(Above Image: ZF Simpsonswave interpretation edit)
A few months ago, my friends were chatting on Whatsapp about normal everyday mid twenties things and the like. Then one of my friends, who for the purpose of this article shall be called ‘Mr Havana Goodtime’, posted a wavey looking meme picture of Bart Simpson (Left) and I responded by posting one of my favourite Simpson pictures (Right). I’m not usually one for memes, I find them funny but never really comment on them or share them. But this particular instance lead me down a rabbit hole of internet discovery and musical exploration.
Some days after, ‘Mr Havana Goodtime’ sent me a video (below) stating I should check this “tripped out, futuristic, totally bizarre, montage of retro music and cuts out of old Simpsons episodes”. Obviously a sentence like that piqued my interest. What I found was very true to what was said, the videos were a mixture of edited Simpsons episodes with a trippy or wavey visual aesthetics. I was able to find out that the style of music is vaporwave, a musical genre that is stylised by its nostalgic characteristics and the presence of retro sounds in form of synths and electronic instruments.
Instantly, I felt that this is music that I could vibe and relax to; songs that I can listen to at home, whilst at work or travelling. Its almost hypnotic rhythms are addictive and the use of sampling, really brings each track into their own unique environment, each one is a slightly different musical journey. Aside from the music, the videos were definitely something to behold.
” The visuals are characterized by short, decontextualized clips from the iconic cartoon series featuring classic vaporwave motifs (i.e. checkerboard patterns, Greco-Roman statues) and then spliced together to create tripped-out narrative videos. Its fascinating cross-section of nostalgia aesthetics and spacey mall music makes it a prime, post-modern “weird Internet” hit. ”
This is certainly true, but upon observation and if you look close enough, you can see there is an incredible amount of effort put into these videos. Apart from the VHS distortion, dreamy filters and complex chroma keying, some of these videos hold a certain narrative to them. For example, in the aptly named C R I S I S (below), the scenes that are cut together are ones that particularly focus on the character Homer. The video catalogues some of the emotional difficulties he has had in his adult life (e.g. his problems as a parent, finding then losing his mother again, etc) and offers a sombre view on his experiences overall; he is not living but only existing.
Visual observations aside however, the Simpsonwave phenomenon is more than just a internet meme. Continuing my research I found that there were a whole host of videos describing the art form, also finding that in writing in this article that I was “late to the party” figuratively speaking. Many sites had already written about genre before me, but I still wanted to put my spin on the genre itself.
The historical origins of the audio visual genre are very simple, chronicled by the Knowyourmeme.com – Read the full History here if you want. Apart from the critical internet acclaim, the actual show itself has given tribute to the art form. In early 2016, the show invited guest animator Steve Cutts to create a couch gag, which as you can see below gives a nod to the VHS style of Simpsonswave. By combining it with a Miami Vice/Night Rider/Vice City backdrop, I personally think this is one the best couch gags they have done (on par at least with Rick & Morty). The idea has even expanded into futurewave and the Spongebobwave, with various results.
Finally I want to speak about the future of the internet craze. For me, I can clearly say I have become a fan of this artistic enterprise, that metaphorically speaking exists in all timezones; past, present and future. I would describe it as the perfect lounge music for the millennials and is best used at afterparties, when everybody needs to wind the fuck down and have something interesting to look at, to “space out” as it were.
However that said, I can certainly see that there have been problems within the scene over the past 12 months. In many of the videos there are comments from more die hard fans stating they are particularly upset that the Simpsonswave creation has become too popular and is now treated as something to be laughed at, rather than appreciated as a avant grade art form. As a result of this there has been a noticeable shortage newer content on youtube, some creators going on to create the previously mentioned “futurewave” or “spongebobwave”, which has been met with mixed reviews. Some (again die hard) Simpsonswave fans say that these creations plagiarise the Simpsonswave style and are shabby productions at best.
But the spirit of the Simpson fandome, meme creation and nostalgic love for the show lives on in reddit groups, where you can find a multitude of Simpsonswave videos. In conclusion despite what you may think about the genre; I’d suggest sticking some headphones on, sit back, watch this and don’t have a cow man.