Vocaloids: Gateway to Geekery

Why it’s Daunting:

For fans of the William Gibson novel “Idoru”, her rise was foreseen. She topped the charts with a number two album in 2009 and a number one single on iTunes in 2012.  Her name in Miku Hatsune, and she is a Vocaloid. Vocaloids are synthetic music software programs that anyone can purchase and use to edit and create songs. They can then upload the song to the web or make  a CGI video with an avatar dancing and performing the song. Miku’s most popular web videos where compiled into albums and a devoted fan base developed. Americans find it strange to be a fan of a digital entity that doesn’t really exist. In an industry that auto tunes most acts anyway, there can hardly be said to be a difference.

Where to Start:

Miku’s first viral video was of her singing a Finnish polka song “Ievan Polka” while animated in Japanese “Chibi” style, waving an onion. The plucky electro pop beat and quick lyrics are quite catchy. This is also an example of the irreverent nature of her open source contributors.

Miku’s iTunes chart topper “Tell Your World” is fairly standard Jpop. The natural sounding piano instrumental combined with her buzzing vocals makes an uplifting, inspirational piece.

Next Step:

Her fan base originated on the Japanese site Nico Nico Doga, a video media streaming service. She propagated to Youtube from there and reached a larger international audience. All told, tens of thousands of users have created content for the Hatsune Vocaloid. Finding what is appealing is a matter of a short web search.  She is used quite well in the electronic and trace genres, fitting considering her electronic origins as a robotic researchers voice software. “Lost You” is a deliciously chilly progressive trance track, probably my favorite.

“Sky High” is a deep ambient piece, with a ghostly disembodied other worldliness in the vocals.

If you tire of the endless computer searches and want to enjoy an evening out, you can purchase Miku Hatsune concert tickets. That’s right, a virtual idol has live concerts. She’s projected as a hologram on a stage and performs her most popular songs with a live band. She’s had shows in Tokyo and Singapore

To get the full Miku Hatsune experience, you can buy the program and make Hatsune songs yourself. This is what is so profound about her. Anyone with talent can produce there own music and have it performed by a beloved national idol to the adulation of tens of thousands of fans any where in the world.

Where Not to Start:

Miku Hatsune Death Metal

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4 responses to “Vocaloids: Gateway to Geekery

  1. They did the live Hatsune Miku concert at I think the most recent AnimeExpo in LA. Tickets sold out immediately though. I missed the opportunity to book because their professional registration site wouldn’t let me. It was such a bummer so I didn’t even bother with the con at that point!

    Miku and Kaito’s “Cantarella” and Len & Rin’s “Servant of Evil” are two of my absolute favorite Vocaloid songs.

  2. Yeah, it’d be neat to see a holo concert. I think the Gorillaz did something similar a couple years ago with character projections. It might have been the first of it’s kind, actually

  3. Yeah, I’ve seen a video of one of the concerts on You Tube. It’s pretty amazing with all the visual technology that goes into it. Her voice is pretty well synthesized, too! I’m not sure if I will ever go and see a concert though.

  4. I have no idea what you guys aret talking about. This is fascinating. Some students mentioned this last semester and I still don’t get it.

    You mentioned that there is something profound abou this. I agree but can’t put my finger on it.

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