The Vocaloid Army, Or How I Learned To Love The Machine

Before I played TinierMe, I had never heard of a Vocaloid before. I remember looking at people’s trade lists and seeing that they’d written, “My Vocaloid items are never for trade!” and wondering what in the heck that meant. Now, after playing TinierMe for more than a year, I finally know what a Vocaloid is. Technically speaking, it’s a Japanese singing synthesizer that eliminates the need for a vocalist. You decide on the melody and lyrics, and once you’ve added that, the Vocaloid program generates the singing for you using previously recorded vocals from a singer or voice actor. There are many different Vocaloid  programs, and each has a specific voice type as well as a character created for it. For example, the most popular is Hatsune Miku, the first Vocaloid. She’s so popular that she’s actually become a pop idol in her own right.

The way I see it, Vocaloids are like a combination of Garageband and Gorillaz. They can be utilized to create music in a studio environment, or they can be idolized as pop singing sensations and even perform concerts. Some musicians such as Michael Stipe have stated that the idea is brilliant because it would enable a current musician to preserve her or his voice and continue making new music despite the ravages of time. As for me, I’m not so sure. Preserving great voices is a good thing, and I quite like the way that Garageband allows novice musicians the chance to create something special on their home computers without having to access a full band or studio. But when it comes to vocals, I’m a bit of a purist, probably due to the fact that I’m a singer. I like the energy of live vocals as well as the little hitches and breaths that make each singer’s performance unique. Whitewashing all of that away into a smooth and seamless computer-generated voice takes a bit of the fire out of the music for me.

And yet, I now have two songs in my music library that were created using Vocaloids, and I really love them. They crept up on me, as I found them by chance, and when I purchased the first I didn’t even know that it was a Vocaloid until I tried to look up information on the artist. Turns out that both songs feature Megurine Luka, the third Vocaloid, and the one billed as the “cool, somewhat mysterious” character. It makes sense that Megurine Luka would be the one to show me the Vocaloid light. I kept listening to bits of Hatsune Miku’s songs and not really loving any of them because she’s just too precious for my tastes. But since my two purchases I’ve gone on YouTube and discovered several Megurine Luka songs that I rather enjoy. And that’s what I’m sharing with you today, little earbuds. The first is a jaunty little tune called “Hurt,” and I love the opening harpsichord, then the bouncy strings paired with the dark lyrics:

The second is a song called “Love Is War” that has been covered by many different Vocaloids, but I like Megurine Luka’s version the best:

And so I’ve come to terms with the Vocaloid army. I can enjoy both the electronic, somewhat robotic vocals of the Vocaloids as well as good ol’ fashioned singers singing. As long as neither outweighs the other and all options are available to me, I say the more, the merrier when it comes to music.


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