'She's Lost Control' was about a girl with epilepsy – an affliction Ian Curtis shared, of course – who used to come into the Job Centre where Curtis worked. “One day she just didn't come in anymore,” said Bernard Sumner. “[Ian] assumed that she'd found a job, but found out later that she'd had a fit and died.”
joe price on march 31, 2014
Yung Lean is a name you’ve probably heard about in passing, possibly as a joke. You might have chosen to simply ignore. It’s easy to brush off his surreal lyricism, lazy flow, and broken English as a celebration of Lil B’s utterly bizarre “based world” and not much else. But Lean’s appeal is deeper than that. Last week I had the chance to catch Yung Lean performing one of his first UK shows at Birthdays in London, and it was perhaps one the strangest live experiences of my life.
The show was sold out, and if you’ve been keeping up with his YouTube views and Twitter followers (which include Diplo and Ellie Goulding), this isn’t a surprise. I arrived at the venue two hours before the show started, so I managed to see everyone arrive, one by one. Within minutes of setting foot inside Birthdays, I noticed a t-shirt with Japanese text on it. It was Yung Lean casually walking around the venue. As more and more fans came in, I noticed a trend. The number of people in the room wearing bucket hats was steadily increasing, and it was somewhat alarming. After a brief episode of bucket hat-induced panic, I made my way outside to queue for the actual gig.
In the line for the rap game Michael Cera, I earwigged a few conversations whilst I analyzed my increasingly weird surroundings, and what I heard was equally as strange. A few guys walked past, clearly idolizing Yung Lean with their appearance, talking about how emotional seeing him live is going to make them. These bucket hat-donning Tumblr kids were infatuated with both his image and his sound. The youth’s attachment to yet another trend isn’t anything new, but Yung Lean’s fanbase reaches a new level of post-irony.
It raises the question: how many people were actually there because they genuinely enjoy Yung Lean’s music? It’s hard to tell, as the lines between genuine enjoyment and frivolous appreciation continue to blur.
It raises the question: how many people were actually there because they genuinely enjoy Yung Lean’s music? It’s hard to tell, as the lines between genuine enjoyment and frivolous appreciation continue to blur. Lean and his music are stuck dead in the center of this, with it becoming increasingly hard to distinguish whether people are sticking with him due to finding comedic value in it, like some internet inside joke that only the in-the-know cool kids can fully “get,” or because they simply adore his gloriously eccentric slur-rap.
I find myself in the latter camp, and I was very seriously looking forward to seeing him live. I didn’t really know what to expect, since I know he’s not “technically” a good rapper. Everyone else lining up outside the venue appeared to be equally as anxious, except for the surprisingly deadpan Sadboy followers sporting gold chains. I heard one guy behind me say, “I get the feeling he might be a little bit shit live,” while another said, “I reckon there’s going to be moshing.” There was a clear mix of attitudes toward his music, with some only going because they thought it’d be funny, and others going so they could post Sadboy selfies alongside copious floral patterns on Tumblr.
If these people were still treating it as a joke, then why are they going through the effort to buy the ridiculous hats and import Arizona ice tea? It’s transcended meme and become a subculture, even if that subculture seems empty or shallow. It goes against everything that’s traditionally acceptable in hip-hop, but it also parodies it to the extreme. It’s all connected through a bunch of contradictions that only serve to heighten the appeal. Yung Lean doesn’t take it seriously, but at the same time he’s absolutely committed to it.
I’m also guilty of jumping on board with the humor myself. I’ll admit: I attempted to bring a can of green tea to the gig to have Yung Lean sign it, but it was confiscated by security before I was allowed in. That was probably the saddest thing that happened at Birthdays, because outside of that, the night possessed an insanely positive, and dare I say it, “based” atmosphere.
As we were let into the venue, we were treated to a DJ set that consisted mostly of trap bangers. As Tory Lanez was stressing about how he needs a new kitchen, it dawned on me: Yung Lean is living out his own rap fantasy. He’s only 17 years old and he’s already touring the world with his friends, to numerous sold-out crowds. It’s not on the same level as Lorde, but it’s equally as impressive when you consider how niche his outsider hip-hop is.
With a short DJ set by the Sadboys preceding his onstage appearance, the sense of irony in the room started to dim. The set was a phenomenal showcase of their signature production style, and eventually the crowd was worked up into a chant of “S-A-D-B-O-Y-S.” It was surreal to see this kind of Tumblr-ism come to life, and the peculiar atmosphere was further fueled by Yung Lean’s eventual appearance. Arriving in a full-body poncho of some kind, it was obvious he was going to put on one hell of a show. But would it be a hell of a show because he’s an odd, funny spectacle, or because he could actually perform?
It wasn’t long until there was crowd-surfing to songs about iced tea, and moshing to lines as obtuse as, ‘Eat her out wipe my face with a serviette.’
To the surprise of many, he delivered. He wasn’t hitting every line perfectly, but his excitement was positively infectious, and the whole crowd felt it. It wasn’t long until there was crowd-surfing to songs about iced tea, and moshing to lines as obtuse as, “Eat her out wipe my face with a serviette.” It was just like any other hip-hop show, but it was prefaced with a half tongue-in-cheek vibe that added a fun element without dominating the event.
Surrounded by bucket hats obscuring my vision, I was amazed at how hyped up the crowd was. In between songs I began picking up on the peculiarities of the people around me. A few kids besides me kept referring to Lean as “the black A$AP Rocky,” a small group of white girls were casually dropping the N-word. Some of these molly-ridden Tumblr fiends seemed harmless and amusing enough, but others were twisting the fantasy into something ignorant.
Stuck between those who believe they’re too cool to even move and those who simply can’t stop, I attempted to move closer to the stage during “Gatorade.” Unfortunately for me, I forgot I was wearing my glasses. They started to slide off my face, but through evasive maneuvers they ended up in my hands and not the floor. It was a close call. I almost forgot where I was for a moment. Then the build-up of “Kyoto” began.
The whole room was chanting along to the entire song, leaving behind their “sad and sassy” e-personas. Stopping for a brief moment, even Yung Lean himself realized the absurdity of it all: “You could be anywhere in the world, but you’re right here.” Serious or a joke, he’s awfully endearing from either angle. But after around 50 minutes of performing, he was gone as quickly as he arrived. The bucket hats slowly dissipated, and I made my way out of the venue.
If you’re having an internal conflict as to whether to like him or not, then his music probably isn’t for you.
In a deadpan devotion to his craft, there’s something clever about the young Swede’s music. It possesses an oddly charming quality to it that’s hard to describe without being in on the humorous side of it, but it’s not the type of music for those looking for an explanation. If you’re having an internal conflict as to whether to like him or not, then his music probably isn’t for you.
Seeing him live just confirmed what I already knew: he’s anything but a good rapper, but’s he’s still a damn fine entertainer.
Eccojams predate the vaporwave genre and in truth, it is more of a method than a subgenre. Nevertheless, given that it is the production style of choice for most vaporwave, the two have almost become synonymous.
Eccojams are sample-based tunes, in the vein of chopped and screwed music like DJ Screw. The name comes from Chuck Person’s (Daniel Lopatin alias, of Oneohtrix Point Never fame) Eccojams Vol. 1) Originally coined as “echojams”, the name was changed up to connect Ecco the Dolphin, reflected in the cover art for the cassette.. Samples run the gamut from smooth jazz to dance-pop music. Pure eccojams were “popular” before the coining of the vaporwave genre but have been subsumed into the larger vaporwave umbrella.
Segahaze is another informal subgenre of vaporwave at least partly rooted in Eccojams: Vol. 1 because of the invocation of the video game aesthetic. Similarly, segahaze invokes sound and imagery associated with early 90s video games (for example, games found on the Sega Genesis and Saturn). Like most vaporwave subgenres, this aesthetic has significant overlap but there have been a number of artists and releases that fall distinctly within this realm.
Distinct from post-internet vaporwave in that segahaze is not explicitly unsettling and not as screwed as eccojams. Segahaze bears a more ambient quality.
To quote from the Mallsoft facebook page: “Mallsoft is distinct from its cousin Vaporwave by using ethereal, vague music that is very easily looped as ‘background’ music. The genius of mallsoft is that it’s not meant to be paid attention to, it’s not distinct. It’s meant to be left on repeat while the ‘listener’ does other things. The repetition of the music eventually forces its way into the listener’s mind subconsciously, to be recalled at later date as a memory of something that may or may not have happened. Mallsoft is the ultimate commentary on our ADD, twitter-obsessed generation that can’t focus on one task at a time, much less an entire album.”
As distinct as mallsoft is argued by listeners, the concept of ambient commentary about consumer culture is not new and mallsoft fits easily within the spectrum of vaporwave.
Imagine a dark recess of the Internet, a corner made and once frequented and now left to decay: Geocities, Angelfire, or any number of poorly coded Chinese websites. You don’t remember it being this odd or alien but the memories it evokes are now left with a different dimension to you.
To some, I may have described vaporwave at its base but post-internet vaporwave is the uncanny side of the coin. It’s the negative of nostalgia, it at once can make you long for the past and also discomfort you. This is one of the original founding ideas of vaporwave before it broadened itself. This subgenre contains releases that offer aesthetic heavy sampling of sounds and music(ak) that are, in essence, a celebration of Internet culture. Post-internet as a term exists beyond vaporwave but also functions within the genre.
Second-wave vaporwave, starting around late summer 2012, saw vaporwave take a more dancey approach. This may have been due to the surge in popularity from フローラルの専門店 (Floral Shoppe), particularly the track “リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー” which in turn caused many new vaporwave producers to sample primarily 80s music. At this point, vaporwave began distancing from the post-internet tendencies of its beginning and as such, a simultaneous split and transformation for the genre occurred when a new crop of artists took center stage.
Backlash against this trend and vaporwave as a whole caused the derogatory term "broporwave" to be applied (in reference to a perceived similar bastardization of dubstep called “brostep”). This type of vaporwave-esque music is characterized by sampling of 70s or 80s dance/disco music, sometimes with a beat applied. The level of manipulation runs the gamut but the result is typically a dancey track. More often than not, the term “broporwave” is used to slander vaporwave that may not necessarily fall under the distinction (vaporwave made with little manipulation, etc.).
Although some admonish the term, many have embraced it and rather than submit to the criticism of certain vaporwave fans, they have continued to enjoy success within the umbrella of the genre and its trappings.
An informal, yet integral subgenre of vaporwave. Whereas much of vaporwave has been characterized as hazy or even noisy, muzakcore admonishes this approach and achieves a clean sound. It is noted for sounding sterile, inoffensive, corporate, and even basic. The name comes from the vague grouping of music it draws inspiration from, muzak, which is commonly described as music for commercial settings. Whereas mallsoft is ethereal, post-internet becoming a technological psychedelia, muzakcore is the sounds we are accustomed to and experience all too often. Not surprisingly, this can be a little uncanny for listeners.
Despite being greatly linked in aesthetic to most vaporwave in some manner, muzakcore in the strictest sense is scarce. However, the few releases that constitute it have been some of vaporwave’s most lauded albums.
This is perhaps the most straight-forward of vaporwave subgenres. There is a spectrum within vapornoise, but the unifying characteristic is the utilization of noise, culture-jamming, or subversion of the easy sounds that characterizes most vaporwave. Some releases are strictly sampling of commercials or advertisements, with added effects whereas the far end of the spectrum involves borderline harsh-noise overlays. Vaporwave fans have speculated about a subgenre along this lines but there exists a great deal of releases under this name. Vapornoise grew in popularity following second-wave vaporwave, when the growth of satirical releases and criticism of the genre was high.
Fringewave is a word for understanding releases that are either confused often enough for vaporwave or borrow a lot from vaporwave elements. However, these releases are not vaporwave. Much like “broporwave”, a great deal of this music comes along with the second-wave of vaporwave and they deviate significantly from the core of the genre.
These releases are sometimes considered vaporwave for these reasons:
1. Released on a label known for vaporwave releases (like Beer on the Rug).
2. Tagged as vaporwave or related tags on music sites like Bandcamp or Last.fm by an artist either to gain listeners or to force the genre.
3. Released around the time of vaporwave’s advent, and thus mistakenly absorbed into the umbrella.
4. Employs certain aesthetics that vaporwave is known for. This is usually the case when retrospectively looking at releases by artists like Oneohtrix Point Never.
5. Employs curation techniques.
Mallsoft is the study of mall culture, new or old, using the medium of sound.
https://soundcloud.com/groups/mallsoft"Mallsoft is distinct from its cousin Vaporwave by using ethereal, vague music that is very easily looped as ‘background’ music. The genius of mallsoft is that it’s not meant to be paid attention to, it’s not distinct. It’s meant to be left on repeat while the ‘listener’ does other things. The repetition of the music eventually forces its way into the listener’s mind subconsciously, to be recalled at later date as a memory of something that may or may not have happened. Mallsoft is the ultimate commentary on our ADD, twitter-obsessed generation that can’t focus on one task at a time, much less an entire album.
Mallsoft is essentially the ultimate realization of a concept being so “post” it ceases to even exist in the same realm and enters the realm of entirely self parody and therefore creates an endless loop within itself. The concept that a captcha invented the genre name, an anonymous internet user claimed it would become a phenomenon and then an internet community made a joke about it essentially created a self fulfilling prophecy. We are living in 2013; we are living in mallsoft.”
I used to know a girl who would complain at her boyfriend, “You are giving me anxiety!” when she felt stressed out. He would then feel guilty and help her feel better.
The thing is, he wasn’t causing anything. No one can make you feel any certain way. People carry out their own actions and sometimes their actions impact us, but they can never rob us of our freedom, of our own efficacy. The power we have as thinking creatures is that we don’t have to be taken over by whatever impulse bubbles up, we can consider it — and then choose how to proceed.
But this is difficult work. It’s infinitely easier to pass the blame on to others, to act as if we have no control when in fact, we have all the control.
Sometimes it feels better to infantilize ourselves, to say, “I have no control over my feelings or actions because of this special circumstance.” But we know this is not true, or else there would be no hope, no recovery, nothing but a species of people floating around knee-jerk reacting to every stimuli. As Camille Paglia argues, “We cannot have a world where everyone is a victim. “I’m this way because my father made me this way. I’m this way because my husband made me this way.” Yes, we are indeed formed by traumas that happen to us. But you must take charge, you must take over, you are responsible.”
Our culture, at least on the internet, is very much one of flaunting victimhood, of shifting blame to others and expecting them to fix you. We don’t want to teach people who to be strong, we want to teach the world to be soft.
It’s natural to want this, there’s no shame in that. But we don’t do ourselves any favors by it, we just prolong the inevitable. The world will never be soft. We will get hurt, we will feel anxiety, we will not be happy and at peace all the time. The more we learn how to let go and then practice letting go, the more naturally it will become.
- Movies, if they’re very good, aren’t a conversation; they’re an exaltation, a shuddering of one’s being, something deeply personal yet awesomely vast. That’s what criticism exists to capture. And it’s exactly what’s hard to talk about, what’s embarrassingly rhapsodic, what runs the risk of seeming odd, pretentious, or gaseous at a time of exacting intellectual discourse.