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Synthwave is an electronic music genre that emerged in the late 2000s and draws inspiration from nostalgic 1980s soundtracks, video games, and pop culture. The visuals commonly associated with Vaporwave are derived from Neon Noir. While it does often get lumped in with Vaporwave, there are significant differences between the two genres. The genre is credited as being started by acts such as College, Kavinsky, and Justice, although a fair argument could be made that the first big mainstream album evoking the Synthwave vibe and aesthetic could be traced back to the sophomore Daft Punk album, Discovery.

The music strongly shares some key traits within the French House/Italo Disco musical genres. The true proto-Synthwave acts came from musical scores of films in the 1980s created by the likes of John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing, They Live, etc.), Vangelis (Blade Runner), and Tangerine Dream (Firestarter). While the genre has started to dip in popularity slightly, there is still a very devoted following and a lot of musicians still sell decently.

Much of Synthwave, similarly to Vaporwave, is influenced visually by the early New Romantic and New Wave movements, while the music is a modernization of 80s Synthpop. For this reason, bands like YMO, Japan, Depeche Mode, and Gary Numan are seen to be inspirations to the scene.


The French House sound first began to develop with the French House genre (popularized by groups like Daft Punk); a style of house music originally produced by French artists that was a popular strand of the late 1990s and 2000s European dance music scene and a form of Euro disco. The genre has also been referred to as "French touch", "filter house" and "tekfunk" (likely derived from Tecktonik) over the years. The defining characteristics of the sound are heavy reliance on filter and phaser effects both on and alongside samples from late 1970s and early 1980s American or European disco tracks (or original hooks strongly inspired by such samples), causing thicker harmonic foundations than the genre's descendants. Popular artists in the French House genre include:

  • Benjamin Diamond
  • Cassius
  • Daft Punk
  • David Guetta
  • Justice
  • Kavinsky
  • Modjo
  • Mr Oizo
  • SebastiAn
  • Stardust
  • Thomas Bangalter
  • Vitalic


The visuals associated with Synthwave draw a lot of inspiration from graphics often seen during the '80s, such as sunset graphics, neon grids, neon lights, '80s sports cars, wireframe vector graphics, pixel art that is designed to look like an old school 8-bit video game, video cassettes, arcades, malls, etc.

Some people will confuse the visuals of Synthwave with the ones from the Vaporwave genre, but there are key differences in not only what is used in the art of the respective aesthetics, but also the tone of it: while Vaporwave can tend to have a more tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic tone to it, Synthwave is incredibly earnest with its love of everything 80s and is made in tribute to the era rather than critiquing it. Despite this, however, it's not uncommon for artists from the two scenes to collaborate to make art or music (one noteworthy example includes Synthwave artist Bart Graft collaborating with Vaporwave/Future Funk artist Bubble Keiki to produce the album, Emerald.



You Are My Obsession -Official Music Video-

Synthwave music sounds like the natural progression of the 1980s film score although some artists will take inspiration from the New Wave music that was popular then.



This is the mentioned music video that includes many key motifs of Synthwave in appearance and sound.

For example, here is a modern musical duo, I DONT KNOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, using a 1980s Synthwave aesthetic for their song "Razzmatazz". The many synthesizers and coordinating neon colors they use in this song exemplify the Synthwave aesthetic in the form of music.

However, a lot of modern Synthwave music seems to be moving away from the 1980s and moving more into the 1990s, thanks to tracks like "America Online" by The Midnight. Some Synthwave artists include:


Chill Synth[]






As its name suggests, the Darksynth concerns the dark part of Synthwave, or as the title Liberation in one of its stands written by Olivier Drago: The darkness of electro. A genre whose themes are darker, heavier, and more tragic (which is reflected in the covers presented above), often inspired by the horror and science fiction films of the 70s and 80s. It will often utilize what many consider to be Satanic symbolism (the upside-down pentacle, the Cross of St. Peter being popular in particular). Perhaps as a nod to the Satanic Panic that happened throughout the 80s (when '80s horror films, metal music, and Dungeons and Dragons were often blamed for the ills in society at the time). Within Darksynth, there is a strong Metal influence (since many of the artists in the genre coming from a Metal background themselves) and can sometimes overlap into the Goth aesthetic as well. Artists in this genre include the likes of GUNSHIP, Perturbator, Carpenter Brut and Gost. An argument could be made for Trevor Something. Their songs deal with darker subject matter than your average Synthwave artist, though his music doesn't share the metal influence the aforementioned artists do (going for more of a Depeche Mode/'80s Goth sound with a lot of his music).


Dungeon Synth[]

Dungeon Synth is a subgenre of dark ambient music that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The genre employs aesthetics and themes typically associated with black metal and applies it to dreamier ambient songs. It has also led to the creation of subgenres such as comfy synth and dino synth.


Outrun combines synthwave with the feeling of driving. The name originated from the game "OutRun" by Sega, which was based around simply driving without a care while listening to music. Thus, the aesthetic is heavily based around cars from the 80s such as the Ferrari Testarossa Spider.[1] Outrun was also combined with Neon Noir movies such as Drive, where the synthwave was used to enhance the loneliness.


Retrowave refers to a specific type of synthwave where artists recreate the 80s when synthwave was most popular. It heavily utilizes Retro-Futurism by adopting the optimistic and neon-filled vision of the future prevalent at the time.[2]






External links to help get a better understanding of this aesthetic.