Sooooo, the youngs. you may have heard they like Justin Beiber or Rhianna or something. They don’t. They like computer constructs, only one of which is human, and we hear her voice only, and anyway there is some debate about whether she’s canon. Vocaloids! The original technology was invented by Kenmochi Hideki at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain in 2000. Backed by the Yamaha Corporation, it developed the software into the commercial product “Vocaloid.” (ボーカロイド Bōkaroido). (This product exists separately from the Vocaloids I’m talking about and is used to generate back-up vocals and other things like that in ordinary pop songs). The most popular is naturally 01, Hatsune Miku. You can even see her perform live! (You should really watch this—it’s not clear quite how bizarre the scene is till partway through.) Her ‘voice’ is compressed into the upper range of human hearing, and beyond what any human could sing. But it’s not merely a person’s voice sped up; it’s constructed (though some samples were taken from a Japanese actress).
If you are a fan of Hatsune Miku, you can buy her voice software. Then, you can write a song, and feed it to her, and she will sing it! And if you have a friend who draws manga-style drawings well, she can draw drawings for you, and then the “camera” so to speak can move over the drawings during the course of the song. Full animation is expensive; no one but the owners of Miku (Crypton Future Media) can afford it, I think, unless there are some really rich Miku fans, which there probably are, and that’s how you end up with non-canon Miku, which is crazy, because she’s Vocaloid 01! There are also manga, an alternate universe Hachune Miku, a variety of games, actual albums released on Japanese label Exit Tunes that charted at #1, a billion games, and some anime (but I’ve never seen any of these because I just rock it from YouTube, where videos get posted after they get reviews and feedback on Japanese video-posting site Nico Nico Douga.) Perhaps most awesome, the Japanese Venus space probe Akatsuki has three plates depicting Miku on it. Not sure whether she’s carrying leeks in any of them, but she should be, because leeks are her thing. She’s, just, always got leeks. I don’t know.
Vocaloids 02 and 03 are Rin and Len Kagamine, who are blond twins, one girl and one boy respectively, now with 75% less Blood of the Walsungs. OK, 70%. 04 is…some dude. Our daughters have an aversion to the synthesized male voices (which appear to be possibly—no, pretty much we know this, they are sampled, but by artists who don’t wish to reveal their names because then people will be able to ‘force’ them to sing anything they want.) 05 is Luka, she has some good songs, 06 is Gumi, then…something…Lily’s OK…etc. 99 is a human woman’s voice, but we don’t know her name and never see her real face. Overall, moving from 01-99 the voices become more like human voices, lower, more—I don’t know, irregularities? Roughness?
The songs (and videos) are sometimes funny, sometimes super-depressing, and sometimes creepy (there is a problem with whether you can use Rin and Len, say, to make child porn songs.) Obviously they are often about how it’s alright to be imperfect, or how difficult it is to make connections with real people, or…what it’s like to be an AI whose master cruelly re-programs it once a day with an unattainable goal. Funny stuff!
Is there any difference between life and death? Between happiness and its absence? Luka says no. You should go all the way through with this one as the music’s unobjectionable and it has the most ironic lyrics to program a Vocaloid to sing for you ever:
This is Gumi, who suffers from anxieties peculiar to a modern city-dweller? Or not:
I freely acknowledge that this is a poorly animated manga CGI girl who sounds like you have caught a bunch of bees in a Mason jar and are just shaking them up and down BUT it is important to watch/listen to the song enough (reading the subtitles) to realize that this happy bunny funtime blonde robot girl Rin Kagamine wants to grab you by your slender pale throat so that you may dive, together, into the core of a fusion reactor, where everything will become white and all bad memories will be erased. See? Now she’s like a billion times creepier, right?
Does Rin ever rock out though? Yuh huh, just as much as Green Day does.