May 17, 2016
Seeing a singing hologram is weird, but not quite as weird as you might think.
Hatsune Miku isn’t real, at least not in the way that Tupac or Selena were real. She’s an instrument, one that anyone can purchase and use, and because of that, she has inspired creativity in fans around the world. She is, in a sense, the triumph of the democratization of music; you don’t have to be a pro to have access to her voice, you just have to have a computer and some ideas. Her fans have built a community, one large enough that Miku can hit the road with her Vocaloid friends and have people fork over money to see the 0s and 1s that compose her perform onstage.
The whole thing is weird because it feels so normal. Hatsune Miku, when she performs, is like pretty much every other pop star in existence, minus the whole not being hindered by needing to breathe or relax or consume food or sleep. She dances and she sings and she points to the crowd, and everyone goes along with it, waving their glowsticks to the music, totally cool with the fact that she has not a pound of flesh nor a drop of blood to her name.
And as mentioned above, she wasn’t alone. There’s a whole world of Vocaloids out there, and the fans who show up for these things know this world, so none of the performers onstage have to introduce themselves; one minute Miku has disappeared into the ether; the next, Rin and Len are onstage crushing it.
Truth be told, Rin and Len were damned close to stealing the show, their performance of “Remote Control” being the first real push of what this type of performance could be.
And that’s the thing: When you really think about it, this show could be so much weirder. You have performers that aren’t restricted by things like science and gravity; they could literally “do anything” onstage because they’re not encumbered by human restrictions. But for the most part, the programming has them playing it straight, moving across the stage like any pop star with a human body would do.
But this Rin and Len duet? They’re interacting not only with each other onstage, but with text that flies around them. They have to move around to not get in the way. This is a thing that would be really, really difficult to replicate in real space.
That’s why, maybe, the best moment of the show was when Miku sprouted wings and began to float onstage. At last she was doing more than just trying to be human, and she was far the better for it. If you’re going to put a character that isn’t real onstage, go all out: Have her sprout a tail, let her sing while on fire, make her do physically impossible dances.
But that’s probably in the future somewhere. Vocaloids are the great blank canvas for creative, both musically and visually. Will they ever become a force here in the States? Maybe, on a long enough timeline, in a version of the music industry that isn’t so cutthroat, perhaps.
It would be cool if that was a thing that happened, because this was way more engaging and way less morally questionable than any of the “let’s put a dead celeb back onstage” ideas I’ve seen floated around. Unless there was a statement in their will that says, “I’m totes cool with you manipulating my image for fun and profit,” let the dead rest. They had their time, and the world was better for it. Why chain ourselves to the past when we can use the tools of today to create something new?
And then maybe get people to pay us to take it on the road.
So, How Was the Opener? I didn’t know how much I needed an M83/Porter Robinson/Anamanaguchi tour until last night. Anamanaguchi’s brand of chiptune rock might not be for everyone, but I would struggle to think of a better human opener for this show. Their songs were hooky and impressive and the crowd were totally into them, which is about the best you can get when it comes to the opening act.
Personal Bias: If someone asks me if I want to go see a singing hologram, the answer is always going to be yes.
The Crowd: Not as much cosplay as you might have thought. Lots of synchronized glowstick motions. A lot of awesome dads doing the Lord’s work by taking their kids to see the singing hologram.
Overhead in the Crowd: More than one “I Love You, Miku!” moment after she’s disappeared from the stage, which is both cute and a little odd when you think about it.
Random Notebook Dump: I really, really wanted to work a lip-syncing joke into this post.