Virtual J-pop star pushes genre to new heights of artifice, annoying
The number one factor contributing to my descent into madness this week is “the world’s first virtual diva,” Hatsune Miku. In case you don’t keep up with the steady flow of crazy oozing out of Japan (I admit it’s quite hard—one person can only handle so much) allow me to inform you of what I’m talking about, and maybe you too will wake up tomorrow morning singing nonsense songs about vegetable juice.
Hatsune Miku is a synthesized singer from a Japanese music program called VOCALOID. Basically, you can buy this music composition software, make up your own songs, and then get this robot voice to sing them. The first time I encountered Miku, I had no idea her voice was a robot. Sure it sounded artificial, but what pop music doesn’t these days? I’m not making a value judgment here; I’m just saying that this is the direction we’ve been headed for a while now.
The cool thing about Miku is the so-called “democratization of pop music.” The Japanese pop music scene is (if you can even imagine it) even more of a commercialized, capitalist machine than the music scene in the US. Think back to the late nineties boy band thing, where companies were picking up pretty boys and throwing them into random groups with horrible names, and then extend that absurd concept into infinity and you will have an idea of Japanese pop music. I mean this group has 48 members for fuck’s sake. So the fact that regular nerds sitting in the dark with their computers can make hit songs is pretty cool. They can then post them to a website like Niko Niko Douga and have other nerds animate videos for their songs, and it turns into one of those neat collaborative experiences that is native to the internet. Now, I’m not saying this is some awesome communist utopia enterprise, because it’s obviously still making a shitton of money for some executives at Yamaha, but it’s still kind of neat.
So anyway I’ve been researching this phenomenon for my own morbid curiosity, and in the meantime have come across some of the most irritatingly catchy music I have ever heard. You know the kind of mind-destroying poppiness that only Japan can produce? Well Miku seems to have taken this concept to whole new heights. Check it out at your own discretion—you might be singing Levan Polka for like a year after this.
And this last one is from her “live show,” which is just crazy. CRAZY.