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Vaporwave is a microgenre of electronic music and a subgenre of Hauntology, a visual art style, and an Internet meme that emerged in the early 2010s, and became well-known in 2015. It is defined partly by its slowed-down, chopped and screwed samples of smooth jazz, 1970s elevator music, R&B, and lounge music from the 1980s and 1990s. The surrounding subculture is sometimes associated with an ambiguous or satirical take on consumer capitalism and pop culture, and tends to be characterized by a nostalgic or surrealist engagement with the popular entertainment, technology and advertising of previous decades. Visually, it incorporates early Internet imagery, late 1990s web design, glitch art, anime, stylized Greek sculptures, 3D-rendered objects, and cyberpunk tropes in its cover artwork and music videos.
|Cultural origins||Early 2010s, Internet|
Vaporwave originated as an ironic variant of chillwave, evolving from hypnagogic pop as well as similar retro-revivalist and post-Internet motifs that had become fashionable in underground digital music and art scenes of the era, such as Tumblr's seapunk. The style was pioneered by producers such as James Ferraro, Daniel Lopatin and Ramona Xavier, who each used various pseudonyms. After Xavier's album Floral Shoppe (2011) established a blueprint for the genre, the movement built an audience on sites Last.fm, Reddit and 4chan while a flood of new acts, also operating under online pseudonyms, turned to Bandcamp for distribution.
Following the wider exposure of vaporwave in 2012, a wealth of subgenres and offshoots emerged, such as future funk, mallsoft and hardvapour, although most have waned in popularity. The genre also intersected with fashion trends such as streetwear and various political movements. Since the mid-2010s, vaporwave has been frequently described as a "dead" genre. The general public came to view vaporwave as a facetious Internet meme, a notion that frustrated some producers who wished to be recognized as serious artists. Many of the most influential artists and record labels associated with vaporwave have since drifted into other musical styles. Later in the 2010s, the genre spurred a revival of interest in Japanese ambient music and city pop.