Hatsune Miku’s performance on a recent episode of the David Letterman Show, likely left several people confused. Yet it also seemed to excite several others. In fact my 63 year old mother called me up to tell me to get to the nearest television set to watch it.
For me that was a rather surreal experience. I’ve known of Hatsune Miku for quite a long time, but the idea of a concert with a virtual singer was still rather odd. My mother, who has no idea what a Vocaloid is, thought it was the cutest thing ever.
For those of you that are also new to this concept, Vocaloid is a Japanese vocal generating program where voices are generated based on the melody and lyrics added by the user. The result of which is music with a digital vocalist. There are several voices to choose from, each with their own distinct character, the most popular of which has been Hatsune Miku, a perpetually 16 year old girl with body length turquoise pigtails.
On the outside I see the things that make people fascinated at the concept of a virtual singer, but it also has it’s flaws. As I found myself listening to the best of her music, I realized a lot was missing from the overall experience.
As a long time fan of anime/manga, and Japanese pop culture, I see the appeal of an ultra cute idol that will never age or die. She’s a vocalist that never has to warm up. and she’ll never wear out after hours of work. But at the end of the day, what’s missing is the human element.
The success of Hatsune Miku really comes down to the quality of the music in the background and her appearance. In a regular performance, the emotional response of the audience comes as a result of a vital mix of specific chords and an emotional performance from the vocalist.
With vocaloid there’s no such thing as an emotional performance from the vocalist, as the vocalist has no emotions. Moving the audience becomes situational and driven by the music itself, leaving you feel as if there’s something missing that you can’t quite place your finger on.
Despite it’s flaws, these vocaloid concerts will probably not die anytime soon. The accessibility of an affordable vocalist will be the driving force behind further experimentation with programs like vocaloid, further blurring the lines between what can and can not replace the human element.
But you know what? I for one welcome our kawaii robot overlords, provided that they bring Anime and nikuman before destroying me with their adorable rainbow death rays.