Vocaloid and Me

By bluemist on September 25th, 2012

I actually didn’t start liking Vocaloid since its rise to cultural fame on the summer of 2007. Back then, I was on Team Touhou. Touhou music was actually my first major foray into exploring indie music, meaning music that wasn’t necessarily mainstream nor popular. Touhou music was hyper, cute, and anime-like, yet it has that indie appeal in which I would exclaim “Some non-professional musician did this, and it sounds better than some professionally made music? Where do I sign up?” This was also the year of the modern doujin revolution, where user-generated, non-professional content started rising in quality and in relative popularity. In a way, Touhou proved to me that there is an entirely other world out there I can aurally enjoy, beyond what commercial anime songs may bring, and more importantly, beyond what actually popular songs could deliver. I would begin to question if popularity still matters to me when it comes to my musical taste, and this led me to Vocaloid.

I won’t be until a few months later when I start to discover how good Vocaloid music can be. It was an odd introduction actually, by the form of cover songs. Yup, I didn’t start to fan about original content back then. I was a fan of Vocaloid covers. I am a J-pop listener first and foremost, and so the way electronic voices attempt to sing certain Japanese songs I already know really sounded fascinating to me. That was my initial experience with Hatsune Miku, and my initial playlist would primarily compose of covers.

I am a sentimental-music kind of guy, and most of the J-pop songs I like are of the love song variety. In effect, the Hatsune Miku covers I have are of love songs too. And so by spring of 2008, I started to notice Vocaloid-original content more and more, and I think what completely won me over is this song called Sakura no Ame by halyosy. It wasn’t a love song, but it was a sentimental graduation song. It is tradition on Japanese schools to sing a graduation song, and this song got received rather well, and even performed in some schools. Sakura no Ame was a milestone song, as I realized what untapped potential a mere computer-generated voice can sing and express to me.

The rest is history, and historic for me. The rest of the years would see me slowly diverging to this musical genre almost overwhelmingly. My consumption of mainstream, popular, and even OPM (Original Pilipino Music, our home bred stuff) has been lowered. Touhou music was almost obliterated (sorry), and I became somewhat limited to the OP/ED in anime music rather than listening to character image songs. I have some metrics on my listening behavior through play counts, and a large part of it is Vocaloid. I would start to listen to the Weekly Vocaran, and it has been my staple musical program ever since, discovering new Vocaloid music through there.

I have shared to you some of my choice tracks through the Vocaloid for Valentines series of posts that I have blogged every Valentines season. It’s not all-sentimental for me though. I have my fair share of tracks that placed my fancy from all kinds of musical genres. My personal second monster hit was Just Be Friends by Dixie Flatline. It is a dance track that is so catchy and of such high quality. This song skyrocketed Megurine Luka as a further alternative to Hatsune Miku, with a deeper and more English-viable voice.

My current darling just might be the best Vocaloid voice of all, Megpoid Gumi. Gumi is based on Nakajima Megumi’s voice, and it clearly shows especially with the obvious onslaught of Seikan Hikou covers that spawned from it. Gumi is unbelievably real-sounding when she started, and I used to bid her as the Cover Queen of Vocaloid, with many high-quality covers. But starting with Yowamushi Montblanc and Mozaik Role produced by DECO*27, began the rise in popularity of Gumi as a certified hitmaker. Yowamushi Montblanc was my third monster hit, and it is indeed a monster, because it is my most played song… of all time. Gumi would then sing Shiryokukensa by 40mP, my fourth personal favorite, in which most of my internet avatars is currently based on.

Of course, I could go on and on telling and expressing which songs and voices are my favorites, and we could be here all day, but I’ll stop to focus on another interesting topic about my musical experience, and it kinda relates to the issue of music piracy. I was part of the cassette-tape, CD and mp3 generation as a kid, teen and adult, and I do admit of some gray-area illegal copyings and listenings here and there. But as I stated earlier, I started to question if popularity still matters to me when it comes to music. At some point, I really dropped popular music as a whole. I stopped buying CD albums. Outside of random FM radio listening, I don’t feel the need, or want, to listen to and buy popular music at any major bulk. My time is limited, and with the advent of too much stuff out there, I just tend to like what I like when I like it. As a side effect, I kinda circumvented away from all the piracy mess, because I kinda don’t listen that much anymore anyway.

Doesn’t make sense to make me pay retroactively to stuff I listened to a long time ago right? Weirdly enough, I do… or at least I’m starting to. I am thankful that digital music downloads are now legally available to us in this country, and this is a very, very recent development. I am actually starting to buy tracks now, even retroactively converting my used-to-be pirated copies and replacing it with higher quality+legal music downloads. I may not have much money, but my first mission is to return the favors back to the Vocaloid world by buying specific songs as they become legally available. Remember, while almost all Vocaloid music is free to listen to and download online, because it is made by lesser-known people in non-corporate media environments, a mere dollar worth of support can go a long way. By the way, all the album and song images here are clickable, and will take you to where you can purchase the songs. Please do buy if you like them as I do.

I already started with my CD collections too. As thanks to DECO*27, 40mP and doriko (doriko has my vote for sentimental songs), I started my collection with some of their released albums and singles that I bought when I had that trip to Japan last year. In my opinion, CDs are actually more valuable than digital downloads, in a collector’s-item kind of way. Unfortunately, Japan trips are expensive obviously, as is our weird customs taxations when importing, so my options are limited when it comes to CD buying.

It may be because the voices have anime-like character models, and can appeal to the anime fan in me. It may be because indie music sounds more grassroots, sophisticated, and genuine. It may be because I want to be a part of something viral. Whatever my reasons may be, one thing is significant. Over the five years of Hatsune Miku and its existence, Vocaloid music has completely changed the way I consume and enjoy music. You could say that it is a vital part of my musical life that may never ever fade.


Posted By: thenightsshadow On: September 25, 2012 At: 7:30 pm

I’m rather surprised. I’m still part of the Touhou music section as it stands right now, and I don’t see myself leaving any time. What appeals to me in the Vocaloid systems I find I can do on my own, being a 20-year musician and still going strong.

But I appreciate a different vantage point on it, as it always interested me, but not to the point where I actively sought out songs made by certain Vocaloids.

Posted By: bluemist On: September 25, 2012 At: 9:14 pm

Musical tastes change sometimes, so I guess that’s what happened to Touhou music and me. I still enjoy listening to them, but I do not actively seek newer Touhou-related music, reverse of your preferences.

Another point may be that I can attach myself to the Vocaloid ecosystem more. In terms of video games, for example, Vocaloid has rhythm games which I tend to like, while in the Touhou side I never touched the bullet-hell or even other doujin games.

Posted By: Moonlight Bomber On: September 26, 2012 At: 9:16 am

By the way, did you attend the Vocaloid convention last May?