Vaporwave n. (Neologism, Jargon) A genre of music inspired by New Age music, indie music, and EDM, characterized by its use of “retro aesthetics”, 80s jazz, elevator music, videogames, and digital manipulation.

Vaporwave inspired art

Vaporwave inspired art

Etymology: Compound of “Vapor” and “Wave”. Vapor (Latin vapor, “steam, heat”) + Wave (Old English wafian, “to wave, fluctuate, waver in mind, wonder”). The combination of the two words are in reference to “vaporware”. Vaporware refers to products, especially technology in the late 80s, that are announced but never released, usually as part of a strategy to keep consumers from buying from competitors. The term became popularized in the early 2010s through the internet forums of Tumblr and Reddit. The term first was in reference to music, but has expanded to include vaporwave art and aesthetics.

Sociolectal information: Vaporwave is listened to primarily by young people, and is almost exclusively distributed via the internet. Vaporwave originally had politically subversive and anti-capitalist messages and is meant to “undermine global capitalism”. This agenda is probably lost on many casual listeners of vaporwave.

Vaporwave is heavily associated with the art of its album covers, which draw heavily from “seapunk” aesthetics. The art inspired by the vaporwave and seapunk movements may be more widely known than the music itself, and may be referred to as “vaporwave aesthetics” or just “aesthetics”. Vaporwave as art or an “aesthetic” is characterized by a fascination for 80s and 90s nostalgia, combining technology, art, Japanese culture, and pop-culture.  Vaporwave music and art are entirely created with the use of technology.  Vaporwave music follows the overarching trend in new genres of music which rely heavily on technology and electronically produced sounds. Many people see vaporwave as a joke, as it caters to a very niche community of people. The ridiculous and heavily edited qualities of its art and music lends itself to use the term in humorous contexts and in making parodies of vaporwave content.

Survival Predictions: The success of the term is entirely contingent on the success of vaporwave music and the art it inspires. Even so, the art it is associated with is known better by its association with “aesthetics” than with the term “vaporwave”. It’s impact on music and art is already father reaching than the term itself. For example, many young people seem to be familiar with the style of art and music, and yet not with the word “vaporwave”. The term “seapunk” went through a similar process of popularity to obscurity; Although we still see the internet-based art and music it inspired, many do not know the term “seapunk”. Additionally, even though the vaporwave trend is probably at its height of popularity, the term is still not known by the general public. Even in groups of music fanatics this term may be unfamiliar. This is indicative of the term’s probable demise as the genre diminishes and changes.

Lexopinions: I like this word, and I think the genre (and the art it creates) is amusing and lends itself to the humor of its inherent ridiculousness. The term itself is witty, although its meaning is lost on those who don’t know the word “vaporware”, and is easy to say. Unfortunately the word is essentially useless unless one is talking to a fan or about obscure internet-centric music fads.

Examples of vaporwave inspired art:
vaporwave 2vaporwave 1
Example of vaporwave music:

Vaporwave interview:

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