Skylar Spence was once a vaporwave producer known as Saint Pepsi. Under his previous handle he was a big fish in a very small pond – the small pond being Reddit’s vaporwave subreddit. Now, Saint Pepsi has got a new name and is a medium-sized fish in a much bigger pond. On his new release under the Skylar Spence name, “Prom King,” Spence brings the elements of vaporwave and future-funk into a poppy context, plus he adds his own vocals. The result is a set of disco-pop songs that are slickly produced, catchy and a little bit vulnerable too.
On “Intro,” Skylar Spence starts things off by bridging the gap between his vaporwave past and pop future. The track starts off with a sample which sounds like a piece of early 2000’s R&B pump-up music meant for an event held in a large arena and sponsored by Pepsi (actually though!). The track shortly blossoms with the sound of clean funk guitar and crisp drums, evolving into the sound of Skylar Spence today.
The next track, “Can’t You See,” sets the tone for the album. When I first heard the track it immediately made me think of the band Chromeo, what with the four-on-the-floor beat and glossy production. On the track, Spence sings the hook “I’m in love with my own reflection / I can hardly keep myself together.” The theme of vanity works well in the context of the track’s sleek sound. Also, a song about being in love with yourself is refreshingly honest and on point with what it sometimes feels like to be alive in this era.
The subsequent tracks all deliver in sharp production and intense grooviness. However, this slickness is distinctly contrasted by Skylar Spence’s singing. It is not bad by any means, but it’s just not as suave as the music implies it would be. Rather, Spence’s voice has a juvenile, unvarnished quality to it. In fact, after I heard the singing on this album, I thought of jam bands like the Disco Biscuits, where the singing is secondary to the instrumentals. This was actually a pretty exciting realization to me. When I think of jam bands and vaporwave, I think of two music scenes that have devout followings but exist outside the mainstream (vaporwave more so than jam bands). Either way, both these music scenes mean so much to me in their own ways, and to feel them collide within the context of a pop album is nothing short of exhilarating. It makes me wonder if vaporwave will ever be incorporated into a jam band setting someday in the future. (Answer: it will, and I will be the one to do it.)
Like the new Carly Rae Jepsen album, which I reviewed and loved, “Prom King” is so wonderful because it captures the sound of 2015 and does it well. From the chopped and screwed vocal samples to the heavenly bell synthesizers on this thing, “Prom King” proves that pop music of this decade has evolved from where it was ten years ago–and I like the direction it’s going.
Howard is a member of
the class of 2017.