Synthwave music, a genre of electronic music, was made popular during the 1980s, being heavily influenced by video games and film soundtracks. It grew in popularity during the mid-2000s, thanks to various communities that were developing on the Internet. Later on, in the early 2010s, it gained even more popularity, transforming into an entire movement.
The video game influence can be seen not only in the music but also in cover artworks, becoming a form of tribute for the 1980s culture. The Synthwave movement aims to capture and celebrate the atmosphere of the 1980s, drawing influences from science fiction action and horror works, such as books, movies, and TV shows, adhering to the retrofuturism movement.
Many songs are inspired by video games and include elements considered clichés, such as electronic drums, analog synthesizers and gated reverbs.
Retrowave is not exactly a subgenre of Synthwave, but rather another name for Synthwave, which seems to be a more popular term for today’s artists. Retrowave is also used to describe another subgenre of Synthwave, called outrun. The name outrun comes from the 1986 arcade game called Out Run, which distinguished itself from other video games because the user could select the soundtrack in the game.
Retrowave music is used nowadays in video games, as well as in movies and other media, aiming to resemble tracks or the atmosphere from that period. One of the most notable examples is the soundtrack for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, which was created by the Canadian duo Power Glove, a popular name on the Synthwave and electronic scene.
80s Synth Music
When synth music first emerged, the term was used for every style of synthesized video game-inspired music made in that period. In time, it was split between multiple subgenres, such as dreamwave, scifiwave, darksynth and fashwave, each with its own distinct features.
Dreamwave is the more chilled out subgenre of synth music, inspired by cinematic scenes in video games, usually with slow tempos and dreamy sounds.
Darksynth is characterized by heavier sounds, incorporating heavy electro and industrial music and made popular during the 2010s, by names such as Perturbator and Mega Drive. It is usually inspired by action or horror scenes in video games.
In recent years, it is believed that the video game Far Cry 3: Blood Dragons, as well as Netflix series Stranger Things, have brought 80s synth music to the eyes of a broader audience.
Vaporwave, another subgenre of synthesized music, emerged in the early 2010s, borrowing elements from the 1980s and 1990s jazz, elevator music, lounge music and R&B. It is often used to satirize pop culture and consumer capitalism, bringing out the nostalgia of the past decades not only through music but through artwork as well.
Vaporwave songs consist mostly of brief cut-ups from music, advertising, anime and other media elements that were popular in the 1980s and 1990s, made entirely out of samples, but cleanly produced and mastered. The visual aesthetic is colorful and fun, borrowing elements from the late 90s web design, glitch art, as well as 3D renders.
If you are building a retro video game, or working on a retro project and want to give it a more authentic feeling, buy Synthwave music and incorporate it into your work.