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Vaporwave (also called "vapor") is a genre of music that originated on The Internet at the beginning of The New '10s. Staples of the genre include the use of (and/or influence from) smooth jazz, R&B and Japanese City Popnote  from The '80s and '90s; corporate iconography and sloganeering; early computer-generated artwork; symbols of capitalism and opulence; and a clear case of irony poisoning.

Music created during these early years primarily consisted of taking music from the 1980s and chopping and screwing it — cutting loops of songs out and slowing them downnote  — as well as adding filters, reverbs and delays. This "first wave" (no pun intended) or "classic" vaporwave sound — also known as eccojams — is synonymous with the name of the genre, and there are many artists who still work in this style. At the same time, a thread known as Utopian virtual emerged, invoking the idealism and optimism of post-Cold War society via its consumerism by using sounds of computers and commerce from the 1990s in a more melodic, positive and less harsh way.

2012 saw the genre fragment heavily. BlankBanshee's seminal albums Blank Banshee 0 and Blank Banshee 1 defined the vaportrap subgenre, which added elements of Trap Music to samples of computer chimes and New Age music. Meanwhile, SAINT PEPSI (now Skylar Spence) and others would fuse the vaporwave ethos with nu-disco, creating future funk, a decidedly more upbeat approach. Dreampunk also emerged, creating futuristic soundscapes from field recordings and computerized abstractions. Mallsoft merged field recordings of nature and shopping malls with heavily reverberated ambient music to play on the genre's consumerist themes. Oceangrunge and hardvapor would also appear, hybridizing vaporwave with grunge and alternative rock (the former), and industrial and noise music (the latter), as rebuttals against the perceived anemic meekness of prior iterations of vaporwave.

Broken transmission (or signalwave) abruptly shifts through samples and loops of commercials to evoke channel surfing and being endlessly bombarded with advertisements as a full-faced critique on mindless (un)ethical consumption under capitalism and an inverse to utopian virtual. And lastly, there's late night lo-fi, a vaporwave counterpart to the lo-fi house and lo-fi hip-hop genres. All of these genres more or less work with the same sample base of 1980s songs, but there's been a notable shift towards composing original tunes rather than simply sampling. This explosion of genre-blending abandon is considered the "second wave" of vaporwave.

Aesthetically, vaporwave incorporates a barrage of 1990s advertising iconography and sloganeering alongside images of buildings, beaches and other signs of opulence, littered with Gratuitous Japanese (and later other languages). Many albums envision other worlds, generally informed by seminal CG animation like The Mind's Eye series. Resorts on sunny beaches, landscapes with Alien Geometries, and an endless mall (often referred to as the "Virtual Plaza") are common. Some artists even envision high concepts for themselves; Replica Federation, for example, envisions their music as the soundtrack for a hitman and super-spy, chronicling his adventures. The cut-and-paste use of languages gives vaporwave the feel of globalization with all of the pros and cons entailed, and can lend the feeling of a deceptively bleak, placidly dystopian future in which Japan Takes Over the World and everyone orders take-out from the videophone on their boats. Despite some speculative journalism calling vaporwave a deconstruction of American capitalism, the genre does signal a complete ambivalence towards it (case in point: 猫 シ Corp.'s mallsoft album Palm Mall features sounds of placid consumerism while using the exact font of Pall Mall brand cigarettes on the album cover). It should be noticed that some artists like Vektroid have publicly stated that their music is not intended to be anti-capitalist, while other artists are more critical.

On the whole, vaporwave is considered a polarizing genre. The original arguments calling it uncreative hipster trash have been replaced by it simply being hipster trash by 2016. There's even been a debate within the community on whether everything in the second wave is even worth listening to (or vice versa.) However, most can agree that first wave vaporwave was a great way to expand one's own musical palette. Indeed, vaporwave most likely inspired the wide range of Japanese City Pop, electronic and new age albums being reissued worldwide after only being known in niche communities for decades, as well as renewed interest in French house, a tangentially related sub-genre of house music that peaked in 2001, via its Spiritual Successor status to Future Funk. Some critically successful musicians like OneohtrixPointNever, DJ Seinfeld and Visible Cloaks have flirted with vaporwave(-adjacent) sounds and imagery as well. Much of it can be found on Bandcamp under the tags "eccojams" and "vaporwave".

Not to be confused with vaporware (despite its name being derived from it), and certainly not with Vapor Wear, which is something different entirely. Compare seapunk, which has similar origins and also makes use of nostalgic 90's imagery, and synthwave, which wholeheartedly embraces the 1980s in its music and artwork and is more akin to the upbeat, "totally radical" synthesizer workout soundtracks of that decade, primarily focusing on original compositions.

See also these helpful guides to all the various styles of vaporwave.

Now has a wiki.


  • Chuck Person (often cited as the Ur-Example of vaporwave; Daniel Lopatin's other works under the name of Oneohtrix Point Never also proved influential for oceangrunge and hardvapour)
  • 骨架的note  (The Trope Maker, whose Holograms album "inspired everything", according to...)
  • Vektroid, and her aliases:
    • New Dreams Ltd.
    • MACINTOSH PLUS (the Floral Shoppe tape is the Trope Codifier for first-wave vaporwave.)
    • PrismCorp Visual Enterprises
    • Laserdisc Visions
    • 情報デスクVIRTUAL
    • esc 不在
    • Sacred Tapestry
    • ░▒▓新しいデラックスライフ▓▒░
    • memorex dawn
  • SAINT PEPSI (earlier works)
  • George Clanton / ESPRIT 空想
  • Infinity Frequencies
  • HKEnote  (Founded the DREAM CATALOGUE label, which many popular vaporwave albums were released on)
  • t e l e p a t h (co-owner of DREAM CATALOGUE, collaborates with the above under the name 2814)
  • luxury elite (founded the now-defunct Fortune 500 label which briefly housed SAINT PEPSI)
  • Nmesh
  • Famicom Fountains
  • BLΛNK BΛNSHΣΣ (Trope Maker and Codifier [and possibly Ur-Example as well] for vaportrap)
  • VHS Logos

Tropes present in vaporwave

  • Adaptation Amalgamation: Various vaporwave and future funk songs usually mix two (or more) different songs into one. A good example is Yung Bae's "Anibabe", which mixed an 80s J-Pop song with a 70s disco song in English.
  • Archive Panic:
    • As classic vaporwave is very easy to create, some artists have put out dozens of hours of material. t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者, for example, has put out at least 64 half-hour length pieces under the alias of 仮想夢プラザ alone. One of the people behind record label DMT Tapes FL has hundreds of releases across 37 different aliases. Even when some artists put out minute-long songs, this definitely adds up.
    • Due to the legally dicey nature of vaporwave in general, many artists have either uploaded their catalog for free on a filesharing platform as MP3s or deleted their works down the road altogether. If a work does survive, it's usually in a lossy format. Humorously, some illegal filesharing websites prohibit users from uploading vaporwave from anyone but the top names in the genre, specifically because of how easy it is to churn out hours worth of material (and therefore spoof sharing ratios), meaning sometimes even the pirates don't back this genre up.
    • Artists have sometimes gone back and edited or remixed their previous albums thanks to the way the music hosting service Bandcamp allows album and track uploads. Vektroid has notably reissued several of her albums with bonus songs and re-recorded or updated others with the original versions removed.
    • Bandcamp revitalized the use of the Hidden Track by allowing users to unlist songs from an album and having them only appear when the full album is purchased. Early Vektroid albums used this feature.
  • Avant-Garde Music: The stranger side of vaporwave can sound like this. Examples include ░▒▓新しいデラックスライフ▓▒░ and 骨架的's first release.
  • Broken Record: Common, due to the sample-based nature of many vaporwave releases. Some tracks can be more literal about that than others.
  • Caps Lock: If the name of a vaporwave artist isn't full of Gratuitous Japanese, it's in all caps. Sometimes, it's both. note  Averted by artists who opt for all lowercase letters instead. Others will often use full-width text, like this.
  • Crossover:
    • Oneohtrix Point Never, whose early "eccojam" works directly inspired vaporwave, has produced other works that are influential to vaporwave's subgenres, as well as works inspired by them in turn.
    • Hardvapor has crossover potential with experimental club music, such as that made by Total Freedom or Arca.
    • There's Simpsonwave, a visual sub-movement that combines the eponymous series with vaporwave music and aesthetics, usually using old episode scenes and modifying them in vaporwave style. Some famous examples are this one and this one, even inspired a Regular Show variant like this one (being a series inspired by 80s and 90s, isn't strange to see this crossover here).
    • Weirdly with Country of all things, with one (admittedly very weird if successful) artist at the crux: Kacey Musgraves's 2018 album Golden Hour evinces occasional vaporwave influences, most prominently on "Oh What a World" and in the lyric video for "High Horse", but also in occasional other spots elsewhere. One gets the odd sense that she spent a lot of time that year listening to vaporwave tracks. (It doesn't help that at about this time she started rendering her name as "K A C E Y M U S G R A V E S" on at least some social media.) Thus far nobody has really taken her up on her offer of "countrywave" but given how chill old-school country can be it might just be a matter of time.
  • Cyberpunk: Where a lot of the genre gets its inspiration from.
  • Dark Reprise: A lot of vaporwave can sound like Dark Reprises of the songs they sample. For example, "Tender Love" by Force M.D.s is a cheerful love serenade, but INTERNET CLUB's "WAVE TEMPLE" turns it into what sounds like BGM for a Really Dead Montage.
  • Darker and Edgier: Some albums have taken on a darker theme. One example is ░▒▓死▓▒░ by Chinese Hackers is described as a mix between vaporwave and industrial/dark ambientnote . The result is genuinely disturbing.
    • "Weird Wide Web" by Mothership Loudspeakerz is an attempt to mix vaporwave/vaportrap with psytrance, on the premise that both genres create psychedelic, dreamy soundscapes, even if with slightly different outcomes.
    • death's dynamic shroud.wmv. Not only do they simply slow down and repeat vocal snippets, but sometimes actually pitch them up high, while also often editing or distorting them to the point of it sounding like it's coming from a malfunctioning robot. That, combined with a sound that mixes massively dark ambiances, heavy industrial influence, and plenty of glitching, their music is, as one commenter on the video stream for I'll Try Living Like This says, "what it sounds like to disassociate." The aforementioned I'll Try Living Like This, 신세기EVANGELIS, and 世界大戦OLYMPICS are prime examples.
    • Hallmark '87's A T R I U M has been labeled this as well. While having the same atmospheric style of mallsoft, it carries a sense of isolation and emptiness that involves a heavy Nothing Is Scarier vibe.
  • Dead Horse Genre: Some believe that vaporwave was very close to becoming this in 2013 before various albums released in the following years offered new takes on the genre and revitalized it. Others believe it already has.
    • Vaporwave's influence eventually seeped into Future Funk, a dance genre that's functionally identical to the filter house and nu-disco of The Aughts, but with the added aesthetics and sample sets of vaporwave.
  • Decade-Themed Filter: Vaporwave has usually their music videos and/or images under the VCR filters since both styles reference the 80s and 90s eras. In this case, usually 80s commercials are used in some of the songs as well as Western Animation or anime scenes from those decades.
  • Deliberate VHS Quality: For the reasons listed above, videos will often look like they were recorded on aged VHS tapes.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Sometimes, the Japanese characters in an artist's name is just the English part of their name translated into Japanese. For example, the characters in "t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者" translate to "telepath", essentially making the name "t e l e p a t h telepath".note 
  • Echoing Acoustics: Many tracks will use these.
  • The '80s: A major inspiration for the genre.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: The album News at 11 by 猫 シ Corp. turns the 9/11 attacks into this trope. The first half of the album uses soundbites of morning news shows and commercials from September 11, 2001 just before the announcements of the attacks, circling around the happier moments right before anything is announced,note  and intersperses it with easy listening music. The second half of the album then completely sidesteps the rest of that morning by focusing squarely on distorted "Local on the 8's" music and soundbites from The Weather Channel.
  • End of an Age: Just as how the 9/11 attacks were this on a grand scale, the vaporwave genre generally uses this event as the "cutoff point" for the era that it represents. News at 11 by 猫 シ Corp. extends this to the very moments right before the terror attacks on the morning of 9/11.
  • Epic Rocking: Vaporwave tracks can either be very long or very short. You may hear some tracks that run up to 20 minutes in length and others that don't even last a minute.
  • The Faceless: A large portion of vaporwave artists invoke this, due to the "rampant consumption of data and material goods" part of the aesthetic. This has notably allowed a lot of women and LGBT artists to flourish in the scene, unhampered by trying to fit into the mold(s) that, unfortunately, many mainstream female and queer artists are expected to fit into.
  • Gaia's Lament: Some vaporwave and ocean grunge releases (such as SLUDGE DREDD by DJ Rozwell, and Eco Virtual's work) have a decidedly environmentalist theme to them. This being vaporwave, the tone often comes off as melancholic.
  • Genre-Busting: Musically, vaporwave can be described as Dream Pop, chillwave, deep house, old school dubstep, lounge, New Age, soul, R&B and 80's pop and dance music in a blender.
  • Gratuitous Japanese:
    • Song titles and artist names will often use Japanese characters.
    • Semi-parodied by the producer 日本人, whose name is Japanese for... "Japanese (person)".
    • Ocean grunge tracks usually eschew gratuitous Japanese and instead go for gratuitous Greek.
  • I Have Many Names: Some artists, like Vektroid, will work under several aliases.
  • Insult Backfire:
    • The New Dreams Ltd. series of albumsnote  released by Vektroid, which encompasses all of her work in vaporwave, was created as a Stealth Parody of undiscerning internet hipsters pretending to like things for ironic reasons. She ended up codifying vaporwave into the household name that it is by doing so, creating countless imitators alongside genuine musicians who pushed the genre forward.
    • Several other highly controversial works, such as THE DARKEST FUTURE's FLORAL SHOPPE 2 and ░▒▓新しいデラックスライフ▓▒░'s ▣世界から解放され▣, could also fit this trope, but the artists behind them haven't revealed their intent behind creating them.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Some artists are prone to deleting part of their back catalogs, requiring their fans to circulate any material they downloaded themselves. Listeners of music in general only use MP3s, so lossless copies of many releases are lost for good because of this, even with some keen listeners taking it upon themselves to create vast libraries of every vaporwave release ever. Some artists will go back and delete songs from albums, or re-mix/re-configure the entire album to replace the original version (something Vektroid is fond of doing.)
  • Loudness War: The first wave saw quite a bit of this.
    • Some vaporwave music is deliberately brickwalled to recreate the sound of a distorted tape - such as in the case of chris†††'s music.
  • Lucky Charms Title:
    • New Deluxe Life's Freed from the World project takes this to really ridiculous levels; all the song titles are a mishmash of Japanese characters, alt key symbols, and some caps-locked English here and there for good measure. Even the name and album title are written as "░▒▓新しいデラックスライフ▓▒░" and "▣世界から解放され▣", respectively.
    • And there's the album "홥딋ɴ⧺乹濲Ἇ༦ꫠꖾᕳࡒꖰ䇛ⓌꔇᏎ⇭ಱꚃ᨞䞠쵄Ⱃꔹꉴσ냤匀P免ぬ⒧ꕎ​.​zip" by Apk ♀ ᴎᴇᴛ ☯ Ltd℻
  • Mind Screw: The more heavily edited tracks can sound like this. The more stereotypical vaporwave artwork also qualifies.
  • Product Placement:
    • Being a kind of deconstruction of consumerism for many, most of the artwork from vaporwave is referred to famous brands from the 80s and 90s, mostly famous Cola brands (Coca-Cola and Pepsi) as well other ones as the old Microsoft Windows logos (Windows '95 notably). Some examples are these 2 music videos made for Vaporwave songs, this one based on American Pepsi ads and this one with Japanese Coca-Cola ads.
    • Not to mention the name of various artists are directly related with this. Some notable examples are SAINT PEPSI, Kodak Cameo, ESPRIT 空想, WALKMAN 91 and Famicom Fountains, as others.
  • Retraux: Classic-styled vaporwave often relies on this; album covers are commonly taken from screencaps of commercials from the 80s or 90s.
  • Sampling: A key component, though this was somewhat more prevalent in the first wave than the second wave, which has more artists creating original compositions.
  • Sexophone: Very common on account of all the smooth jazz sampling that goes on.
  • Simpsonwave: Simpsonwave and similar videos are fanvids set to vaporwave music.
  • Shout-Out: The name of Eccojams is a shout out to Ecco the Dolphin; the cover art even uses part of the original Genesis game's box art. In turn, any use of the word "ecco" in vaporwave is likely a shout out to Eccojams.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To nightcore, a musical genre that's also situated on the Internet and sample-based. Whereas vaporwave glorifies the vintage Japanese "aesthetic" and primarily revolves around slowing down music, nightcore uses female characters from modern Japanese media and speeds up music. As a result, vaporwave achieves a nostalgic yet unsettling mood, while nightcore is more upbeat.
  • Stealth Parody: Even ignoring the debate on whether or not the entire genre is this, there are several parodies that spoof the genre (ie the ones that are little more than just slowing down a song with no other edits while plastering an image on it) that it can be hard to tell whether which ones are the parodies or just misguided attempts at the genre due to Poe's Law.
    • Vektroid's vaporwave albums were, in her words, "bred from the hypothesis that the [net music] scene has such a backward mentality of music that they will listen to anything, no matter how tragically unfashionable the music sounds, if it's packaged fashionably."
  • Stylistic Suck: What some people believed artists to be aiming for in the beginning. Several albums critical of the genre and of its adherents will also play hard into this trope.
  • Textless Album Cover: Most vaporwave cover art. If there is text, it's often just a design element and Gratuitous Japanese that doesn't translate to the album's name.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: People have said that vaporwave is pretty easy to get into, as all you need to get started are some slowed-down samples and perhaps a concept.
  • Unbuilt Trope:
    • Washed Out's song "Feel it All Around" is arguably the most famous song of the Chillwave genre (perhaps best known as the Real Song Theme Tune for Portlandia). Chillwave also featured slowed down and reverbed samples (with "Feel It All Around" using Gary Low's "I Want You"), but that genre was more indebted to the tenets of indie rock and lacked the chopping and screwing associated with Vaporwave.
    • James Ferraro also kind of falls victim to this too. His album Far Side Virtual was very influential in the Vaporwave scene and even provided many of the aesthetics for Vaporwave, office buildings, and a dreary dystopian feel, but his work simply lacks a lot of key elements of vaporwave. He came very close to being Vaporwave but ultimately is counted as a proto-Vaporwave.
  • Uncanny Valley: A couple of artists, INTERNET CLUB and Vektroid, have said they were invoking this effect on the music they were sampling, with the latter mentioning the trope by name. It's unknown to us if others were doing the same, but it's likely.
  • Ur-Example: On July 19th 2009, Daniel Lopatin uploaded "nobody here" to Youtube under the name sunsetcorp. It is considered by and large the first vaporwave song. Before this point, there were several other examples that can border on Unbuilt Trope:
    • The 1988 album Digital-Dance by German Electronic Music duo Software, and in particular, the song "Island-Sunrise" This album is fairly well-known in the vaporwave community specifically for this reason.
    • The works of DJ Screw, who made a name for himself by creating mixtapes of various slowed-down and looped ("chopped") rap, disco, funk, and yes, occasionally '80s pop songs. His earliest works date back to 1993, and Screw's name was immortalized in the genre name of chopped and screwed, which was directly inspired by his work.
    • "Moonside Swing" by Hirokazu Tanaka, from the 1994 video game EarthBound. It takes the intro Ric Ocasek's (from The Cars) 1986 song "Keep on Laughin'" and employs sampling techniques similar to some tracks on Eccojams and this track from Sacred Tapestry's Shader album. EarthBound featured similar edits with songs from The Beatles and The Beach Boys as well, and that game's score has itself been sampled and manipulated by some vaporwave projects.
    • Boards of Canada released a handful of nightmarishly edited tacky songs under the name of Hell Interface, with the first officially released song being 1997's "Soylent Night".
    • Leyland Kirby, under the name The Caretaker, would loop sections of pre-World War 2 big band music with liberal amounts of echo, reverb and vinyl crackle added. Starting in 1999, this alias would gain considerable critical attention until the project's end in 2019. Kirby, under his power noise music alias V/Vm, also released over 200 songs of rave tracks given the same treatment as two albums: The Death of Rave (The Source) and The Death of Rave (Additional), both released in 2006. (Hell Interface's "Soylent Night" was also released through Kirby's now-closed label V/Vm Test Records.)