"That is, at least, until last month."
May 16, 2023 6:50 PM   Subscribe

The Last Recording Artist, by Jaime Brooks, is a fantastic essay about the birth of radio, Hatsune Miku, Drake, the relationship between artists and commercial product, and—as Brooks themself puts it—"ghostwriters, virtual pop stars, and the world to come."
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted (10 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Jaime uses she/they pronouns now, FYI. I've yet to dig into this essay but I'm excited to do so. I've loved her music for a while, and she previously had two tweet threads that I found very insightful about indie music in the late 00s/early 10s.
posted by Pitachu at 7:07 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

From Jaime's second thread Pitachu posted:
radio's total unwillingness to play rap music until 2016 when the streaming audience got big enough to provide undeniable proof of how much more popular that music is than almost everything that had been getting spins prior is the bigger problem and the bigger story
uhhh did she perhaps mean something more specific, or was she dealing in hyperbole because while there's something to say about radio favouring 'whiter'/'less urban' pop, to say 'total unwillingness' is... quite the stretch!
posted by Pachylad at 7:49 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

This was an excellent read and Jaime puts the whole thing together in such a clear way that it all almost makes sense to me now ('it' being most of modern music). I don't think it's entirely because I'm old and set in my ways, but that music itself is only secondary to the primary income streams of artists or only a way to first get noticed is sad and makes me want to stay within my old person's music even more.

The thing is, tools like Vocaloid can no doubt spin up a new pop song that, technically, sounds just as good as anything ground out over years of practice in dive bars, endless days in a studio and a shit-ton of psychedelics. But music is more than just stringing sounds together in the right order and is just as much about the creator as the creation (or at least their convincingly-created backstory, if you're cynical). That's why I prefer to listen to albums than single tracks and why I love to just relax, turn the volume up and let the music flow through my mind whenever I get the chance. I don't know that I'd feel like doing that for something that doesn't have some kind of journey behind it.
posted by dg at 10:25 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

(My apologies for the misgendering! Hopefully the mods can fix my absentminded pronouning.)
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 3:23 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Done!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 3:51 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

The section on Drake didn't mention the rumor that it wasn't a Vocaloid but Drizzy himself on Heart on My Sleeve and Not a Game, which seems on brand for an artist with an understanding of his popularity and how the Internet plays into it.

Also I hate the writer's house style of writing out years as words. My copy editor heart wants to slap their hands as they type it out instead of using numbers.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:12 AM on May 17

Interesting essay. (funny Drake gossip I guess, I don't follow his career closely).

So far, Vocaloid + some AI with careful human editing might make a lame pastiches of pop stars (probably more perfect soon enough), but since forever there have been human vocal imitators and cover bands creating funny pastiches of pop stars (even me). So far AI is very good at chopping up data into a stew, but which still needs someone to throw it in the pot and turn up the heat (and uh see if it's edible). Gettin' AI to do some human-style editing is a big next hurdle, but I can see it now as a sound-mixing tool.

I'd like to experiment more with something like Vocaloid, but for me it would need to be an affordable consumer app. Til then, Miku Stomp.
posted by ovvl at 5:04 PM on May 17

I have not much to add except to say this is a great article, well found and good post.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:49 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

I think it'd be worth looking at VTubers (video content creators, usually on YouTube and Twitch, who stream & record with an animated avatar of themselves rather than a camera). Many of them, especially the Japanese corporate ones from companies like Hololive, are also idols - with music releases being a huge part of their business. They do "tour", but only virtually via a screen - unless the VTuber also has a public profile for a different reason (e.g. Alejandro Saab/CyYu, who is also a voice actor), you never see their IRL self. No one is actually meant to know who you are in real life - to the point that even saying publicly that you've auditioned for a VTuber company is an immediate disqualification.
posted by creatrixtiara at 10:04 PM on May 18

(plenty of indie VTubers exist, including those that do music and those with pretty big followings, though some of the ethics around privacy are pretty similar. I do PNGTubing which is a kinda lo-fi version and it's linked to my IRL stage name (and Mefi name), so the privacy thing isn't as big for me. But otherwise it's very much a case of 'you'll never know the voice behind the avatar '.)
posted by creatrixtiara at 10:07 PM on May 18

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