I have known about Vocaloids for a long time now but have never paid much attention to it. I am not a fan of the singing then and not a fan now either.
For those who do not know what a “Vocaloid” is, it was started by a Japanese company in 2004 as a voice synthesizing application. Basically a singer will provide the singing voice and it would be anime-fied into a singing character. Users will provide their own music and lyrics and the application will sing it for them. It became very popular, first within Japan and then overseas and has since evolved to cover multiple languages. Mandarin, in 2012 with the coming of the character “Luo Tianyi 洛天依”.
What I don’t like about vocaloids is that the songs sound weird. I can’t really put it to words since I am practically music illiterate but it just felt wrong in many parts of the songs I had listened to. Perhaps there is a lack of emotion. Perhaps because the recorded voice didn’t translate well into an arbitrary song. It is a jarring experience listening to the songs. Well in some cases, it was hilarious.
Hence I never paid attention to it, until now.
While letting a playlist run on music.baidu.com a couple days ago, I came across a very beautiful song titled “韶华与君同” by a singer named “想想”. It was used as a promotional song for a Chinese calendar in 2015. How non-mainstream can that get?! It took a bit digging but I found that it was a reworded song that was originally named “月夜秋” and the song was created (you guessed it!) and sung first by the vocaloid “洛天依”. It didn’t take much after that to discover a world of music that I was ignorant of.
So now, what I like about vocaloids is that it created an entirely new sub-culture of music production. With the power of the application and the internet, song writing is no longer limited to studios and corporations. Songwriters can now put out songs and have vocaloids sing it for them. It doesn’t matter if the song sounds weird. What matters is that the songs have just made it from paper to a music file somewhere online. And people get to listen to it.
Herein comes the next part of the ecosystem. The vocaloid singing might be bad, but it is still good enough to deliver the beauty of the written word. This becomes the honey that attracts another hidden gem in the online community, people who sing for fun, internet fame and perhaps a chance to emerge from the shadows of the internet to get into mainstream commercial music. These people started doing covers of the new vocaloid songs, and then covers of each others’ covers. Eventually they start doing originals and become artistes in their own right.
And the quality is astounding, to the point I am wondering why these people aren’t singing for a living, at least on the scale of mainstream singers. (Actually some of them already did.)
To these artistes, keep up the good work! 加油!
I just wish China will open up their networks and consider us overseas Chinese. It is not possible (at least I haven’t found a way) at the moment to show the proper support for these artistes outside of China, other than bumping the “listen count”.
韶华与君同 (Original) – Reworded version of 月夜秋
Special mention to the following singers for making my day:
HITA, 乌拉喵，想想 and all their many collaborators.
This music community exists in other languages as well.
For Japanese, check out NicoNico.
For English, looking at YouTube is a no brainer.