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what is synthwave

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What is synthwave ?

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Music is not something that can accurately be depicted easily. Even after years of thoroughly studying this art, the power of music is not something that the human mind has been able to comprehend properly. Even though we have spent thousands of years creating unique music that is linked to hundreds of unique civilizations, we still haven’t been able to figure out what music truly is. A new type of music is currently becoming very popular: synthwave. Here is everything you need to know about this new genre.

Why synthwave is called synthwave ?

Synthwave is derived from two words: ‘synth’ – which is short for ‘synthesizer’: an instrument that is typically operated by a keyboard and is used to create sound signals of different frequencies; and ‘wave’ – the movement of sound from one medium to another, or in the same medium. Even though synthwave music literally translates to synthesizer wave music, it is not so. In fact, synthwave music is something very different.

Origins of synthwave

The electronic music known as synthwave has its origins from film soundtracks, electro music, video game music and even French house. The history of synthwave starts from as early as the mid-2000s when French house producers were inspired by GTA: Vice City (a video game). It appears as if the success of vaporwave and synthwave are intertwined. It was only because of certain events that took place in a certain order that synthwave came into being. 

If GTA: Vice City had never used such a laid-back and colorful theme with retro music that had a parodic throwback to the 80s, we would never have seen synthwave in the form it is today. It was not until Netflix’s popular series ‘Stranger Things’ that the genre gained any sort of attention. 

The synthwave soundtracks of Tron: Legacy and Drive films became immensely popular among many artists: essentially drawing a complete culture into the music genre. 

What does synthwave depict ?

Synthwave is not about synthesized music. It depicts a romanticized vision of the late 80s, much like how similar music genres have done so: vaporwave or seapunk. It is a sad, but not a forlorn homage to the start of this century, and also to mark a proper end to the previous century and era. 

Popular synthwave artists and music

Because of the inherent nature of the music throwing back to the 80s or early 90s, the genre quickly gained a lot of attention. The first wave of synthwave artists was fully dedicated to developing music mainly from video games. The second wave or second generation of synthwave artists and listeners have developed far beyond video games, and are more into any sort of nostalgia-boosting music that gives off the vibe of a bright beach in the early 90s.

Some of the most popular synthwave artists include :

  • Wayfloe – one of the newer and relatively popular synthwave artists whose Scarlet Speedster is a big hit.
  • Mega Drive – a synthwave artist that has released dark music, something that is more likely to be used for cyberpunk settings with a grim future. 
  • FM-84 – you cannot listen to synthwave without hearing the name of ‘FM-84’ at least once. Their ‘Running in the Night’ and ‘Bend and Break’ is one of the most popular audio tracks in all of EDM. 
  • Scandroid – a little too ambitious, but perfectly powerful enough for all their fans: Scandroid’s covers of various popular pop culture hits from the ‘80s has become a sensation.
  • GUNSHIP – some people often confuse GUNSHIP’s music with EDM, which is technically true as synthwave is a type of EDM. GUNSHIP’s Art3mis & Parzival is a critically acclaimed song that has been well-received even by fans of other genres. 

There are so many different types of synthwave music such as Synth-pop (that focuses on synthesizing pop music), Retro Electro, retrowave music, Dreamwave, popwave, Dark Synth, Cybersynth and so much more. 

How did Synthwave become popular ?

Synthwave is nothing more than a homage that is duly paid to the culture, music and video games of the 80s and 90s.

There should have been nothing more than that. However, if Synthwave was strictly restricted to only paying homage, it would not have become so popular as it is now. There is something about Synthwave and its viewers that has made it one of the most popular destinations for everyone to try.

Here are a few theories that we have compiled for you to read as to how and why Synthwave became so popular.

It is ever-so-changing

The most unique thing about Synthwave is the fact that it is ever-so-changing. The first wave of synthwave artists was all about paying homage to the video games that were themed on the end of the 20th century.

Most of the music was based on GTA : Vice City and similar games, all of which were extremely popular titles that many of the viewers and artists had played growing up.  The second wave of synthwave artists, the wave that came in 2018 after synthwave was deemed dead in 2017, made music that was based on popular TV shows and other sensations.

GTA Vice City Synthwave

It is no longer an underground genre

When it was first released, synthwave along with various other genres like vaporwave seemed like an underground genre that only people who were very acknowledged with the internet would listen to.

However, with the release of the Taylor Swift’s 2019 album, as well as The Weeknd’s “Blinding Light”, the genre quickly took to light and has now become a low-key generational phenomenon. Unlike its siblings, it is not a meme but a part of the ironic culture that the newer generation will be raised in. 

Final Thoughts

There is no easy way to explain the entire sensation of synthwave, however, we are sure that this has become this undying genre of music that will either infest everyone’s minds one day and become the most prominent part of music, or stay in one corner of the industry: never to die. Either way, as long as culture exists, synthwave will always find a way to make a comeback and become a part of the music culture and industry. 

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