Synthwave

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Synthwave (also called outrun, retrowave, or futuresynth[4]) is a genre of electronic music[1] influenced by 1980s film soundtracks and video games.[2][3]

The genre developed from various niche communities on the Internet during the mid 2000s, reaching wider popularity in the early 2010s.[4] In its music and cover artwork, synthwave engages in retrofuturism, emulating 1980s science fiction, action, and horror media, and is sometimes compared to cyberpunk.[7] It expresses nostalgia for 1980s culture, attempting to capture the era's atmosphere and celebrate it.[8]

Characteristics and related terms[edit]

A synthwave music video

Synthwave draws predominately from 1980s films, video games, and cartoons,[9] as well as composers such as John Carpenter, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, and Tangerine Dream.[10][11][12][13][excessive citations] Other reference points include electronic dance music genres including house, synth, and nu-disco.[14] It is primarily an instrumental genre, although there are occasional exceptions to the rule.[15] Common tempos are between 80 and 118 BPM, while more upbeat tracks may be between 128 and 140 BPM.[16]

"Outrun" is a synonym of synthwave that was later used to refer more generally to retro 1980s aesthetics such as VHS tracking artifacts, magenta neon, and gridlines.[15] The term comes from the 1986 driving arcade game Out Run, which was known for its soundtrack that could be selected in-game.[17] According to musician Perturbator (James Kent), outrun is also its own subgenre, mainly instrumental, and often contains 1980s clichéd elements in the sound such as electronic drums, gated reverb, and analog synthesizer bass lines and leads - all to resemble tracks from that time period.[18]

Other subgenres include dreamwave, darksynth, and scifiwave.[5] Journalist Julia Neuman cited "outrun", "futuresynth", and "retrowave" as alternative terms for synthwave[4] while author Nicholas Diak wrote that "retrowave" was an umbrella term that encompasses 1980s revivalism genres such as synthwave and vaporwave.[15]

History[edit]

Synthwave originates from the mid 2000s.[19] Diak traced the genre to a broader trend involving young artists whose works drew from their childhoods in the 1980s. He credited the success of the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City with shifting "attitudes toward the '80s ... from parody and ambivalence to that of homage and reverence", leading directly to genres such as synthwave and vaporwave.[15] Among the first synthwave artists were the French acts David Grellier (College), Kavinsky, and Justice. These early artists began creating music inspired by famous 1980s score composers; music which was, at the time, largely associated with French house.[4]

In the early 2010s, the synthwave soundtracks of films such as Drive and Tron: Legacy attracted new fans and artists to the genre.[5][20][21] Nerdglow's Christopher Higgins cited Electric Youth and Kavinsky as the two most popular artists in synthwave in 2014.[22] Since 2013, synthwave has reached a broader audience from outside artists' fan bases and through popular media, thanks to games like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon[23] and Hotline Miami. Also, the third season of the Netflix series, Stranger Things, featured synthwave pieces that accomodated the shows 1980s setting.[24][25]

Around 2015,[26] fashwave (a portmanteau of "fascist" and "synthwave")[6] originated on YouTube[26] as a largely instrumental fusion genre of synthwave and vaporwave, with political track titles and occasional soundbites, such as excerpts of speeches given by Adolf Hitler,[27] The phenomenon was described as self-identified fascists and alt-right members appropriating vaporwave music and aesthetics.[27][28]

In 2019, the origins and growth of synthwave were explored in the documentary film The Rise of the Synths, itself narrated by John Carpenter and featuring numerous synthwave artists including Gunship, The Midnight, Perturbator and Electric Youth.[29][circular reference] "Blinding Lights", a synthwave song by Canadian singer The Weeknd, reached number 1 in twenty-nine countries in 2020, including in the US, UK, and Australia.[30]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Robert (23 September 2016). "On The Synthwave Genre and Video Games". Surreal Resolution. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Hunt, Jon (9 April 2014). "We Will Rock You: Welcome To The Future. This is Synthwave". l'etoile. Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Neuman, Julia (June 23, 2015). "A Retrowave Primer: 9 Artists Bringing Back the '80s". MTV Iggy. Archived from the original on June 23, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Neuman, Julia (July 30, 2015). "The Nostalgic Allure of 'Synthwave'". New York Observer. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e Young, Bryan (25 March 2015). "Synthwave: If Tron and Megaman had a music baby". Glitchslap.com. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  6. ^ a b Hann, Michael (December 14, 2016). "'Fashwave': synth music co-opted by the far right". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "Perturbator - DANGEROUS DAYS". Scene Point Blank. 2014-12-01. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
  8. ^ Calvert, John (13 October 2011). "Xeno and Oaklander - Sets & Lights". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  9. ^ Christopher Higgins (2014-07-29). "The 7 Most Essential Synthwave Artists". Nerdglow.com. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  10. ^ Hunt, Jon (9 April 2014). "We Will Rock You: Welcome To The Future. This is Synthwave". l'etoile. Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  11. ^ Lambert, Molly (2016-08-04). "Stranger Things and how Tangerine Dream soundtracked the 80s". MTV.com. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  12. ^ "The Nostalgic Allure of 'Synthwave'". Observer. 2015-07-30. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  13. ^ "Synthwave: Everything About This Genre Coming from the 2080s".
  14. ^ Skullet, Iron (2018-03-01). "What is Synthwave? 2018 Edition • Iron Skullet". Iron Skullet. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  15. ^ a b c d Wetmore, Jr. 2018, p. 31.
  16. ^ "Synthwave: 5 Production Essentials | ModeAudio Magazine". ModeAudio. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  17. ^ Lambert, Molly (2016-08-04). "Stranger Things and how Tangerine Dream soundtracked the 80s". MTV.com. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  18. ^ McCasker, Toby (2014-06-22). "Riding the Cyber Doom Synthwave With Perturbator | NOISEY". Noisey.vice.com. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  19. ^ Neuman, Julia (July 30, 2015). "The Nostalgic Allure of 'Synthwave'". New York Observer. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  20. ^ Eric James Lyman (2015-01-11). "Eric James Lyman - Synthwave". Ericlyman.net. Archived from the original on 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  21. ^ "Drive at Five: Revisiting the Neon-Noir Masterpiece". Vehlinggo.com. Retrieved 2016-10-17.
  22. ^ Christopher Higgins (2014-07-29). "The 7 Most Essential Synthwave Artists". Nerdglow.com. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  23. ^ Hicks, Greg (2019-09-23). "10 Best Synthwave Video Games You Need To Play". WhatCulture. Retrieved 2020-01-17.
  24. ^ "Stranger Things' score is a gateway into synthwave". TV Club.
  25. ^ Cram, Preston (2019-11-25). "How Synthwave Grew from a Niche '80s Throwback to a Current Phenomenon". Popmatters. Retrieved 2019-12-05.
  26. ^ a b Coleman, Jonny (December 19, 2016). ""Fashwave" Is Fascist Synthesizer Music and Yes, It's an Actual Thing". LA Weekly.
  27. ^ a b Bullock, Penn; Kerry, Eli (January 30, 2017). "Trumpwave and Fashwave Are Just the Latest Disturbing Examples of the Far-Right Appropriating Electronic Music". Vice. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  28. ^ Farrell, Paul (2018-05-18). "Fashwave: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Retrieved 2020-03-05.
  29. ^ "The Rise of the Synths", Wikipedia, 2020-05-08, retrieved 2020-05-21
  30. ^ Rossignol, Derrick (November 29, 2019). "The Weeknd Goes Full Synthwave On The Yearning New Single 'Blinding Lights'". Uproxx. Retrieved February 18, 2019.

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External links[edit]