Hatsune Miku isn't a conventional pop star. She's a computer-generated character that comes to life when someone uses the Vocaloid synthesizer application that bears her name and voice. Established acts like Japanese indie pop group The Aprils have recorded tracks with her. Scores of people dress up as her at anime conventions. She performed on stage at Nokia Theatre in July. Tomorrow night her live concert performance in Sapporo screens at the Rave 18 movie theater in Westchester.
Miku software has spawned a DIY music and art phenomenon. (Sadly, it's not yet available in the U.S.) Bedroom producers give Miku her songs, and artists from across the globe have fine-tuned her look and given her stories. The results are spread far and wide through video sharing services. And so, below, we've counted down five of the coolest Miku projects to arise from the fan community.
5. "Ultimate Miku World"
"Ultimate Miku World" is a duet between Miku and Stephanie Yanez, who performs frequently at L.A. clubs and at anime conventions across the country. The video is from a concert event place inside the virtual world TinierMe. Both the human and synthesized singers appear as Selfy characters -- the avatars that TinierMe users adopt when they enter -- for this promotional event.
"Ultimate Miku World" shows how you can work with both live and programmed vocals to create music. Earlier this year, I talked to both Yanez and guitarist/producer Polo about the evolution of the track and the difficulties involved with working with Vocaloid software.
4. "Alice in Musicland"
"Alice in Musicland" is a 12-minute Vocaloid opera based on Alice in Wonderland. It was created by OSTER-project, whose work with the software has become quite popular. Though Miku is the star of this video, it features several other Vocaloid characters, making it a good way to familiarize yourself with the range of voices that are available to use. There's another version of the same video on Niconico.com, the U.S. version of Nico Nico Douga. Watch that if you want to see the reaction from fans.
3. "Love Is War"
Supercell is one of the biggest names in the Vocaloid fan community. The group, which features composer ryu and a revolving cast of visual artists, has created some of the biggest hits for Miku, including "World Is Mine" and this one, "Love Is War." This is Miku's chance to rock out and features artwork from manga artist Shirow Miwa. Supercell has become a mini-phenomenon unto itself and the group's songs and artwork are often remixed on video sharing sites.
2. "Rollin' Girl"
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Much of the work you'll find within the world of Hatsune Miku is collaborative. One or more people will work on the production while others work on the illustrations and animation portion of the video. This clip for "Rollin' Girl" is a gorgeous example of the fan collaborations. Producer Wowaka created the song, while Akiakana provided the illustrations and Yama_Ko animated it.
1. "Ievan Polkka"
This video helped launch Miku's success. "Ievan Polkka" is a Finnish song that's come in and out of popularity since the 1930s. In the mid-'00s, the "Loituma Girl" video, featuring a character from the anime series Bleach spinning a leek in time to a more recent iteration of the song, became a viral hit. It spawned many remixes and alternate versions. This early Miku video, which features a Vocaloid cover version created by Otomania, is derived from that meme.