I can be a pretty cynical guy. I’ve also found myself being against whatever thing everyone’s talking about, whether intentional or not (hey didn’t vote me “Class Rebel” in my high school yearbook for nothing). When I think about this last decade of music, I think most about the “thirty-year cycle”, which refers to the idea that our culture is the most nostalgic for whatever decade was thirty years before that one. The 90s was dominated by brit-pop bands like Oasis and Blur that drew plenty of influences from The Beatles and Doors. The 80s was around when Grease came out and Back to the Future took us back to the 50s and elvis haircuts until you dropped.
The decade that was thirty years ago was the 80s. Now, I haven’t been on this planet for a long time, but I don’t remember a decade that used nostalgia as such a cultural anchor for modern content. Almost everything we listened to in the 2010s had 80s cookie crumbs all around its face, whether it was the synths in Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion, shows like Stranger Things, or the new wave of rap music that uses lo-fi as a vessel for neon color schemes and VHS static. Music aside, 80s remakes dominated the big and silver screen, the “Memphis” art scheme inserted its way into modern advertising, and much to the aggressive chagrin of the entire country, an 80s icon is the current president of the united states. TLDR, 80s ruled the last decade.
Released in 2011, one album became the poster child for a new kind of music, but also a new aesthetic for our culture to try on for ourselves. It was an album that almost predicted the entire vernacular of how the 2010s processed the 80s. It was Macintosh Plus’ Floral Shoppe, and my take for the most influential album of the decade.
Let me start by saying I don’t think this album is a great album. The aesthetic Floral Shoppe introduced to the public provided the sift for that public to process the decade, and I mean the entire mainstream American public. While it goes without saying that there are plenty of other vaporwave artists, Floral Shoppe was the one lucky enough to reach the mainstream.
Slowed down sampling, overtly long ones at that, is the bread and butter of Floral Shoppe.
It’s these samples that create the kind of 80s-90s nostalgia that makes the nostalgia from other 2010s works look almost modern. Somewhere, there is an endless well of 80s stuff, and Floral Shoppe knows where it is. The manipulation of these 80s aesthetics reminds me of the way you’d mock someone you didn’t like by exaggerating their voice. Floral Shoppe isn’t making fun of the 80s, as much as it’s waiting until you realize the nostalgia it’s been throwing at you isn’t real. Look at the cover; it combines ancient Roman busts, Japanese lettering, neon, and pre-9/11 New York. None of these things go together. Like the cover, the last song on Floral Shoppe samples Jamie Foxx’s “Sleeping Pill”. I don’t need to tell you that Jamie Foxx is not an 80s artist, nor was there that kind of hip-hop in the 80s. Like a viking helmet with horns on it or a French queen telling her people to eat cake, Floral Shoppe shows you things that never existed together to catch yourself nostalgic for something you can never go back to (or experience at all, if you’re young enough).
This revelation is what makes Floral Shoppe and vaporwave in general so fascinating in reference to the decade it impacted. Nostalgia, by definition, implies the past was real and something we’d want to remember. Stranger Things makes us wish we could’ve been in the 80s, gone to the arcade and played Donkey Kong and watched He-Man Saturday mornings. Vaporwave is the subtly nagging voice in the back of your head telling you that will never happen.
Obviously, the only parts we listened to when it came to vaporwave was the influx of 80s. Again, I can’t remember a decade in which so much of our culture came from the past. Never has a musical genre used an entire decade as it’s launching point for aesthetic. I’m not saying Floral Shoppe is the sole reason for all the 80s in our culture the last decade; the 30-year cycle was bound to happen one way or the other. What I am saying is the genre the album attributed itself to was the first real step in the 80s direction we all found ourselves in. The amount of 80s culture in the 2010s would not be nearly as prevalent without Floral Shoppe. Given how much there was, that is my reason for crowning it the most important album of the 2010s. Now, excuse me while I contain my excitement for the upcoming decade of non-Korean boy bands, Pogs apps, Dunkaroos back on shelves, and the racially diverse netflix remake of Friends.