Hatsune Miku Is the First Virtual Pop Star to Perform on Late Night

This is it, people. This is what we've been fighting for all along. Equal representation for virtual pop stars and holograms on television. Hatsune Miku on Letterman! WE MADE IT.

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So, clearly, Hatsune Miku is the best pop star of all time: an anime 16-year-old with a bright aqua weave whose voice is sampled from Tokyo voice actress Saki Fujita and run through a synth app made by a company called Crypton Future Media. If it sounds both exciting and ominous at the same time, that's because it is, but Miku also provides interesting commentary on the nature of pop stardom, and what constitutes "real" music. This song is called "Sharing the World"; at 1:44 she throws up her arms and summons glistening stars to emerge from the sky, something I've never seen Katy Perry or Lady Gaga do, at least like that. And Hatsune Miku never needs autotune. Dave is beside himself.

Music is inching ever closer towards a Blade Runner future, in which all our music will be voiced by replicants, indistinguishable from their human counterparts. (Hatsune Miku's name roughly translates to "first sound from the future" which, again, fucking creepy.) In addition to Hatsune Miku, there is QT, the project of British producers Sophie and AG Cook, both males, which uses a glossy, uncanny-valley-ass, energy-drink-hawking model as their "frontperson"; whether she actually exists or is just an image concurrent with pitch-shifted vocals is up for debate.

I like this song, but the concept of QT rubs me the wrong way, as well, because it's unclear whether Sophie and AG Cook's subversion of the hyperreal and commentary on internet culture is actually just... two men using a voiceless woman image as proxy to seem more interesting. (My greatest hope, though, is that they're just frustrated drag queens.) I still might be residually mad from finding out that "Sophie" is, in fact, a man, but it's irksome because women have it so tough in electronic music, arguably more than any other genre including hip-hop—because electronic music is accompanied by the added stereotype that "technology" and "technical music" and "production" are "for men," and also because promoters don't often seem interested in booking women. (For a little more on that, read "The Number One Reason There Aren't More Female DJs," an iconic piece by Trouble & Bass DJ Star Eyes.)

On the other hand, Hatsune Miku has an all-boy backing band, is drawn by a man (Kei Garo), but the writer Robin Jeffrey poses an interesting question around that: "The figure of the Fembot is the fictional site of society's complex feelings about gender and machine intelligence," she writes, "where readers of all genders can work through their feelings towards both their sexuality and the advancing state of machine consciousness. A necessary and cathartic figure, let's hope that the Fembot will soon be accessible in the flesh; not just as a slave or tech-bauble for her human masters, but as a future friend, companion, and intelligent peer." Something to chew on.

DISCUSSION

kaizykat
Kaizykat

Excuse me, I am going to just jump in here and expose how nerdy I am. I have strong feels about this because I've been into Vocaloid since, God, 2009?

Miku, and other Vocaloids, are tools. Think of them as instruments rather than people. Different composers use them in different ways

I was a bit disappointed by her performance because Miku's English is really hard to understand. I haven't heard of the composer, BIGHEAD, before. I'm not really that big of a fan of their tuning at all. Plus, the English language versions need a lot of work to be as good as the Japanese versions. That's just because there are so many different sounds in English when compared to Japanese.

Other producers have used Miku much better, for example, Mitchie M and his song "Ai Dee":

Or Kikuo and "Let's Go to Heaven"

Or they could have used an American producer like EmpathP and her "Rose + Thorn." She's using Avanna rather than Miku, but it's the same software. I don't know if this video is gonna embed.

http://youtu.be/NOZKgswcxJQ?li…