BY: AL DONATO
Hatsune Miku, known as the world’s most famous virtual diva, hails from Japan. Specifically, she’s the brainchild of Crypton Future Media, a mascot for a voice bank.
Vocaloid is a singing synthesizer program developed by Yamaha Corporation a decade ago. There are many different voice banks created by pre-recorded sounds from voice actors, but none have reached the heights of Miku, who’s become the face of the Vocaloid cultural phenomenon.
Many attribute her popularity to how easily amateur collaboration blurred lines between fandom and industry. Within days of her inception, fanart and songs were being produced by Miku enthusiasts, some successful enough to become chart-topping hits. Rising video sites like Youtube and Niconico made it easy to share Vocaloid creations, and further spurred her rise to online stardom. The sheer mass of content being produced far outnumbered anything by anyone in the music scene, and her lack of personality made it easy for content creators to project personalities onto her – in one video, she may be a ditzy leek-spinning girl, but in another she’s heartbrokenly self-aware that she only exists inside computers and belts out a swan song before deletion.
In the west, Vocaloid adoration was mainly relegated to the geekier corners of the Internet, but in recent years she’s gained prominence as a legitimate musician, one good enough to open for Lady Gaga in coming May.
Hatsune Miku is pop music perfected. Unlike conventional fleshy musicians, she can’t behave unreasonably or do anything that her producers, corporate sponsors and fans don’t want her to do. Her main surface narrative co-exists with multiple fan fiction versions spanning her existence from a sloppily drawn comic to a hologram appearance on Letterman.
For newbies, she seems like the epitome of artifice in music, a grand lie orchestrated to be a cute computer-generated face to more efficiently push products. But consider the personas of our favorite stars. Can anyone be truly sincere if layers of likeability define what their next gig is and hundreds of jobs rely on their projected image?
In a way, Miku exhibits a truth in the cult of celebrity. Without the efforts of her fans, she’s literally no one.