Where does vaporwave come from?
The term vaporwave was apparently coined in 2011 by music producer Will Burnett, who used it to describe a style emerging among artists like Vektroid, whose July 2011 album New Dreams Ltd. was an early influence on the sub-genre.
The vapor in vaporwave suggests the music’s foggy, ethereal, and ever-shifting sound and may also allude to vaporware, which describes software that is promised but never delivered. The wave, meanwhile, is modelled on electronic genres like chillwave and new wave before it.
Vektroid’s December 2011 album, Floral Shoppe, was considered by some to be the first vaporwave. The term, and the subgenre, rose to greater prominence in 2012, used to tag other albums and songs that sounded like “Floral Shoppe.”
Some interpret vaporwave as a countercultural critique of global capitalism, consumerism, and escapism. It is characterized by the use of samples, particularly of mass-produced music like Muzak, distorted by chopping-and-screwing or by endless looping of a small piece, creating a surreal effect.
There’s also a distinct visual to the vaporwave style, consisting of a distorted, retro-futurism. Checkerboard patterns, pastel color palettes, and retro video game images are common. This is often called the vaporwave aesthetic.
By November 2012, though, vaporwave had become popular enough that some underground artists and fans declared it dead. Vaporwave artists are still active, as is the genre’s musical influence.
Examples of vaporwave
Who uses vaporwave?
Vaporwave can refer to the subgenre itself or describe something having a vaporwave sound or style.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of vaporwave like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of vaporwave that will help our users expand their word mastery.