Virtual Singers VS Real Singers – The dilemma of Japanese Singers

My History of Japanese Music
Over the years, we had witnessed major singers like Ayumi Hamasaki, Koda Kumi and Utada Hikaru, reigning over the Japanese music industry. Since their debut in the late 90s, their singles had sold over millions and millions of copies. In my opinion, Japanese music had a different atmosphere from others, I especially like their slow tempo songs, since they feel really calm and soothing, like one of Utada Hikaru’s hit song, titled “First Love.” When I was a kid, I loved it and of cause I’m still loving it now.

When I first watch some anime, needless to say, I was exposed to anime music as well. The openings and endings in particular grasp my interests, and then, I went and downloaded my first ever OP I really liked in my anime music collections, the Shaman King OP, “Over soul” by Megumi Hayashibara. Time went on and through anime, I was able to found out about more epic Japanese musicians like Aqua Timez, Uverworld, Yui and so on. More recently, I’m addicted to KOTOKO and Mami Kawada.


Virtual Anime Bands – Seiyuu/Singer
Fast forward to the present, “virtual bands” began appearing in the market, with some examples being K-ON’s Hokago Tea Time, Angel Beats’s Girls Dead Monster and Idolm@ster. The anime industry, at this point, had begun to realize the power of music. As these “virtual singers” are actually performed by seiyuu themselves, depending on who we are talking about, the quality of their vocals would be mostly a hit and miss.

From my perspective, I had mixed feelings regarding this. Seiyuu, in general is inferior at singing, especially if compared to real genuine singers who had trained themselves at a young and tender age. Unless their skills for singing are close to that of Nana Mizuki’s level, they will just be another group of “tone-machine” singers, only singing the right notes mechanically without any emotions or techniques. Not all are bad though, there are still some equally good seiyuu-singers. One of them is in K-ON itself, Yoko Hikasa (Mio) and is the only real good singer from the show in my opinion. Because she was doing a fair share of vocals, I was quite addicted with K-ON’s music at the early stages, but as Aki Toyosaki (Yui) begun singing more later on, the music in K-ON.. well gets just a little teensy weensy bad.

In the end though, unless the singer is very exceptional like Nana Mizuki, most of these music doesn’t sound refreshing at all. Though there’s no denying it’s large fanbase as a music idol themed anime, AKB0048, which looks like it’s going to another Idol@master, was already announced for release this Spring. Besides, what can I say when K-ON had albums debuted at No.1 in the Oricon chart?


The Boom of Vocaloids
After a while, another a virtual singer begun sweeping through the music industry, completely owning all the other real Japanese singers in the chart, even the likes of Shota Shimizu and Kana Nishino couldn’t compete against this virtual enigma, one we call obviously know by the name of “Hatsune Miku,” a vocaloid character.

What are vocaloids though? They are voice synthesizing programs. A basic rundown of how it works is that first, the lyrics and melodies are inputted. Then, the “character” will sing your composition and wa-la. There are currently three generations of vocaloids: Vocaloids 1, Vocaloids 2 and Vocaloids 3, each generations containing their respective characters. The more famous vocaloids include Hatsune Miku, Megurine Luka and Kagamine Rin/Len.

At this point, virtual musicians are all the rage, especially Miku and her vocaloid friends. Their singles topped the charts consecutively and they even had virtual 3D concerts, through the use of 3D projectors to project a virtual character on the stage, creating life for said virtual characters.


Future of Japanese Artists
In my opinion, I think the future of Japanese artists look bleak. They are still barely okay at the moment but perhaps give a few more years, the Japanese music industry will be overrun by virtual singers all around. With K-ON and Vocaloids snatching all the fame, real singers had lesser chance to reach the top as even the more talented ones are overlooked at this point.

While I like K-ON and Vocaloids, I will much prefer to let real singers had some fighting chance as well, though due to the harsh standards of the music industry, I don’t think that’s going to happen would it? Chart performance aside, vocaloids release new singles as fast as a roller-coaster ride, and with any piece of work inside this huge ass list a possible chart-topper, just how can real singers beat that?


My Overall Opinions
Ultimately, I’ll be supporting real singers. They are trained hard at a young age and worked their way to fame. I’m not saying virtual singers like vocaloids are bad, they are fun and cute but if you are strictly talking about the music, then… meh, I will be picking real singers over virtual singers in that case.

What about you? Which side are you on? Virtual or Real singers?

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This entry was posted by Kai.

18 thoughts on “Virtual Singers VS Real Singers – The dilemma of Japanese Singers

  1. “More recently, I’m addicted to KOTOKO and Mami Kawada.”

    I feel ya one that man. Bro fist!

    Well, when you think really about it (with the expectation of Vocaloid) the virtual or made groups (akin to Anime) are really just people. Also, most Seiyuu are singers or take up the art at least. I am not sure how well people like Rie Kugiyama or Kana Hanazawa would fit that mold, but they do manage to put character CD’s. If for nothing else it is the marketing aspect, then again, look at Sphere; they were a group of Seiyuu; but also music group. FYI: They also have an Anime coming out this Spring.

    As for vocaloid, I do agree with you. A machine is not better than singing than a human, but if you have a talented human that can write algorithms and understands music well – then you can almost get to that point. That said, their will still be no replacing human singers – but with things like vocaloid even though they lack the skills to capture high registrars as people and whatnot – variety is always a good thing. I am not a huge fan of the synthesized music myself, but I do not necessarily hate it either. I support both sides; real singers for the pure talent and work ethic – but virtual for innovation. Probably real singers and artist a bit more…

    Nice article btw (had something similar to it, but I will save it for later).

    • *bro fists* indeed :D

      Yes, it’s just seiyuu singing them but usually in my own opinion, it’s the anime characters gaining more recognition then the seiyuu themselves. Hmmm.. I dunno, I find most seiyuu’s singing average at best, like they only got the basic then bam… they release character CD. Yes, that’s the thing, Sphere’s music is again, pretty much average, but their voice acting is good though.

      Well, even if it’s a talented human who could produce that, the singing is ultimately done by machine, and we all know who should be the bigger man in that department. Hmm so your point is that, it’s good to have variety and something “new.” Truthfully, vocaloid was at the experiemntal stages but now they sort of becoming even more mainstream D: I don’t hate vocaloids either and I love them as characters, they are fun, cute and sexy but if it’s singing.. then… meh. D:

    • Will you be going if there’s going to be one? :D Look like its going to be a fun concert.
      Indeed indeed its true, though vocaloid have their own beauty as well.

  2. I like both actually, but there are some things that virtual singers can do that real singers can’t, and some things that real singers can do that virtual singers can’t. Just the other day I was discussing with my friends how awesome it would be if there was a Vocaloid created using Kotoko’s voice, but we decided that that was impossible. Kotoko’s voice is far too expressive for any program to emulate. On the other hand, no one can sing the notes that Miku sings.

    • Both have it’s ups and downs for sure. Vocaloid created using Kotoko’s voice eh? Nah, it would be possible, just that the voice would lose all emotions when operated in vocaloid’s version, like what you said. And no one can sing so inhumanly and robotically fast as vocaloid can :D

  3. i say heck let them both go at it and i have some songs that are vocoloid songs but the real signers you mention are the ones that used the program so yeah they still find ways of getting around it.

  4. Well the vocaloid program is developing, new versions can add a variety of emotion and sound more human.

    But behind a Vocaloid song there is always a producer, someone who composed the song, played the instruments, wrote the lyrics.

    If you look at it in this perspective, without vocaloid those songs you see on nicodouga and youtube wouldnt even exist. It is too expensive to hire a singer for your songs and most of the time the singer gets all the fame. Some musicians/producers who dont have the voice but still want to produce good music. Vocaloids are mostly an enrichment to music.

    • I see, well I didn’t keep up with Vocaloid too hardcore, at least, I’m not sure how the new generations of vocaloid sounds like, but they are still virtual no?

      Hmmm I see, well, that’s speaking from the producer/musicians point of view. If we’re talking about singers only, then there’s that distinct difference. Producer/musicians is a bit different in that if you learn, then you can do it. For example, if you learn producing music and how it works, or if you learn some musical instruments, you can do them, but if singing, each singer has their own distinctive voice, but vocaloids can’t express that just as well.

      Though you’re right in saying that vocaloids are an enrichment to music, and works best when one can’t hire a good vocalist. To me however, if the voices of vocaloids are so heavily accepted, the concept of music itself is questionable. Back then, inspirational musicians said something like “music is all about the soul.” But what’s so soulful about an autotone, virtual singer?

      • Well they still need a person so its not completly virtual but heavily modified. They are adding new versions and special modifiers like “append-sweet/dark/…/”. It’s far from emulating a talented singer, but give it time. They are focusing on an english voicebanks atm.

        Thats a little shocking to hear… I guess composing something like “Ode to Joy” is simple learning, so everyone who understands music could have written the notes for it? I think it was the genious of Beethoven that brought Schiller’s poem to life. Each musician, author or better, each creator has his her own style that cant be copied or learned.

        Cant you feel the soul of the creator in this:

        I picked videos where you see the english lyrics. I felt something when I knew what they were talking about. The effect may even be stronger if you speak japanese. I wouldnt say those songs had no soul.

        • Not “completely” virtual but still virtual :D Lol, lame counter-discussion ftw.

          I see. I haven’t been following Vocaloid just as much now but I see that the new generation of Vocaloid isn’t as famous anymore? Old generations like Miku, Luka and even older generations like Kaito are still getting all the attention. I could be wrong though. So Miku and the rest can start rapping to 50 cents xD

          Oh sorry, I didn’t include composers in my point. I did said producer/musicians. From my understanding, producers are people who produced the music (drum beats, rhythm, etc..) and musicians are musical instrumentist. It’s different in a sense that they are making music as a foundation, to support the main singers or lead musicians. They are different from the “creators” in a broad sense, from ones like composers who create songs and singers who manifest simple words into melodies. Indeed, creators create their own creation and they certainly can’t be copied.

          Say for example, we are playing a very basic grade one version of twinkle twinkle little star, we learned reading the notes and was able to play it without any problems. After some more songs, we come across another twinkle twinkle little star rendition in grade 7, obviously, it will be a much more touher version but following the notes, using past experience and thorough practice, we are able to play it. That’s my point, through dedicated practice we can play the song, but if we are “creators”, then we won’t be able to create the same pieces akin to Beethoven’s or Mozart’s.

          About the video, I will get back to you hopefully soon when I can play it as I’m not at home atm. And sorry for the late reply, didn’t see your post.

  5. It’s a complicated issue. I’ll say the same as the people above: while it’s true that with them less and less singers will have their chances, it’s the other way around, too. More and more composers and producers, that have always been in a second plane and are usually forgotten, will be able to prove themselves. “Mothy”, “Supercell”…those are names that i woudn’t have known if vocaloid where real singers.

    And there is another pressing matter here: the appearance. Physical traits are very important nowadays for a singer’s success. I won’t say names, but if you look at some of the USA most famous and acclaimed stars, you notice that it’s not all about talent: it’s about good lookings and marketing, too. With vocaloid, no more: only talent and hard work is needed, not something that you may not have from birth, like good lookings.

    So yeah, i’ll end up saying that overall i prefer vocaloid, but i’ll always keep listening to real singers, too. I’ll keep enjoying songs from Ayumi Hamasaki, Utada Hikaru, and even seiyuu singers like Aya Hirano.

    PS: my english may be a bit bad, sorry u_U. Just wanted to give my opinion to this post, which i think it’s very interesting ^^

    • Indeed true. Main singers usually grasp all the attention and bands, composers and producers are usually second in line. The question is the end product though, will their song be just as expressive as songs sang from real singers?

      I listened to a lot of songs from different countries with varying languages, some Chinese songs from Taiwan/Singapore/Malaysia, some English songs from US/UK, some Japanese songs, Korean songs etc.. About the looks, this is one thing I like about Cpop songs since they don’t really prioritize on looks but talents (musical instruments, lyrictists, etc..).

      For me, it’s either I go with full real singer voiced songs, or go with full instrumentals. But likewise, I still listen to vocaloids. They are music and as long as it’s good to listen to, I listen to it :D

  6. I love Vocaloid because of the opportunities it gave for the awesome music producers out there to make some amazing music that probably wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for Vocaloid. Shizen no Teki-P and his godliness would have been lost on me.

    …That being said, I really really don’t like a lot of the fans of Vocaloid. In all the youtube videos, I see 90% of them going ‘OMG Hatsune Miku!’ rather than ‘DAMN this music’s awesome!’ you know? Even in the live concert videos, most of them comment wishing they could have gone to see the hologram, rather than going ballistic about being THIS close to the music producer. And I thought for a while, hey, when there’s a cute virtual vocalist singing, that’s to be expected, it’s not like that was the maker’s intention. But then I saw a clip from the Project Diva game of Miku singing ‘Two-Faced Lovers’…whilst simultaneously having her pull cutesy faces and dancing coyly. If THAT wasn’t disturbing enough, there were tons of fans saying ‘this song’s so kawaii desu!’ while I’m like ‘DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT SHE’S SAYING, BRO!?’ Man, even the makers of Vocaloid know what it is most of the fans are attracted to, and, sadly, it’s not the music.

    Also, I always end up listening to Nico Nico singers covering a Vocaloid song and liking it better…

    • It does give quite a lot of chance for them to showcase their musical skills.

      I think that’s obvious, and I could certainly see that happening. During the live concert, the impression I get from the fans is that they went ballistic at the 3D image of Miku itself, they give me an impression that they don’t even care about the songs, which is.. kinda bad. That’s something that can’t be avoided, not even vocaloid, but I find most anime characters dancing kinda awkward. And that’s another likely opinion from anime songs, especially from otaku-related ones like those that’s somehow related to anime.

      I have some cover tracks of Vocaloids too and I too, ended up liking them better. Some vocaloid tracks are still goood though.

  7. I had heard of K-ON but I never knew it was a virtual band O__O I was also very shocked upon the discovery of Vocaloids especially Hatsune Miku because I never expected a virtual idol to gain so many fans and somehow gets deals and endorsements…

    I’ll still keep supporting female artists too but I don’t think their future is too bleak. It only is if people actually pay a lot more attention to these virtual singers instead of real singers. I would not pay money to go see a virtual being sing when I know I could enjoy it from a singer like Ayumi Hamasaki or Utada Hikaru.

    Also, would it be possible to comment your opinion of what you know about idols and the music industry would be very helpful in this post:
    http://nynyonlinex.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/a-fans-knowledge-of-japanese-idols-and-the-music-industry/

    • K-ON’s somewhat virtual but it’s formation is different then that of Vocaloid. K-ON is an anime, and in it, appears four girls who became a band. And this “virtual” band in the anime, somehow becomes so popular that their songs keep positioning at no.1 or 2 in the Oricon chart, rivaling that of other songs sang from real singers.

      An anime character coming to live is a rare experience, I would certainly pay to give it a try and if I like it, probably a second time (can’t really control my otaku impulses all that well), but I would ultimately still listen to songs from real singers likewise.

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