Brian Hazard of Color Theory here.
I spend hours every week curating my Vocal Synthwave Retrowave playlist, which I update on Fridays.
I thought it would be fun to highlight the best of the best once a month in the form of a countdown.
You can enjoy the top 10 with my commentary as a podcast or on Soundcloud. If you just want to hear the songs, you can follow the playlist on Spotify.
However you choose to listen, you’re in for a treat! This isn’t just a rundown of the usual suspects. If you love discovering hidden gems as much as I do, you’ve come to the right place.
Join my email list and I’ll give you five of my best songs, including “Crystal” and “The Darkness.” I’ll also let you know whenever a new episode goes live! Don’t worry, your email address is safe with me. 🔐
Thanks for listening!
And now I shall attempt to anticipate your questions…
Who died and made you the God of Synthwave™?
Assembling a top ten list is inherently presumptuous. It’s important to understand that my choices are a reflection of my subjective tastes, and not meant as any sort of objective declaration of quality or worth.
Moreover, I’m not declaring myself the ultimate arbiter of what is or isn’t synthwave. I’m open to all 80s-influenced synth-driven pop that doesn’t sound like “Blinding Lights.”
As for my personal qualifications, I’ve been releasing 80s-inspired synthpop records as Color Theory since 1994. In my “day job” as a mastering engineer, I’ve worked on over a thousand electronic music releases. Prior to all that, I earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from California State University, Long Beach.
How come no Mitch Murder, MAVS, Com Truise, Waveshaper, etc?
I’m highlighting the best synthwave songs, which by definition have lyrics, which by definition have vocals.
I love instrumental synthwave as much as the next guy, but I produce vocal synthwave myself, which is what inspired me to create the Vocal Synthwave Retrowave playlist that the top 10 is derived from.
That said, I’m always on the lookout for vocal features or remixes from otherwise instrumental artists!
How do you select the top 10?
The beginning of each month, I pick 10 favorites from my playlist adds for the previous month.
I’m looking for charismatic vocals (not just vocoder), obvious 80s elements, traditional verse/chorus song structures, and synth driven-arrangements.
I place a high value on production quality, but ultimately great songwriting rules the day. Lyrical clichés are a deal-breaker!
How do I get my song on the playlist?
Submit it to me on SubmitHub. It’ll cost you $2, half of which goes to me. You can get 10% off credits with the coupon at the top of the page.
I get too many submissions to field them a la carte, so don’t bother with an Instagram DM.
But isn’t that payola?
No, it’s not. You’re paying for my time, not for placement. When all is said and done it amounts to less than minimum wage.
That $2 is basically a discouragement fee. If I accepted free submissions, I’d have hundreds more to work through, most of which would be grossly off target.
Why are there more than 10 songs?
I can’t very well rank my own stuff, but I don’t want to disqualify it either. If I release a new track in a given month, I’ll include it as a bonus “dishonorable mention.”
Why is your song always at the top of the VSR playlist, you greedy bastard?
I promote the playlist with Facebook and Instagram ads, which always feature the opening track. That way prospective listeners know they’ve come to the right place.
For a full breakdown of my playlist promotion methods, check out this article on my Passive Promotion blog.
Why bother with a top 10? Isn’t the playlist enough?
If Spotify notified listeners when playlists were updated, there might not be a need. As it stands, few listeners religiously check for updates.
The top 10 provides another opportunity to support the artists and the scene, and will hopefully increase playlist listenership in the process.
As a side benefit, the selection process helps me to better understand what I like in music, so that I can improve my own.