Skip

Hatsune Miku
October 21, 2010 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Hatsune Miku's latest album debuted in the number one spot on the Japanese weekly Oricon album charts. She's playing live to sold out stadiums, and action figures depicting her have been shot into space...

Oh yes - she's also entirely owned and created by Crypton Future Media who developed her voice using Yamaha's Vocaloid 2 engine, and when she appears live she's a humongo hologram...
posted by zeoslap (33 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is how we beat the uncanny valley in the short term, really. And I don't mean just the visual one. Something tells me we've been so in love with "perfect" celebrities so long, we'll have no problem crafting our own artificial perfection from here on out.

Of course, I fully expect that this will only exacerbate cultural pressures towards aesthetic ideals, much like is seen in certain aspects of Japanese culture whereby males idealize works of art as the "perfect woman" and refuse to settle for less, which leads to some...interesting lifestyle compromises.

But! Body modification is only going to get easier, so maybe it's not such a problem?
posted by Phyltre at 7:38 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am reminded of Sharon Apple for some reason...
posted by reptile at 7:39 AM on October 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Huh. Gibson strikes again. Idoru.
posted by notsnot at 7:50 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I thought about posting this, but watching the concert video creeped me out, and I didn't think I could do it proper justice. I dunno what it is, but watching that animated figure dance on a stage gave me the heebie-jeebies.
posted by Malor at 7:50 AM on October 21, 2010


I was unheebied. In fact, I thought it was really cool.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:55 AM on October 21, 2010



Q3. Is it possible to use my own voice?
A3. It would be theoretically possible to use your voice by building your own vocal libraries. However, it requires a deep knowledge of phonetics and complex signal processing. Therefore, we are not planning to provide the necessary development tools and software environment for building vocal libraries for the time being.


Sad face.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:01 AM on October 21, 2010


I've been thinking about the Hatsune Miku phenomenon since last Sunday (this week is actually my first visit to Japan). Went to Harajuku in the afternoon and there were more cosplayers for this teal-haired long-pigtailed girl than any other character... so later in the evening I look online and discover that it's Hatsune Miku, whom I had no idea about previously. Tuesday and Wednesday I did some shopping in Nakano and Akihabara and there was so much Hatsune Miku merchandise. I think it's the first time a virtual idol has become popular like this - definitely made me think of William Gibson's Rei Toei.

I even have two bookmarks saved from looking her up earlier this week: an Asahi TV story with background on the world's virtual diva; and one of her holographic concert performances.
posted by SenshiNeko at 8:05 AM on October 21, 2010


So instead of the Monkeys, we now have this. Life is starting to more and more resemble the book "Little Heros".
posted by Old'n'Busted at 8:08 AM on October 21, 2010


Perhaps this thread can save me an Ask MeFi post...

How does the youth of Japan keep up-to-date with what appears to be a ceaseless flood of idols? Is there a large, professionally-run web site they consult? Are new enthusiasms transmitted person-to-person in discussion forums?

And what's the average shelf life of an idol these days? Months? Weeks?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:18 AM on October 21, 2010


And now the world is one step closer to having Jem and the Holograms for real.
posted by seldom seen cid at 8:36 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I thought about posting this, but watching the concert video creeped me out, and I didn't think I could do it proper justice. I dunno what it is, but watching that animated figure dance on a stage gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Gorillaz have been touring as cartoon characters for a while, so there's precedence. I think it still deserves a raised eyebrow, but I'm willing to give it a pass. The figures are flat, cel style-ish cartoon characters. (And, hey, I like the music: Some rap, some dub, some punk, some old-fashioned power pop. It's a good stew, and all considered pretty earthy considering the high-tech trappings going on around it.)

There's a knowing acknowledgement on all sides about what's going on at a Gorillaz show. What's going on is some good tunes are playing, some cartoons are miming them, and you can dance on the floor and when you need a breather you can watch some cartoons.

I watched a snippet of the Hatsune Miku concert. It wasn't the animated figure dance on stage that eventually got under my skin. It was the music, a little; I'm sufficiently familiar with J-pop, K-pop and so on that even if it's not really my taste it doesn't set me off either. But Hatsune's vocals sounded dissociated to me, even as vocodered-to-affectlessness vocals go. If they really are entirely composited by computer out of processed voice samples, I wouldn't be surprised at all.

But above all, it was the audience reaction and interaction at the Hatsune Miku show. This was effectively a live performance to them. I can't process that. Maybe I'm too old.
posted by ardgedee at 8:58 AM on October 21, 2010


Meh. Weak and derivative sauce. Poison did it first (1:58). Bret Michaels never gets his due.
posted by stet at 9:18 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


But Hatsune's vocals sounded dissociated to me, even as vocodered-to-affectlessness vocals go. If they really are entirely composited by computer out of processed voice samples, I wouldn't be surprised at all.

That's the point, there is no person behind that voice or persona. Or rather, there's a team behind all of those because she's wholly created.
posted by Phyltre at 9:24 AM on October 21, 2010


Joe Beese:

How does the youth of Japan keep up-to-date with what appears to be a ceaseless flood of idols? Is there a large, professionally-run web site they consult? Are new enthusiasms transmitted person-to-person in discussion forums?

mixi
2channel

And what's the average shelf life of an idol these days? Months? Weeks?

Idols have seasonal runs, like everything in Japan. They have their seasonal chance to make it, and either kick on indefinitely or retreat to the sidelines.

Idols last forever. Idols never die. They just get older and move on to cooking shows or do commercials for green herbal health drinks and life insurance.
posted by jet_manifesto at 9:24 AM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wake me up when Dethklok tours next.
posted by pwnguin at 9:28 AM on October 21, 2010


I wonder how Fujita Saki feels about this all. It's really her voice, and I'm sure she doesn't get residuals. A couple of weeks of recording sessions, a check and a handshake, and out the door.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:44 AM on October 21, 2010


> That's the point, there is no person behind that voice or persona.

That's a given, but I've found it makes the product harder to listen to.

To preempt a common thread in music posts, this is where I say I'm not playing the game of whose music sucks. I don't think Hatsune Miku's music sucks. It's a different musical dialogue than I understand, and I'm okay with that (I think). The Hatsune Miku phenomenon - what's going on in the periphery and how its fans receive it - that's what I find interesting at the moment.
posted by ardgedee at 9:46 AM on October 21, 2010






Fascinating, yet terrible.

Also, Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse did it first.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:36 AM on October 21, 2010


Alright, this is awesome. I'd love to go to a hologram concert.
posted by reductiondesign at 10:39 AM on October 21, 2010


Alright, this is awesome. I'd love to go to a hologram concert.

Well, apparently, you already are in one. You're soaking in it.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:22 AM on October 21, 2010


Mefite jake posted a song to MeFi Music last year with Vocaloid vocals (along with synthesized choir)!
posted by zsazsa at 11:34 AM on October 21, 2010


I am a recovering otaku and I find this disturbing... perhaps it is her unusually (and uncomfortably) wide stance, or the disproportionate body, or the stiff, un-flowing skirt, or the somewhat delayed and mechanical movements? This is inside my uncanny valley.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:00 PM on October 21, 2010


Of course, I fully expect that this will only exacerbate cultural pressures towards aesthetic ideals, much like is seen in certain aspects of Japanese culture whereby males idealize works of art as the "perfect woman" and refuse to settle for less, which leads to some...interesting lifestyle compromises.

Small correction: this isn't so much "certain aspects of Japanese culture" as "certain subcultures within Japan," where you can analyze it as either a fetish or as in-group performance depending on how seriously you take it. Mainstream Japanese culture finds men like this completely ridiculous, and has its own cultural pressures towards aesthetic ideals which work basically the same as they do in the west: airbrushed models in glossy magazines pressuring women to maintain a youthful appearance.

How does the youth of Japan keep up-to-date with what appears to be a ceaseless flood of idols? Is there a large, professionally-run web site they consult? Are new enthusiasms transmitted person-to-person in discussion forums?

And what's the average shelf life of an idol these days? Months? Weeks?


You're thinking about this in the wrong way. The idol industry isn't like indie rock; there aren't idol shows attended only by other idols (well, there sort of are, but they are embarrassing early first steps and/or failures). The industry isn't constantly churning through idols for aesthetic/philosophical reasons without caring who comes to see them. The industry is about presenting idols to people, and it uses all the means at its disposal: TV, magazines, radio. You don't need to "keep up to date" as a dedicated activity because the idols of the moment are ubiquitous in the regular mainstream media that surrounds you. This also applies to non-idol talent, incidentally, people whose management presents them as serious actors who are also gorgeous (it's not really worth getting into the technical definition of an idol here, by the way, but it doesn't just mean "Japanese celebrity").

Now, that's not to say that there aren't some people who follow the idol industry actively, as a hobby. There are (mostly otaku) communities where knowing the latest idol industry gossip is how you earn respect. (These communities are kind of like indie rock fandoms.) Folks do indeed work to keep up to date, and as jet_manifesto says, they do this via the internet, specifically via forums and discussion rather than by consulting top-down management pages or whatever -- because seriously, nothing organized by a management company could ever stay current enough. People like this also make a habit of attending what you or I would consider really minor events, like some Z-grade idol shaking hands and signing copies of her new Guam photobook, and they pick up info at these events, too.

Part of the reason AKB48 is successful is that it offers so many idols in one place that it is a sort of industry-within-the-industry, producing so much material that it could take up a fan's entire idol hobby time, if you wanted it to.

The average shelf life of an idol is hard to pin down because there are many types of idols. In the olden days, the golden age where the term "idol" was first coined, I suppose it was "years" because by definition you could not have an aging idol. This is still true to a certain extent, but if you expand the question to something more like "How long before a celebrity feted for youth and beauty can no longer make money from the entertainment industry?" things look different. Some make the transition to "serious actor" and stick around forever. Others fade out after a few years because people get tired of their distinctive personalities, or they didn't ever really have a personality and everyone's had enough of how they look in a bikini. ("Fade out" is a relative term, of course; again as jet_manifesto says, as long as you haven't gotten fat or ugly or something you can always trade on your ex-idol status to find a gig, even if it's just peddling diet pills or something.) Lots of celebrities officially retire due to marriage, too, thus avoiding the crappy-gigs-forever lifestyle. Most of the golden age idols went out this way.

"Weeks" isn't realistic, by the way: there are celebrities who don't last any longer than that, but this is considered a failure. Management companies invest a lot of time and money in their talent; they need churn, because the fans are always looking for something new, but they also need to recoup their investment, and you can't do that in a couple of weeks of magazine covers.
posted by No-sword at 2:29 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ever get the feeling we're all living inside William Gibson's brain?
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:53 PM on October 21, 2010


Mister Moofoo: Sad face.

If you want to roll your own voice banks, then you might want to look into the clunkier-but-free Vocaloid alternative Utau, which "comes with the company's "AquesTalk" pre-loaded, which allows any user to load their own voice data to be programed for usage within Utau."
posted by PsychoKick at 2:55 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


So here's what we do. When the Mefi Lefty Cabal springs into action, the first thing we'll do is hack Hatsune Miku into being our revolutionary marxist figurehead. We're living in the decade scripted by William Gibson, and that means if we're ever going to take over the world, we're going to have to play by William Gibson rules. Therefore, we need a super-kawaii Internationale-singing AI to unite behind.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:32 PM on October 21, 2010




How does the youth of Japan keep up-to-date with what appears to be a ceaseless flood of idols?

Nicovideo, the main analog Japan has to Youtube, is notable in that it's aggressively better tagged and uses a points ranking system for each tag based on the number of views and favorite listings within the last week or so. That all makes it incredibly easy to keep up with recent and popular releases; just bookmark the ranking for a tag and scan down it each day and you'll skim off the best. Not to mention the utattemita - if the uncanny valley effect of the robots is too much for you, you can usually find many extremely talented covers by amateur singers who have gone on to get contracts and do live shows off the basis of their work.

I have a ton of links to throw at this thread since I love this crap, and could blather for hours about the different ones, but here's a few to be going on with. Literally scores of tracks come out each week but I'm usually watching the rankings and run an LJ community along with a couple other guys for linking new releases on nico.

Crypton Vocaloids:

Miku generally does pop but is also ubiquitous and gets thrown into everything. Rolling Girl, Packaged, Worlds End Umbrella, Two Breaths Walking, Torinoko City, Calc., Time Machine, Last Night Good Night, Hold, Release, Rakshaka and Corpse, Spica, World's End Dancehall, Po Pi Po, Black Rock Shooter (now also an anime OAV), Magnet

Rin and Len are twins and tend to come as a pair, usually doing rock or ethnicy stuff. Roshin Yuukai, Synchronicity (1, 2), Trick or Treat, Paradichlorobenzene and Antichlorobenzene, Melancholic, Julietta and Romeo

Luka is notable because she has an English voice bank as well as a Japanese one. Double Lariat, Just Be Friends, Palette, No Logic, Absolute, Queen Nereid, DYE, Discommunication

Meiko/Kaito are the version 1s of the software and sound ... somewhat worse. ACUTE, Old Radio, Flowers Falling In Ruins / Poem Weaved In Ruins, Floriography, Tsukeru Yo, Nostalogic

Internet Co. Vocaloids:

Gumi is gaining rapid popularity because she sounds awesome and considerably more real a lot of the time. Mosaic Role, Eraser, IDOLLA, Megu Megu Fire Endless Night, Blue Bird, Cowardly Montblanc

Gakupo is voiced by Gackt of all people, and he is a purple samurai with a rainbow sword. Dancing Samurai, Imitation Black, Super Turkish March Owata, ggrks, The Madness of Duke Venomania

There are many new releases which just haven't built up enough of a library yet:

Miki (Internet): Satellite, COSMIC LUCKY, Good Night
Yuki (AHS): Totally Shouwa Girl, Disco Chocolateque
Kiyoteru (AHS): Jewelfish, True Education
VY1 (Yamaha): Awakening, Tsukihane

I haven't even touched on all of them, nor the UTAU, nor the 'Engloids'. It's a ridiculously huge fandom to dig through.



... Big Al (PowerFX) does Bridge Over Troubled Waters
posted by stelas at 10:05 PM on October 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also, it's worth noting that Miku's concert song choices were mostly her classics - as iconic as they are, they do often sound kind of flat. Producers have come a long way in making her and others sound more realistic, meshing her into better songs, and making use of software updates. Crypton have recently put out 'Append' software for her and are making a set for Rin and Len, each of which has 6 voicebanks with a more realistic tone.
posted by stelas at 10:07 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks Stelas, really enjoyed your picks. Whats the URL of the LJ you mentioned?
posted by samworm at 6:30 AM on October 22, 2010


I've MeMailed it along. In a slightly boggling coincidence, I opened the paper on the train this morning - a fairly large regional one in the UK - and lo, singing robots on page 3. That was a mildly weird moment.
posted by stelas at 11:28 AM on October 22, 2010


« Older A marvel of ants   |   "...a whole lot of information... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post