Is Synthwave Dead?

Have you seen posts lamenting the demise of synthwave? It left me wondering – is the genre truly dying, or just evolving? The community seems divided: some say it's over, others hint at transformation. Let's explore the enigma of 'Is Synthwave Dead?' where endings blur with new beginnings in music's ever-changing dance.

Have you ever scrolled through your social media feeds and stumbled upon posts lamenting the death of synthwave? I have, and it’s left me wondering why people think this beloved genre is at its end.

I have researched, asked questions, and reasoned about the problem. In the end, one thing became clear: the once-thriving community of fans and producers now appears divided by contrasting opinions, not to mention a total rejection of what the genre should be represented, not to mention from whom it should be represented.

Let’s tackle the enigma that is the question ‘Is Synthwave Dead?’, by reasoning on the whys many people believe so.

Synthwave Is Dead Cover Art

Defining synthwave

Synthwave, at its core, is a genre that encapsulates the essence of nostalgia and technology intertwined in a mesmerizing harmony. Picture yourself cruising through a neon-soaked cityscape of the ’80s, with every beam of light synchronized perfectly to the pulsating beats of a synthesizer. That captivating imagery is what defines synthwave – a musical time capsule that bridges the past with an electrifying future. Artists who pioneered this genre painted landscapes with sound, using analog synthesizers and drum machines to evoke feelings of escapism and retro-futurism for their listeners.

The significance of synthwave isn’t just in its sonic aesthetics but also in the emotional journey it takes its fans on. By tapping into themes of retrospection and futurism simultaneously, synthwave provides not just music but an experience – a portal to alternate realities where vintage arcade games meet cyberpunk dystopias. Early artists like Com Truise or Kavinsky shaped this genre by infusing it with their unique visions, laying the foundation for fans to revel in the tapestry of dreamy synths and driving rhythms that define synthwave’s allure.

Through nostalgic melodies and futuristic soundscapes, synthwave struck a chord with audiences seeking an escape from reality into realms colored by VHS glows and pixelated landscapes. The genre’s initial definition was rooted in a passion for storytelling through synthesized soundwaves, crafting narratives where each track unfolded like a scene from an ’80s sci-fi film. As fans immersed themselves deeper into these synthetic realms painted by artists, they found solace in the harmonious blend of nostalgia for an era gone by and excitement for what could be ahead.

Why do some believe that synthwave, a genre born from a blend of nostalgia and technology, is facing its demise?

The initial surge of interest led to an influx of newcomers eager to leave their mark on the synthwave scene. However, as success stories emerged and certain artists garnered fame and recognition, exclusive circles began to form. These closed groups, be it intentionally or unintentionally, erected barriers for emerging talent, often citing technicalities in production or questioning originality. It’s paradoxical considering that at its core, synthwave has always thrived on reimagining familiar vibes rather than breaking entirely new ground.

Moreover those who managed to get recognition cast a shadow over the work of passionate but lesser-known artists within the synthwave community either by belittling their “originality” or by roadblocking creativity in the name of cold technicalities that have nothing to do with the emotions of music.

While established names dip their toes into these sounds for trendiness or nostalgia by almost claiming ownership of the quality of the sound, they overshadow the raw creativity and dedication found in smaller creators’ work.

This phenomenon not only dilutes the uniqueness of sincere synthwave compositions but also hinders budding artists from gaining visibility and recognition.

The compartmentalization within the synthwave community stunts its growth by fostering exclusivity instead of inclusivity for the benefit of the few already recognized, as barriers are built around what defines “true” synthwave or who belongs in what circle, it becomes increasingly challenging for fresh voices to break through and offer their interpretations of the genre.

In the middle of all of this, another issue exploded the past years that need to be addressed: the overuse of AI in the realm of synthwave music has sparked debates within the community.

In an era where AI-generated cover art is becoming prevalent, this technological intrusion is overshadowing the creativity and value that human artists bring to the table. This trend not only affects musical artists but also visual creators, as AI-generated artwork tends to homogenize visual representation across the genre, leading to a sense of sameness and dilution of unique artistic voices by making the entire genre perceived as “cheap”.

Within closed communities like synthwave, where passion for music drives many artists, it becomes crucial for creators to recognize and uphold the value of their craft amidst technological advancements. Building strong bonds with fellow artists of different kinds can foster collaboration and support, enriching the creative process and reinforcing a sense of community spirit that goes beyond individual pursuits. By emphasizing collaboration and mutual respect for different forms of artistry within these circles, artists can cultivate a more inclusive environment that values diverse contributions and innovation.

In an age where technology continues to shape music production and presentation, focusing on the human element in artistic endeavors becomes essential to maintain authenticity and integrity in synthwave music. While AI tools can enhance efficiency they totally destroy any kind of artistic vision and uniqueness.

All these barriers, the focus of the already established on the technical aspect more than the emotional artistic one, the congestion of attention towards one single already bright point, the overuse of AI, the closeness of the communities… all of this is, in my opinion, and after speaking to many people about the matter, the reason why many, both fans and artists, believe that synthwave is dying.

Because everything is so closed and cluttered that the rays of light in between rarely manages to push trough.

Synthwave Music Producer

Is There Still Hope?

Taking a step back to look at the broader music industry landscape, it’s evident that trends and waves come and go, but true passion endures.

While some may argue that synthwave is losing its luster, there remains an undeniable undercurrent of dedication among creators who continue to produce in the genre. These individuals are driven not by the fleeting promise of fame or fortune but by a genuine love for the music they craft.

Despite facing challenges like a lack of recognition, these artists persevere with an unwavering commitment to their artistry.

…and I should know since we’re in between them.

In contrast to the fast-paced churn of modern music consumption, many synthwave artists focus on honing their craft for personal fulfillment rather than fleeting moments of stardom. This resilience hints at a deeper connection between creators and their work, transcending mere commercial success. The essence of synthwave lies in capturing emotions, memories, and atmospheres from another time – a sentiment that often resonates with both musicians and fans alike. It’s this intrinsic drive that fuels a sense of hope for the genre’s future, built on foundations of authenticity and passion rather than external validation.

While recognition may be scarce for many synthwave artists, the dedication to preserving and evolving the genre perseveres. By staying true to its roots in emotion synthwave continues to carve out its niche within the broader music scene, the only problem is that the established communities move more and more away from the niche style of the genre while blocking the view of what remains genuine.

Beyond surface-level trends or industry shifts, the heart of synthwave beats steadily through the efforts of passionate creators who strive not only to survive but also to thrive amidst changing tides. In this unwavering dedication lies a glimmer of hope – a belief that true artistry will always find its audience, even if it takes time against all odds.

The Evolution of Sound

In order to propel synthwave forward, there is a growing sentiment among creators that revisiting a more classical style could be the key.

Many of the producers I’ve spoken of were sick and tired of jpw a small cut of professionals that bask in the light of exposure constantly devalue original and more “raw” sounding music in the name of “modern sound quality” considering how the roots of the genre are in the past, not in the modern, not to mention the emotions, not the technicalities.

Many feel that the real reason why Synthwave gives out the sensation of “being dead” is precisely because of this trend, which is felt as going further and further away from what was the soul of the genre.

I will quote one of the latest conversations I had with another synthwave producer:

Retro stuff really shouldn’t feel like it was produced in 2024. If it feels kinda dirty, like it’s coming from an old Sony running a cassette, that’s way more authentic. Should sound analog right? But so much synthwave is too clean. Like people remove alot of the analog sounds the synths are producing.

Now like, this doesn’t mean audio quality. Some ears can’t tell the difference though it seems. As people get the retro sound confused with bad audio, but if it’s not breaking the speaker, it’s not bad audio.

Actually had someone tell me one of my songs was messed up and had bad production because all these sounds don’t sound clear, when I’m literally using old Junos, DX7s, and X80 Break pianos

Emphasizing raw emotion over technical prowess, artists are rediscovering the essence of why they fell in love with synthwave in the first place. By stripping away excessive production techniques and focusing on heartfelt compositions, they aim to reignite the soulful essence of the genre while keeping it relevant in a constantly evolving music industry landscape.

As per many other things today, it really feels as if the correct way to move forward is to go back. To the past and the origins again.

Synthwave Synthesizers

Fan Perspectives

When looking at the current state of Synthwave through the eyes of die-hard fans, it seem that everything is fine as they vibe to the latest release of their heroes, but as soon as you take one step away from the already established community and look for fans of the genre that do not actively take part in it, a mix of hope and concern emerges.

In my will to write this blog post, I started to use social media to look for fans of the genre and have discussions with them… It was hard, but I managed to talk with many people stating that they felt as the synthwave music proposed to them had lost its meaning and real emotional roots, starting to base itself more around the already established names then the creativity itself.

Many were worried about the direction Synthwave is heading in, especially concerning the commercialization and mainstream co-optation that seem to be diluting its original essence. Despite their concerns, these dedicated fans remain resilient in their support for artists who stay true to the genre’s core principles.

Community support plays a crucial role in either propelling Synthwave forward or holding it back. While there are pockets of passionate fans and smaller artists pushing boundaries and exploring new sonic territories within the genre, there is also a perceived trend where larger elements of the community focus more on promoting already established acts for quick success rather than fostering new talent. This dichotomy has created somewhat of a divide within the fanbase, with some feeling that genuine creativity and innovation are being overshadowed by commercial interests and, as such, stopping their active interactions with the community at all (if they knew there was one in the first place, since many just love the music, but do not delve into finding out the forums or the closed social communities)

In this tug-of-war between authenticity and commercial viability, many fans are happy while many others find themselves advocating for a return to the grassroots spirit that initially defined Synthwave. They long for a community that nurtures emerging talent and celebrates creativity over conformity. The challenge lies in reconciling the need for growth and exposure with preserving the genre’s soul.

The Future of Synthwave

As we ponder the fate of synthwave, it’s evident that the genre stands at a crossroads, teetering between potential collapse due to the destruction of all new talent in the name of the few established ones, and resilient resistance.

From examining varied viewpoints on its current state, one can’t help but contemplate whether this vibrant wave of nostalgia-fueled music is destined to wither in the name of “modern standards”, or evolve into something even more captivating by going back and re-evaluate and re-recognize its roots.

Amidst this uncertainty lies a glimmer of hope – a hope that new community that’ll value the emotions of everything else can rise to keep the spirit of the genre alive, dismantling the barriers erected by their predecessors.

Embracing the uncertainties with resilience might just be the catalyst needed to propel synthwave into its next phase – one where authenticity, collaboration, and a shared passion ignite a renaissance rather than succumb to stagnation and modern business needs, not to mention elitism.

Let us then hold onto this hopeful introspection, paving the way for an era where unity surpasses division and greed, propelling synthwave into uncharted territories rich with creativity and boundless potential.

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