Imagine a digital girl ambitious to become a true popstar. Now remember Japan exists. Exactly, there you have it: virtuality has become reality. Her name is Hatsune Miku and she has millions of flesh-and-bone fans. The fact that she does not write her own material can hardly be called surprising, as neither Rihanna, Beyoncé, or Cardi B do so. There are, however, a couple of other artistic peculiarities with this digital singer.
[ Hatsune Miku is home in every genre ]
Hatsune Miku was initially a by-product of Yamaha’s Vocaloid software with which one could render vocal music through digital composition. Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita built an extensive sound bank that enables anyone to write song with or for Miku. This resulted in a repertoire of over a million songs, ranging from professional compositions to amateur fan art. In that respect, she can be perceived as a 21st-century read/write object, rather than a read only object.
For marketing purposes, Miku was given a back story and a characteristic anime appearance (including her distinctive turquoise twintails). She gained fame at the age of sixteen back in 2007 and stopped ageing since; the Faustian dream of any teen idol. By now, still at the age of sixteen, she has collaborated with Pharrell Williams and opened for Lady Gaga. She will always, however, remain more of a medium than that she is an authentic artist due to the nature of her game.
[ Hastune Miku live in 2016 ]
While the production-side of her artistic practice thus relies on a DIY hobbyist activity, her live shows are of a different calibre. She only features in megalomanic shows as a hologram surrounded by a widely diverse yet hysterical crowd. Unlike “real artists” — sorry Miku — she never forgets her words, never sings out of tune (unless you want her to), has enough repertoire to give a year-long concert, could in theory perform at multiple places at once, is never late, does not tire, and does not need any toilet breaks. To make the concert more compelling a live band provides a human touch to the event, yet her virtuality is emphasised throughout her performance.
Her name is comprised of first (初 hatsu), sound (音 ne), and future (ミク miku), aiming at what she stands for. As a post-modern singing machine she performs her own digitality and forms the optimal pop star in a music industry that revolves around supply and demand. The supply is now provided by those who are in demand of mechanically sounding J-Pop, saturating a market-driven approach to popular music. On the other hand, Miku is the most democratic artist thus far, complete with personalised lyrics. Even though she may never grow old, Hatsune Miku truly is the first sound of the future, one wherein digital media allow us all to be blue-haired pop-stars.