Written by | Aldo Aguilar
You’re standing waiting for the performer to walk on stage. The band comes out and sets up, but no performer is in sight. A burst of magic dust and a virtual idol appears. She breaks into song and dance while the band plays in the background. The crowd goes wild for a performer who’s not really there.
The virtual idol is known as Hatsune Miku, one of Japan’s biggest pop stars. Miku is a 16-year-old pop star who never ages. She doesn’t have a physical presence or voice of her own. She’s the visual representation of a “Vocaloid,” a software that synthesizes vocals from a pre-recorded voice bank to mimic actual human singing. Miku’s vocals are provided by anime voice actor Saki Fujita. With the Vocaloid software, people can make Miku sing any song they desire or make new songs of their own.
What attracts me to Hatsune Miku? Well, her music isn’t made by huge record labels that write most of today’s pop music. Her music comes from fans who create their own songs. From hard-hitting rock to catchy pop songs Miku isn’t stuck to a single genre. Hatsune Miku’s creators, Crypton Future Media, design her that way so fans have control over her music, personality and even her appearance. While music is created for her, it doesn’t belong to Miku or Crypton, only the creator owns it. Many Japanese creators have made names for themselves like Dixie Flatline, Supercell and CircusP to name a few. As the software has become more widely recognized, some have even gotten record deals in Japan. Her voice is unique. Once you hear it, you know it’s her. Miku sings in both English and Japanese. The voice sounds synthetic and robotic without any tuning. But with proper tuning, her voice sounds like her voice provider auto tuned. Word pronunciation sounds clear and at times it sounds realistic. Her voice fits many songs, but her voice truly shines in techno, rock and pop songs with instrumentals that complement her.
My gripe with her voice, at times, is when she hits high notes. The sound gets to a high pitch that makes me lower the volume of the song. When it’s low-pitched, it’s a little hard at times to make out lyrics. Her English sounds good when not singing, but once she sings, the heavy Japanese accent plagues her voice making it hard to understand. Her voice isn’t perfect, but it’s farbetter than AI voices like Siri who is hard to understand. Since she is Japanese, you’re probably asking, “Why is she relevant in the west?”
Hatsune Miku has a huge following worldwide and has many fans, including myself, in North America. Her exposure started in 2012 with Toyota using her in a set of commercials to promote the Corolla cars. In 2014, Lady Gaga announced that Miku would be an opening act for her tour. In the same year, she appeared on the late show with David Letterman to promote her art show in New York. With these appearances, she got a huge exposure to many Americans. This year she is having a North American tour hitting major cities, including Dallas on May 14. Many can experience her virtual show.
In an industry where many record labels are trying to make the next big thing, Hatsune Miku stands out and shines. If you are bored or want to find some new music, I highly recommend you check her out. With her unique presentation and voice, it’s hard not to check out her music. The massive support of her songs and fan art keeps the virtual idol fresh and interesting. With no huge TMZ scandals or tabloid news, Hatsune Miku can keep on going without the hassle many real world artists face.