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A deep purple, 80s utopia, neon beaches, cool synth grooves—the best vaporwave songs make listeners transport to another dimension. The majority of comments on YouTube discuss an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and memories associated with the music, a sensation further compounded by visual pairing. The music and visuals of video games and anime are an exquisite pairing, which place the viewer in retro time and space. This phenomena makes a lot of people wonder, what is vaporwave? Its aesthetic and musical elements make it a notable movement, discrediting critiques that its just a fad. Vaporwave is a part of a larger movement of irony and nostalgia; in music it's lo-fi hop hop and lo-fi house; for fashion it's Balenciaga and Off-White; for videos it's Stranger Things and Adult Swim's Too Many Cooks. Despite vaporwave's strong tones of disregard for originality, washed out notes, and borderline repugnant visual aesthetic, the vaporwave scene will continue to influence musical and visual culture for years to come. Make sure to check out the best vaporwave songs of all time to hear their influence before it permeates through to mass media consumption.
"Summer Night" by ESPIRIT
Like many of the best vaporwave songs, it is best listened to for a long duration of time. Fans of vaporwave create videos that play the song on repeat for over an hour as the soundtrack to a mesmerizing gif. ESPIRIT created this tune as music to bump in the car while driving on summer nights along with your other favorite electronic music tunes. This song is also a great soundtrack for any activity such as driving, cleaning, or studying.
"A3" by Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol. 1
Chuck Person's Eccojams is a musical project for electronic musician Daniel Lopatin. The limited edition cassette released in 2010 is often credited with pioneering the genre of vaporwave. The album is comprised of samples from pop artists from the 80s such as Toto and Fleetwood Mac, and video games such as Ecco the Dolphin, which helped to influence the name and cover art. For avid fans looking to get to know the history of the movement, this is a go-to.
"Purity Boys" by Blank Banshee
Patrick Driscoll created the Blank Banshee alias and released 0, featuring the track "Purity Boys," to the public for free in 2012. The album's musical composition included 80s, 90s, computer, and video game sourced samples, layered over original beats. Blank Banshee is largely accredited by Esquire, The Fader, and Bandcamp Daily with bringing vaporwave to the masses and building the foundation of the genre.
"Cherry Pepsi" by Saint Pepsi
Ryan DeRobertis, known by his stage name Skylar Spence and formerly known as Saint Pepsi, created the alias to produce his own interpretation of the vaporwave movement. Saint Pepsi is nestled between varying niches of future funk, vaporwave, and future disco. He is quoted as saying, "I’m drawn to tuneful melodies; complex chord structures; outlandish synths and drums; and I like to take pop acapellas and see how I can warp the songs while keeping the melodies almost entirely intact...I want to make pop music for freaks, basically." His last remark is on point, there are a lot of weirdos that enjoy vaporwave.
"Carousel" by Skylar Spence
Skylar Spence is the final form of Saint Pepsi, likely changing his name to separate himself from a direct association with vaporwave—to achieve mainstream success. This song is interesting because it utilizes the building blocks of vaporwave with its use of washed out bass lines, vocals, and synths, but makes its digestible enough for a general public to play and enjoy on the radio.
"Beach Walk" by Whitewoods
Fans of Whitewood's "Beach Walk" took the creative liberties to help other fans enjoy the song with both an hour long and two hour psychedelic version. Drum beats, guitar riffs, and barely comprehensible vocals are washed out and distorted—but are also what make the song so great. "Beach Walks" bass line and synths can adapt to any social scenario, if you are looking for a trippy time—throw on the hour long version with one of the trippiest movies of all time on mute in the background.
"新しい日の誕生/Birth of a New Day" by ２８１４
2 8 1 4 is a collaboration between vaporwave producers Hong Kong Express and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者. While this album can be broken up into songs, its best when listened to from start to finish. The uninterrupted auditory experience gives the listener a stronger projection of the creator's intent—a portal to a cyberpunk, dystopian, psychedelic, and relaxing ambient soundscape. For a visual representation that inspired 2 1 8 4 creation, check out some 80s Sci-Fi cult classics.
"リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュ" by MACINTOSH PLUS
MACINTOSH PLUS serves as the most iconic vaporwave track on this list, so revered that its original vinyl release resells for over $600 on discogs, a secondary market for records. Some severally question the song's originality, the artist basically took Dianna Ross' "It's Your Move" and slowed it down. Its disregard for originality, visual aesthetic, prolific use of neon, and sampling of an 80s pop hit is every marker of definitive vaporwave characteristics. The origins of the vaporwave aesthetic even predate the 80s, surrealist Giorgio de Chirico featured sublime and minimalist urban landscapes with marble busts, and oddities. Ramona Andra Xavier's, MACINTOSH PLUS's real name, genius is his ability to combine various influences, such as surrealist art and 80s pop, to create a unique experience—leading him to the creation of one of the best vaporwave songs of all time.
"Private Caller" by Saint Pepsi
Jet Skis, neon colors, race cars, and Japanese pop culture are the perfect paring to melodic vocals, a cheerful baseline, and enchanting synths. Saint Pepsi's second feature on this list showcase his fantastic skills.
"Resonance" by HOME
HOME arrived relatively late to the vaporwave scene, releasing Resonance in 2014. Building on top of the legends that came before him, HOME delivered a classic that is enjoyed by many, even beyond the traditional vaporwave scene. If you are a music theory nerd, check out this video deconstructing the nostalgia of HOME's "Resonance."