes the song says what it needs to and just sort of, ends. Other than that there is not a whole lot to say about it that hasn’t already been covered in “Private Caller”. As an added bonus, “Enjoy Yourself” is paired with the oh so successful “classy” McDonald’s branding of Mac Tonight, so that’s a thing I guess.

CVLTVRΣ’s “Asphalt Paradise” and Harrison’s “Comfort Cruise” by comparison are a weird mix of songs with their own styles. “Asphalt Paradise” is a song that would seriously benefit if faded out on the 2:40 mark. At that point the song has played its course, but until that point it’s a not a half bad one. The hook (in this case the weird little bell instrument) does its job to keep you interested as the song progresses. Additionally, it teases you with the anticipation of hearing the hook again with a little interlude. All in all it’s generally a pretty well-crafted song from start to when it really should end. “Comfort Cruise” on the other hand is pure funk and soul. Like Saint Pepsi, its bassline serves as a way to propel the song forward. Its vocals are mixed way back but that adds to, rather than subtracts from, the song as a whole. Unlike “Asphalt Paradise”, “Comfort Cruise” is at a perfect length that never outstays its welcome. Like “Enjoy Yourself” it’s its own sort of hypnotic pulsating form of music. Something that benefits the song as a whole.

Thus ends our little examples of the best that Vaporwave has to offer, below is the worst.

Here’s the deal, if you have anything relating to 4/20 (aka the “hurr durr lets smoke weed bro” holiday / joke so old it’s not funny anymore) in your name, you’ve guaranteed that I will immediately hate your music. SUPERSEX 4/20’s “F A S T L A N E” is pure hot garbage. This song literally does nothing to break up its self-masturbatory five second loop for two entire minutes. Compare that to “Asphalt Paradise” which is broken up by either a bridge, or transition, or something. Speaking of self-masturbatory garbage, let’s cover that fake “sexy” voice in the introduction and conclusion shall we? While listening to this little gem for the first time you might wonder, “did that artist really put the ‘You are now listening to Supersex 4/20’ and ‘Oh my god! Wow Supersex 4/20 is doing big things right now’ in the song?” And to that I say, yes the artist really did just self-congratulate his or herself on the masterpiece that is “F A S T L A N E”. That’s some Kanye West level ego you got there kid. But at least Kanye backs it up with actual music, not noise.

All in all, I refuse to give anymore examples of the worst because you already get the picture. That and I’m pretty sure I would lose whatever readership I do have, if I haven’t already. While the goal of Vaporwave is to scoff at the capitalist culture that we live in, there are better ways (and genres) of doing it. So let’s recap, at its best Vaporwave goes on a little too long in its monotonous cacophony. But at its worst, it’s a skin deep, pseudo-intellectual musical movement that rebels against a topic that every teenager ever rebelled against. And that is why as a genre of music it’s simultaneously the awful and great. That said, as a music scene Vaporwave has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. But when it’s on point, it’s not the worst music ever made, just some of the most pretentious. And in all honesty, I kind of love it.

*For those who don’t know, Weeaboos are in general people who love japan, like way too much. So much so that they think any other culture (i.e. their own, which is usually American) is inferior to glorious Nippon.