Many people are not aware about this kind of music or has a too quick idea. That will be my personal point of view (As Non-Japanese) of this new trend.
What is Vocaloid?
This is the definition but we’re not interested about this version. The Vocaloid, we’re going to talk about was developed by Crypton Future Media which is much much popular. (At least in Japan.)
The minimum is to be interested in Japanese culture and especially in Japanese music, to be open-minded and like original stuffs. Also like a bit Animes.
- A lot of people thinks that Vocaloid is not real music because it’s only a computer or it is not a real singer.
- WTF! This is for Anime fans! It’s otaku’s music.
- People thinks Vocaloid is sounds like this or like THE iDOLM@STER. They’re wrong.
All these sentences are half-true/half-false.
OK, it’s not a real singer and what’s the problem? It’s not an argument.
Second everyone can enjoy Vocaloid music it’s just that ‘Otakus’ or ‘Geeks’ knows some things long before common people and Vocaloid can be found only on Internet, that’s why. In Europe if you’re listening to J-Pop or J-Rock, you’re still view as Anime fans, otakus, etc… ridiculous but it takes time for some people to change their mind or their accepted ideas. I must admit that Vocaloid regroup anime character, cosplay, weird dance, kawai and moe stuffs but I’m actually not interested about that. I just found that funny and enjoyable. Look L’Arc, some fangirls are only interested on how Hyde looks but other fans are more interested about the music than the look. It is the same idea I try to explain here.
So don’t judged too quick, learn about the subject then make yours idea, don’t let people or 1st impression choose for you.
The website Nico Nico Douga played a fundamental role in the recognition and popularity of Vocaloid.
Today, we’ve only few singers (synthesized Voice) which are: Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Rin, Len, Megurine Luka, Meiko, Kaito, GUMI and also a Gackpoid!
Hatsune Miku is the icon for Vocaloid World. Her name is a combination of: Hatsu (初, Ne First)(音, and Miku Sound)(未来 Future). Notice she has a tattoo with “01″ draw on her left arm. Other Vocaloid has also their own number.
Vocaloid is born in 2007 with Hatsune Miku.
Why I think it’s interesting:
It’s interesting because it’s DIFFERENT and ORIGINAL far from the regular course of the Majors who tries to impose their musics. Explanation.
First about the music.
Vocaloid is close to the Anisong (Anime Song) genre but it use a more synthesized instruments, vocals included. Vocaloid is not only focus on this genre because each composer has their own preferences so it is not only limited to Anisong, it cover many other genres like Pop/Rock/Techno.
It’s more rare to find Rap, R&B Vocaloid. But it exist, all depends on the composer’s influences.
Some Vocaloid songs sounds like this. I think it’s make more for fun than a real music creation. So we will pass this sort of Vocaloid which is not very interesting.
Here is a song example on how sounds “good” Vocaloid:
livetune feat. Hatsune Miku – Niji iro
(Please click play and continue your reading)
You’ll noticed that Vocaloid songs are enough complex. Guitar, bass, drum, piano, keyboard, sometimes strings like violin and more. Don’t focus only on the vocal, try also to listen to the backtracks.
If you listen carefully to “livetune – Niji iro” (just above) you’ll hear that instruments enter successively: Vocal + Rhythmic Guitar + Piano (the little melody) then come bass drum + keyboard then hit-hat and then bass and snare drum. All these instruments together lead by the vocal make to the song become more and more lively.
Vocaloid songs are most of the time composed by one person behind his/her computer in the bedroom. A person who can be you and me. He compose, write lyrics, arrange, mix all himself. The real challenge is to compose the singing part the closer to human voice. The vocal must sounds clear, natural and not hashed or robotic.
All that is already a real performance so Respect. I particularly like this aspect because it’s not about money like ‘some’ artists under labels. This kind of person write music for music, for people and not for money.
Behind this aspect of self-creation, there is a public and a community who support. Creators can easily show their unfinished work and ask for ideas. All that makes the composition very rich.
If your creation is appreciate, you may become famous in Vocaloid composer’s world !
Popular original songs written by a user would generate illustrations, animation in 2D and 3D, and remixes by other users. This kind of people are called in Japan: Dōjin. A simple example: a user create a song, an other user with graphics skills create the CD cover, a other user with animation skills create the music video, etc …
Here are some example about Dojin graphic works:
I posted a 3D creation a long time ago:
It’s simply art!
Besides some fans also cover the song with real instrument only by ear (No partition or tab)! Virtual band is born!
Like this performer known under “Tissue HiME” (Princess of Tissue), who is a very popular bass player on Nico Nico Douga for playing Vocaloid and Anisong. Her/His gender is still enigmatic, some people says he’s a guy and some other says she’s a girl. A interesting thing is during a interview a journalist ask which bassist influenced him? and she/he replied that she/he started bass by playing songs of tetsu from L’Arc~en~Ciel !
Funny point is her/his outfit is from Suzumiya Haruhi anime, notice that most of the time she/he has different colors of tissue box on her/his side.
According to supercell HP, Tissue HiME is the official bassist of the 1st album.
Most of the time girls cover Hatsune Miku’s songs on vocal rather than playing instruments, one of her is named Gazelle (ガゼル) she was one of Nico’s legendary singers, known for her beautiful cover of Melt. She also sang various covers of Sakamoto Maaya, SPEED, and Sound Horizon. Before she abruptly quit, Gazelle formed a unit with two other popular nico artists, Re: and Sariya-jin called GaRiRe:O (ガリれ：お). Their voices were all wonderfully harmonious with each other. You can find her as a doujin artist under the name of Yanagi Nagi (やなぎなぎ). In fact, she was a doujin participant long before she started singing on Nico. However, Gazelle hasn’t completely discarded her Nico history. She appeared as a secret guest at last summer’s Nico Summer Live, and performed with Sariya and Re:, allowing GaRiRe:O to reunite for one last time. In addition, as a tribute of sorts, she recorded a new version of Melt to be included in ryo’s 3 million anniversary package. She made her major debut by giving her voice to the 1st single of supercell titled “Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari“. She was 148 centimeters tall and was 20 years old in 2007.
An other strong example of Hatsune Mike popularity, a boys-band named absorb has made a song titled “Sakura no Ame” especially “with” Hatsune Miku for the 4th member. They has also collaborated with Tissue HiME on a video clip of supercell song “Melt”.
For last 2 years, Vocaloids has become very popular for cosplayers.
Some are very well done! Here is a great cosplay, filming AND singing performance!
Again, her/his gender is enigmatic… but anyway it’s just super well done.
Nico Nico Douga really became a place for collaborative content creation. It’s not “like” Youtube where people show their stupid or awesome performances, Nico is less individualist, here people get involved.
An other interesting thing is that even if the singer is always the same, everyone has its own style so it’s never repetitive. You’ll find for sure your style in Vocaloid songs.
Vocaloid has its very unique atmosphere, it’s not only about weird or strange music but also a whole community boosted by desire of create great songs. When you’ll get into, you would like certainly to participate too!
Where to find:
Mainly on Nico Nico Douga and Japanese websites. Now we’ve some people who re-post videos from Nico Nico on Youtube to share to Non-Japanese. One few of English websites feature this kind of music. Is it going to change? Yes.
People has not even noticed that Vocaloid is now ranked in Oricon charts and they’re even face to face to Johnny’s and Pop diva.
Originally Voicaloid CDs were release on Amazon.co.jp and iTunes Japan directly to the customers, sometimes without Majors’ help. Creators can also show and sale their work each two year in Tokyo during the biggest Manga/Anime convention, the Comiket. It’s a good test to see your popularity or to become known.
For those which don’t or can’t get CDs, it will stays totally free for download if the composer decides to allow it. Most of the time there are uploaded on Nico for listening purpose like that you could listen to it anytime.
For now this phenomenon touch only Japan so don’t expect to find Vocaloid in Western countries.
A little back in time:
During the last two decades, Japanese popular culture industries have massively penetrated Occidentals markets and their products have been widely disseminated and consumed, this is what we call the ‘Soft Power’ the idea is to influence other country by the cultural. For Japan it’s trough Video games, Animes, Mangas, J-Pop, Drama, etc .. all that to create new images of Japan. (Of course they’ve politic ambitions but I will stop here.)
For Western countries like the U.S. or Europe, it’s more difficult for Vocaloid AND Japanese musics in general to penetrate. East Asia can be more easily influenced because their culture is not too far from Japanese culture.
However specialized online store like CDJapan and Yesasia now sale Vocaloid releases.
Vocaloid is very various because everyone can create its own songs but I’m going to talk about the most famous songs and composers.
supercell and livetune are for me the most famous composers (and also my favorite) on Vocaloid scene, these guys has already made their Major debut. There are also other great composer such as doriko, 19′s Sound Factory, OneRoom.
The Major industry in Japan now recognized Vocaloid as music and it’s a good thing.
Here is the song list I’ve selected for you and that I highly recommend to listen:
- supercell – melt (Hatsune Miku)
- supercell – World is Mine (Hatsune Miku)
- supercell – Black Rock Shooter (Hatsune Miku)
- supercell – Koi wa Sensou (Hatsune Miku)
- livetune – Packaged (Hatsune Miku)
- livetune – FINDER (Hatsune Miku)
- livetune – Niji iro (Hatsune Miku)
- livetune – Light Song (Hatsune Miku)
- livetune – Last Night, Good Night (Hatsune Miku)
- livetune – STROBE NIGHTS (Hatsune Miku)
- Kobayashi Onikisu – Saihate (Hatsune Miku)
- OneRoom – Scene (Hatsune Miku)
- baker – Sound (Hatsune Miku)
- Jimmy Sum P – from Y to Y (Hatsune Miku)
- iroha – Roshin yuukai (Kagamine Rin)
- IOSYS – Miracle∞Gumiracle (GUMI)
My conclusion is that people has a too quick idea of this new kind of music. Vocaloid is a new genre (Born in 2007) that’s why many people are not aware yet.
In my opinion Vocaloid can be considered as High-level music, great music, varied, rich and original. This is quite easy to say but it’s music from fans for fans.
I think once Vocaloid won’t be anymore associate to this idea of “Anime”, common people will start to interest into… but it will take time…
Remember that Vocaloid has to stay with synthesized voice if a human takes the vocal part it won’t be called Vocaloid anymore. That’s why a human couldn’t never popularized Vocaloid. Vocaloid needs a icon and it’s Hatsune Miku. Nobody can copy Mario bros, it’s the same for Hatsune Miku.
Now I’m wondering how long and how many change it will take before it get its deserved popularity…
To finish here is a little documentary of TV Asahi titled:
The World Desires Virtual Songtress 「Hatsune Miku」 – The Rise of Creators
Short documentation about how Hatsune Miku became popular, features interviews with ryo and several other artists.
Please support your favorite artists buy purchasing their CDS:
I hope you’ve now a more clear vision on the subject after have read this article.
Thanks for reading and for your interest!
Feel free to comment, share and enjoy Vocaloid music!