Subculture: Synthwave & Vaporwave
We’ve all been on YouTube looking for music to wind down to and have stumbled upon Synthwave and Vaporwave channels. They have backgrounds full of pinks, light blues, and purples reminiscent of the 80s and 90s. Sythwave and Vaporwave usually get conflated because of similar visual aesthetics. When I dove into the research for this piece, I discovered just how complicated Vaporwave in particular is. I’m not going to go that far into the weeds on Vaporwave, if you would like to do that, you’re more than welcome to after reading this. This piece is going to be a jumping-off point for you where I'll describe some of the differences between the two and their origins.
The main difference between Synthwave and Vaporwave is that Vaporwave tends to be more ironic while Synthwave tends to be more earnest in embracing 80s and 90s aesthetics. Vaporwave is part of the electronic music scene that emerged in the early 2010s. The music is reworked corporate stock music and infomercial music. By reworking the music and making it beautiful. By making fun of the emptiness of excessive consumerism, it becomes a modern satirical take on capitalism.
Synthwave on the other hand has a sincere love of 80s and 90s aesthetics and reached wider popularity after being featured in films and television shows like Drive, Thor: Ragnarok, Tron: Legacy, and Stranger Things. It originated in the mid to late 2000s and is traced back to a broader trend involving young artists whose works drew from their childhoods in the 1980s. Synthwave was trending again recently when the Lofi girl and her channel made some changes.
The Lofi Girl went missing along with her cat during a live stream last week. I’ve told a little bit about Lofi Girl in another piece that I’ll link here. The Lofi Girl channel page had changed its header image to a different shot of the Lofi Girl’s room with the date of April 11th circled on the calendar. The Lofi Girl channel also released a video titled “What’s Happening with This Blue Window?” When you click on the link in the pinned comment, it takes you to lofiworld.com and to what would go on to be the Lofi Boy stream.
I hope you've enjoyed this look into the pop culture subcultures of Synthwave and Vaporwave and have learned something new, just like I did.