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Is vaporwave still a critique of capitalism?

naa

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I've heard people refer to vaporwave as a critique of capitalism from very early on. Vaporwave has a lot of themes that reflect nostalgia for a future that was promised to us by 20th century capitalism such as malls, corporate aesthetics, 80s lifestyle advertising, etc.

In vaporwave these elements have then been recontextualized by the knowledge that we are in a future that didn't deliver on the promises of the past. There is a large sense of nostalgia that permeates the genre of vaporwave, and oftentimes this nostalgia is directed at this retro idea of what the future would be. Nostalgia for a time that never was, because it's nostalgia for retrofuturism, for the concept of a future that is not where we are now, but where we were intended to be, and where we were told we would be. There's also the cyberpunk influences, and a lot of cyberpunk started as a critique of global capitalism.

Nowadays, I'm not sure where vaporwave's relationship to capitalism stands, because as a genre it's evolved a lot since its inception. Do you think vaporwave is still a critique of capitalism? Do you think vaporwave ever was a critique of capitalism? Do you think it varies? let's talk about it.
 
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spaceghost

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I do think it varies. I think that the early instances of this genre were intended to be experimental and push the boundaries of music production into a new direction but also were permeated with this concept of false hope for a future and reality that was not delivered to us. You can feel how the emotions in these early pieces express that, at least to some extent. Whether that was the intention of the producers who pioneered the genre or not, i feel like that concept is what resonates with a lot of people even if not on a conscious level. People have very different opinions on this genre and i try not to be biased to my own, but i do feel like some , not all of vaporwave captures this concept purposefully. on a side note, i look at vaporwave more as an umbrella term with many genres underneath it, such as classic vapor and mallsoft, which helps me digest this genre in a sensible manner. i do believe that the critique of capitalism is embedded deep into vaporwave's roots and would probably not be the same without this notion.
 
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Vaporweeb

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Considering OPN never intended Eccojams Vol. 1 to be critical of capitalism, I'd hesitate to generalize the entire genre and I'd say as a whole, it never was. However, that is not to say that certain parts of the genre aren't, such as Far Side Virtual and similar works that specifically have that capitalistic theme in mind.

My point being is that it was always up to the individual artist whether or not to pursue that idea, and that continues today. Vaporwave in general isn't any more or less critical of capitalism now than in the beginning, but the themes exist nonetheless in projects wherever you can find them.
 
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mast

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From my perspective it's a very hairy subject. I agree with Spaceghost that the early days of the genre were experimental and more focused on cultivating a new sound. I think a critique of capitalism was implicit in some of the earliest Vaporwave projects, but it became over emphasized by people who strongly agree with those sentiments be they fans or later producers of Vaporwave.

I was pretty active with Witch House during its heyday, and aware of Vaporwave pretty early on(I think the genres had some influence on each other but that's not really relevant). Even then I would hear about capitalism and Vaporwave in the same breath. I think it's also worth pointing out that a lot of genres have "waves" or different generations picking up the sound and taking the genre in different directions sonically and thematically. To me it seems Vaporwave has forked and branched out so many times already that at this point that the genre is preoccupied with more themes than capitalism.
 
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naa

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From my perspective it's a very hairy subject. I agree with Spaceghost that the early days of the genre were experimental and more focused on cultivating a new sound. I think a critique of capitalism was implicit in some of the earliest Vaporwave projects, but it became over emphasized by people who strongly agree with those sentiments be they fans or later producers of Vaporwave.

I was pretty active with Witch House during its heyday, and aware of Vaporwave pretty early on(I think the genres had some influence on each other but that's not really relevant). Even then I would hear about capitalism and Vaporwave in the same breath. I think it's also worth pointing out that a lot of genres have "waves" or different generations picking up the sound and taking the genre in different directions sonically and thematically. To me it seems Vaporwave has forked and branched out so many times already that at this point that the genre is preoccupied with more themes than capitalism.
This makes a lot of sense, thank you for sharing. I also agree with this a lot personally, thinking about it more it feels like from the start of the genre it was pretty varied whether capitalism was a theme or not, even if people spoke about it a lot and related themes in vaporwave to it a lot. People use retrofuturist imagery, and imagery related to capitalism often, but that doesn't mean a direct critique of capitalism or even capitalism as a theme. Sometimes people produce music with imagery and sounds like this with no relation to capitalism, just relation to nostalgia, or a certain feeling they're trying to capture, or just enjoyment of the imagery and sounds.

I think the genre has becomes its own thing, independent of any innate critiques of things like capitalism. It feels like there's still some people producing music with that theme, but it feels like most people are preoccupied more with other themes, or with just making cool sounds.

if you're ever interested in talking about the intersection of Witch House and Vaporwave I'd be interested in hearing about it, I was really into Witch House during its heydey too but I wasn't active enough in the community to be aware of a connection between the two. I'd be interested in learning more about it if you ever wanna share.
 
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eco

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vaporwave wasn't ever intended to be a honest critique of capitalism, i don't think

it was just a style of music popularized by people who were very open about their politics and critiqued capitalism openly, and its core audience at inception happened to be teens in an internet climate that was and still is very self-aware and anti-capitalist

the whole genre was affected by this, being largely more audience-driven than other genres of music on account of it being based on the internet, more and more themes of 'ironic capitalism' or imagery involving the ideal, unattainable capitalist landscape were incorporated into it until you get what you see today

music that wasn't a critique of capitalism was made a critique of capitalism because of audience involvement
 
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FlangeGod

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I think it both was and wasnt, but at this point, its definitely not. Im pretty sure a good deal of vaporwave producers are "leftists" or support left wing economic thought, but then its quite ironic how many vaporwave artists will make music by flipping other peoples work by obtaining samples for free, then create an EP and put it on vinyl, cassette, CD's and such for high prices. Doesnt exactly seem like a critique of capitalism to me, seems more like their actions seem to be an embrace of it. This is to not say im against what many of these people do, I simply find it ironic.
 
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Dr3amer.013

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I think it both was and wasnt, but at this point, its definitely not. Im pretty sure a good deal of vaporwave producers are "leftists" or support left wing economic thought, but then its quite ironic how many vaporwave artists will make music by flipping other peoples work by obtaining samples for free, then create an EP and put it on vinyl, cassette, CD's and such for high prices. Doesnt exactly seem like a critique of capitalism to me, seems more like their actions seem to be an embrace of it. This is to not say im against what many of these people do, I simply find it ironic.
Shit, I was thinking something like that that too dude. It's funny when I hear people calling it a critique of capitalism when most have fully embraced it since the day somebody was smart enough to sell their music (a whole lot of it made using uncleared samples) on CD's and Cassettes, even vinyl, for a stupid high price.
 
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FlangeGod

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Shit, I was thinking something like that that too dude. It's funny when I hear people calling it a critique of capitalism when most have fully embraced it since the day somebody was smart enough to sell their music (a whole lot of it made using uncleared samples) on CD's and Cassettes, even vinyl, for a stupid high price.
Exactly, and its funny cause those who are typically most vocal about vaporwaves politics that are making the most profit.
 
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