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October Freewrite- To commemerate the beginning of a new era.
(A couple notes before you read this essay: Most of the caps-lock in this essay is done simply for stylistic purposes, and most of these terms/names can be spelled in normal case, but go with all caps if you're ever in doubt. Also, there are a lot of VOCALOID songs that would be deemed "Not Safe For Work" (not to worry though, I didn't include any in this essay unless your mind wants to interpret them that way). Finally, you probably won't be able to really read this at school... not much I can do about the YouTube ban though. I instead encourage you to read this at home (and cue this getting no comments). I'm including these here because I don't know where in the essay I could put them.)
Imagine this- you're watching the news (I'm willing to bet very few of my classmates ever actually do this, but you're supposed to be pretending) and one of the standard stories that can best be described as "random thing that isn't really important but someone on staff found it interesting so we're telling you it anyway" comes on. This video is shown:
Possible key phrases include "virtual pop star", "Crypton Future Media" and "hologram concert", with the most important thing being a name: Miku Hatsune (and the most importantly lacking thing being the words "supercell" and "ryo"- both of which would have actually given credit to the person who actually wrote the song). It's one of the (surprisingly common, given that the event happened in March in 2010) news stories about the Miku 39's Giving Day concert in Japan. Now in the story, you're probably left wondering why they just talked about a teal-haired singing hologram, and in reality, you're probably wondering why an event that happened in March of 2010 is relevant to "the beginning of a new era". It's relevant because Miku isn't actually a hologram, she's a mascot for a voicebank that runs on the VOCALOID software (specifically the VOCALOID2 engine) (and if you want to get really technical about it, the concert was really just a pre-rendered video of a 3D model of Miku (and Luka Mugurine, Rin Kagamine, and Len Kagmine (all of which are also VOCALOID2 voicebanks made by Crypton), but only one of them has been mentioned in a news report as far as I know... and the broadcaster thought that Luka was Miku. Needless to say, we had a field day with that one (even though it was in French)... but I'm getting off topic.) dancing projected onto a glass screen). In this essay, I'll be talking about what VOCALOID is, giving some pointers on not making a fool out of yourself in the fandom (internet(?) term meaning "all the people who are fans of a certain thing") and some of my favorite producers (fan term meaning "someone who is really well known for and good at songs using VOCALOID or UTAU" (the difference between the two will be explained later)).
First, before I tell you anything else, I have to tell you what VOCALOID is (and, as I feel I must do about once an essay, I'll clear up a common misconception: It is not an anime. If you want to survive in the fandom that is the most important thing you need to understand). VOCALOID is a Windows-exclusive program that provides a life-like synthesis of human singing, in one of many languages (currently only English, Japanese (the language Miku is designed for), and Korean are 100% supported, but Spanish voicebanks are definately on the way, along with Chinese, but they seem to be further behind than the Spanish ones).
Second, something that really doesn't serve any purpose but making me feel better: Pointers on how to not look like an idiot in the fandom. Yes, I know that wording is harsh, but if you do the things I tell you not to do, that's pretty much what people will think you are. Now, on to the list:
Don't trust the wiki. You know the way your teachers always tell you not to use Wikipedia as a resource because anyone can edit it? It's the exact same thing with the wiki. Anyone can edit it, and many times the information is false. It's pretty good for song links and official art though.
Get on VocaloidOtaku.net, VO for short. This site is pretty much the hub of the English fandom, and the place to go if you want to have good conversations about VOCALOID/UTAU related things, have up-to-date, reliable news and information, or find a sense of community within the fandom, even if you don't ever actually contribute. But you should probably stay out of the "Teh BR⑨ L⑨UNGE" until you understand how things function everywhere else on the forums. Even then, lurking for a couple weeks is recommended. And whatever you do, don't assume that just one of the mods or a handful of members are "the weird one(s)". We're all wierd in our own special way. And really perverted.
Don't trust YouTube people. Often they are trolls, misinformed, or... overly invested. And if they're ignorant on how offensive certain topics can be (look up "vocaloid cantarella english sub" on YouTube to see these kinds of people, I dare you... the worst part is, it's actually a good song once you are able to understand that what the narrator does is horribly wrong and would likely land an actual person in jail), please try to inform them. I know it seems hard, but some of the stuff I've seen could potentially trigger someone pretty bad, and the people saying that need to understand that there is some stuff that you simply do not joke about. Someone stop me now, I'm getting so off-topic...
Don't feed the trolls. I'm sure you've heard this before if you've been on the internet for a while. Basically, internet trolls try to aggravate people simply for the sake of getting a reaction. Sometimes this can be entertaining and produce good things (like the UTAU Tei Sokune (in my opinion anyway, there's plenty of people who don't like her)), other times they're just annoying. I haven't had enough experience with trolls to tell you how to deal with them, but I will give you all this bit of advice: The large majority of them are on YouTube.
VOCALOID can be whatever you want it to be. They have no set personalities, no set world, no set powers and weaknesses- they can literally be anything and everything, the only limit being what someone can do with lines, words, notes, or all three. This may be the most important concept of the fandom, and, unfortunately, can be the hardest to grasp. Basically, the VOCALOIDS are actors, and each song, story, picture, and video is them playing out a part. Take Gakupo Kamui (a VOCALOID2 voicebank made by Internet Co., Ltd; also known by the product name Gackpoid) for instance. In the song "Go Google It" (also known as "ggrks") by aamin-P, he "plays" a guy who tries in many (and I mean many, he's incredibly persistent) to flirt with a girl "played" by Luka (sometimes being rather perverted and/or creepy in pursuit) who acts aggressive to hide that she likes him back (as wierd as it sounds, the behavior of Luka's character is actually typical a common character type in Japanese animation (anime), comic books (manga), and video games (as far as I know, there's no seperate name for Japanese video games) known as "tsundere"). In "The Gamblr" by ROY (which, by the way, is an original song, incase you started thinking of the Kenny Rogers song), however, he "plays" a man who either puts quite a bit of passion into poker, has a gambling addiction, is literally playing a game of life or death, or some combination of the three, and looses the game in the end. I'm sure you can find examples of parallels in theme, seriousness, and musical style for every VOCALOID.
Learn the difference between UTAU, VOCALOID, and fanmade VOCALOIDS. UTAU is freeware and people can make their own voicebanks (Teto Kasane and Koto Fuuga are examples of Japanese UTAUs, Camilla Melodia and Tsugomori are examples of Overseas (basically, made by someone not from Japan) UTAUs). Fanmade VOCALOIDS are... exactly what they sound like. A character you or another person made up that is supposed to represent something in the program or the fandom. A few fanmades based on Crypton VOCALOIDS have been officially accepted by the company and have official merchandise, but no voicebank of their own (and, repeat after me: they are never getting one. None of them. I have no idea why this is such a hard concept for people to understand.)- Neru Akita (based on Miku; represents trolls in the fanbase), Haku Yowane (based on Miku; represents people who create bad songs with Miku (like being off-key, horribly flat, etc.)), Miku Hachune (based on Miku; got her origins from this video, pretty much the big thing to launch Miku (and VOCALOID in general) into the "spotlight"), Meiko Sakine (a younger version of the voicebank MEIKO, which runs on the first version of the engine), and Tako Luka (based on Luka; based on the concept of a "character item", an item that the fans associate a VOCALOID with, typically a food (ex. Miku's is a leek, Len's is a bannana), but other things have been character items (ex. MEIKO's character item is sake (a kind of Japanese wine made with rice), and Rin & Len share the "Road-Roller", which is basically a yellow and black steam roller at least twice their size)). Other fanmades like Mikuo (based on Miku; Male version of Miku) and the other genderbends, Dell Honne (based on Len; basically Dell is to Len as Haku is to Miku), and the very first annoyloid Kagami Kawiine (design based on Miku/voice reportidly an extreme edit of Gakupo; makes fun of badly made fanmades... and weeaboos... and "rabid" fans who don't seem to fully realize the VOCALOIDS are actually computer programs... and people who type in caps lock... and people who type in chat speak constantly... and probably pitchbends. Wow she covers a lot of bases.) And then there are fanmade UTAUs, but I'll probably do a seperate essay on UTAU another day, so I won't go into that now.
People who pirate, pitchbend, recolor, or steal art are looked down upon, and maybe tracers... I'm not really sure where the distinction between "homage" and "stealing" is. Basically, these are all forms of thievery , and while not all of these will get you in legal trouble if you're caught, all of these will cause you to lose most, if not all, of the respect the fandom had for you.
Don't ignore VOCALOIDS for stupid reasons. If you ignore the VOCALOID because you don't like their voice, that's perfectly fine. If you ignore the VOCALOID for not being cute enough, being too masuline or feminine or young or old or whatever in appearence, or for the language they are designed for, those are stupid reasons.
Listen to actual songs sung by a VOCALOID before you judge them. Let me tell you a couple stories. Once upon a time, the VOCALOID fandom was looking forward to a new voicebank to be published by Internet Co.: Lily. When the demos came out, everyone was blown away by how she sounded, and we were all excited. Internet Co. decided to release a 30 day trial version of the voicebank. When people downloaded this trial and made songs with it or listened to the songs others had made, they found the songs to be of much lower quality than the demos, even in the hands of expierenced VOCALOID users. And then when the actual voicebank was released, it was higher quality than the trial but didn't sound like the demos. I'm not quite sure what happened with the trial being lower quality than the actual voicebank, but the discrepencies with the demos was caused by the magic of autotune. You'd think that the fandom would learn it's lesson, something like "don't judge a VOCALOID by their demos", right? Fast forward to the official announcement conference for VOCALOID3. Among other things, there was a demo of the work-in-progress Korean VOCALOID. All we got was a song in Korean entitled "I=Fantasy", the name of the voice provider (Kim Tahi), and the name of the company responsible for the voicebank (SBS Artech), but we were all happy and excited. The demo showed the nameless VOCALOID being so much more lifelike than her predecessors on the previous engine, and we all got so excited. However, we later learned that SBS Artech had committed a worse crime than Internet Co.: they had mixed the voice of the VOCALOID (known by then to be named SeeU) and Kim Tahi in an attempt to make the "demo" sound more realistic. Not only did this give us a false impression of SeeU, but the VOCALOID3 engine itself.
The other thing I'll talk about is what is at the very core of the fandom: the music! The wide variety of producers and the versatility of the voicebanks means there's something for almost everyone, but I'll try to only talk about a few Producers in depth so people will actually read this. For the people who are looking for songs with a good beat and lyrics that are easy to connect to (once you find the translations anyway), I recommend my personal favorite producer: EasyPop (a.k.a. BETTI). Staples of his music include auto-tune (the only thing that remains an absolute constant), fast tempos, and a variety of topics (which I tried to show in these example videos). The VOCALOIDS he works with are Miku, Luka (seems to be his primary VOCALOID), and Gumi (another VOCALOID2 made by Internet Co.; also known by the product name Megpoid). The art for most of his songs is drawn by Kiki, and typically the singer Umi is the first person to write lyrics for an English cover of his songs (I'm not sure, however, if this is some sort of an official thing or just a really freaky coincidence). The songs showcased are, in order, "Happy Synthesizer" (a duet between the Nico Nico Douga (Japanese video hosting site; often abbreviated to NND) user 96neko and the VOCALOID2 voicebank Len Kagamine (yet another Crypton VOCALOID) (an English translation can be found here)), "My Room Disco Night" (a video of NND users Sasa, Rere, Nyamo, and Wata dancing (the cover used is by Nyamo and the coreography is by Rere) (Umi's English cover can be found here)), "Cheap Time Disco"(an English dub of the song by YouTube user MewKiyoko), and "Kiss and Smile" (a YouTube reprint of the original from the Japanese video site Nico Nico Douga) (the last one deviates from the musical style of the others quite a bit, but it's still my personal favorite).
If you enjoy this kind of music, then a few other Producers you may like are DixieFlatline, OSTER Project, and SAMFREE. If you are one of the metal fans at this school (and there seems to be quite a few of you), then UtsuP will probably be more your type. I don't really listen to a lot of metal, so I can't really say what sets them apart from other metal artists, both professionals and VOCALOID users, other than that their music tends to have extremely dark topics, which I hope I showed properly in my chosen samples, "Adult's Toy" (a song sung by Rin about child abuse), "Classroom Demon" (a song sung by Gumi about bullying and (possibly) suicide).
If you enjoyed those, some other Producers you might like are Yuyoyuppe (please don't ask me to try to pronounce that name or spell it from memory) and Caz. The third and final producer I've chosen to spotlight specializes in a style that I haven't heard outside of VOCALOID music, ethnic music (basically, it sounds kind of similar to folk music... if you haven't figured it out by now I'm horrible at describing things). All three songs are written by Intro-P and sung by KAITO (a Crypton VOCALOID running on the first version of the software) (the third one is a duet with Miku). The first two ("Rabbit of Inaba" and "Susano'o") are based off of Japanese myths, and the third one is a spooky yet lighthearted song by the title of "Crazy Clown". It doesn't fit in too well too well with the other two, but I decided to throw it in there because it fit the Halloween spirit.
Unfortunately, ethnic music isn't commonly uploaded, so I can only give a few individual songs as suggestions: DATEKEN's "Spinning Song", Shinjou-P's "Pane Dihira" (this is another KAITO song, and a great example of how the same VOCALOID could sound really different depending on who's working the technology), and hinayukki & Osechi's "Paired Up Wintry Winds".
And there you have it. My basic explanation of VOCALOID, some songs, and how not to cause me second-hand enbarassment when interacting with other fans. Hopefully I have helped you understand the appeal of synthesized singers a little bit better, and you try to worm your way into the lovely collection of people that make up the English-speaking VOCALOID fandom. Now, as a treat to you all and to prove that English VOCALOIDS do exist (I just know someone's going to doubt that... the reason I only put Japanese songs so far is because the Japanese VOCALOIDS beat out the English VOCALOIDS in popularity at least 6 to 1, and that's just me being generous), have this little sample that VocaTone and PowerFX put out of their jointly produced VOCALOID Oliver. He's singing an alternate version of The Addams Family theme song with PowerFX's other VOCALOIDS Big Al and Sweet Ann. If you want to hear Oliver's voice clearly, you'll have to listen a few times, but trust me, it's worth it. Happy Halloween everyone!