I understand that there are a lot of people who legitimately just aren’t informed, since the nature of Vocaloid is such a complex thing that makes it hard to describe in one paragraph, but it just really irritates me when I see people pass off Vocaloid as “some early weeb thing” or “something people only like for a cute moe girl”. And I’m not going to lie, a lot of Vocaloid’s popularity (and, generally, how people get into it) has to do with the picture of the anime-styled characters, and there is indeed a fanbase that’s dedicated to the characters, making headcanons and fanart and even ships. But its purpose was for popularity. That’s not what the phenomenon actually is.
Vocaloid is an indie music community. At its core, that’s what it is. It’s deeply entrenched in Japanese media, and it uses false voices instead of real singers, but in effect, it is nothing more than an indie music community. The songs aren’t released en masse by some phantom company to make the characters popular; they’re made by individual producers making their own music and their own style, all around the world. I have to emphasize that “all around the world” part; the collective understanding of Vocaloid and its fanbase has caused me to have more communication with non-English speakers in one year than I had in 15.
You don’t have to use it as a fake replacement for a real singer. You can experiment with things that are much easier to do in a false engine than with a human singer, like in Chiitan’s Francium, which milks the artificial singer nature to its full extent; you can make them sing impossibly fast, like in cosMo’s Sadistic.Music∞Factory. Without worrying about what “worth” it’ll have, you can make a silly song about vegetable juice (Lamaze-P, PoPiPo) if you so feel. Or you can make a 16-minute song based heavily on traditional Korean music, with a quarter of it being effective ad-lib (The Thousand-Year Poem, ProgreseeU). In fact, the author’s comment (translated by porifra) is very telling:
one of the most criticisms vocaloid receives is the question how is vocaloids different from idol music with autotune plastered all over it and I wrote this song in order to provide my answer to this question.at least I wanted to show that such songs like these can come from the vocaloid music, that unlike the popular music where marketability cannot be ignored, vocaloid genre is where you can really practice the music that you want.
in that stream of thought, this song is a song with sole emphasis on artistic value ignoring any marketability or popularity.
It is a 16 minute song depicting a person’s life through change in season and time in 4 different phases, and in accordance with the nature of the song almost all the instruments in the world was used and thus is very grand.
And even if you’re doing mainstream-style songs, which aren’t to be downed either (especially as their rate is increasing lately with more fledgling producers wanting to try their hand at music they like), the beauty of it is that you can buy a Vocaloid for around $170-200 (depending on which you buy), install it in your computer, and start making Vocaloid songs now. You don’t need to have connections to find a good singer with the time and ability to work with your style. You can make songs hoping to advance your career and move on as soon as you’ve found a niche and secure singer, like how ryo of supercell made Vocaloid songs until he became a huge name in J-pop. Or you could already be an established producer in the industry who’s using Vocaloid to do music on the sides, like kaoling (Ohkoshi Kaori, currently a producer for Kantai Collection), who was a game producer before she made songs like One Who Falls at the Name of God. It’s accessible music-making, for anyone, in control of anyone, and what’s more you have an audience that will be willing to give your work a try because they recognize something in it.
When people go to Vocaloid concerts to see the projected character singing prerendered vocals, they’re not stupid; they know the character is fake and isn’t making any “effort” in singing. They’re there because they like the illusion. Even if they’re not consciously thinking it, they like this collective entity of a character that had its image created collaboratively by independent musicians, artists who wanted to illustrate those musical themes, and other kinds of artistic expressionists who contributed. It’s the realization of the phenomenon in an almost tangible form. So when I hear people dismiss it as “just a cute, fake voice and some catchy songs”, that’s when I - as both a fan and an occasional producer - feel bothered. You don’t have to like it or get into it; I get it if it’s not within your tastes, but at least please have some respect for the people who work hard within it.