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Things I Like (TIL) #11: Vocaloid

What is this? I’ve liked many things throughout the years. While some have fallen out of my attention, others remain firmly cemented in my memories and feelings. So, I’ve decided to start a mini-series where each week (hopefully), I pick something random that I like or have liked and discuss it, why I like it, and its impact on me. These things can be varied, and range from more trivial matters such as my favourite animal, to books, games, and movies I’ve liked, to topics that have shaped who I am as a person. The posts, accordingly, will vary in length. See my rating system here.

Welcome back to another installment of TIL.

A couple weeks back, Project Diva was released for Nintendo Switch. It’s a typical rhythm game where you press buttons to a song and get scored on how accurate you were. This series, uniquely, focuses on Vocaloid songs.

Vocaloid is a synthesis engine where one can record “key samples” of their voice speaking the basic phonemes of a language, and from there generate speech freely in that language. It originated in Japan and has since grown a following there and elsewhere in Asia and the West. Each “sound bank” or collection of samples from one voice actor/actress is also anthropomorphized and given a cute virtual avatar, and treated as the “featured performer” of a Vocaloid song alongside the artist who uses and tunes the synthesis engine and composes the music.

Some of the prominent Japanese Vocaloids are Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Rin and Len, and IA. The most prominent Chinese Vocaloid is Luo Tianyi.

I used to be somewhat into the songs around 2014-2016. What drew me in wasn’t much the synthesis, which is slightly robotic and can be offputting, but rather the sheer talent some of the composers have.

I stopped listening to Vocaloid as much once I got into Touhou music, but playing Project Diva gave me the opportunity to experience some of them again. As such, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Vocaloid songs.

9. The Snow White Princess Is (Miku)

This was the very first Vocaloid song I listened to when I was just getting into the scene. It’s not particularly special, but the melody is quite good, and it holds a special place in the list for being the first one.

8. Trick or Treat (2016, Tianyi)

This is a mischievous Halloween song for Luo Tianyi, the most popular Chinese Vocaloid. It has a very groovy beat at the perfect tempo.

7. Hear the Heart (2016, Tianyi)

A sweet and upbeat love song for Tianyi. In the PV, the producers collected real love letters from their fans and put them in the video. The scrolling danmaku comments are also filled with love confessions. I wonder how many of those were unrequited, though :P.

6. Deep Sea Girl (2010, Miku)

A song about grief and finding yourself, but it has a lovely melody.

5. Senbonzakura (2011, Miku)

Released in 2011, but by now one of the classics of the Vocaloid scene and one of the most well-known of Miku’s songs of all time. It has a very catchy melody and very good flow. Has been covered by many, many other Vocaloid producers, real singers, and instrumentalists. My favorite is Chinese guzheng player Moyun’s crazy-talented cover:

4. Electric Angel (2013, Kagamine Rin/Len)

The original release of this song was in 2007 for Miku, but everyone agrees that this remix for Kagamine Rin and Len is way more upbeat and catchy. It’s basically the anthropomorphic avatars singing about being loved by those who like their songs.

Side note that this was one of my favorite songs to play in osu!, a desktop rhythm game. In the rare occasion I fire up the game, I always play through this once.

3. Snow Fairy Story (2015, Miku)

2015 entry for the “Snow Miku” series of songs. An almost sickeningly-sweet love song with a good melody and even better bass line.

2. Hand in Hand (2015, Miku)

An upbeat and pumped-up song about connecting the world through music. I have lots of nostalgia for these 2015 songs, they were often what I listened to my freshman year at university (along with all the other songs listed here, of course).

1. Tell Your World (2012, Miku)

My favorite Vocaloid song of all time. Extremely strong melody line and phrasing throughout, and very emotional overall, as it speaks about the power of music in connecting the world. I get awestruck often listening to this song – the sheer talent, dedication, and will of the tuners, composers, and producers make it particularly impactful.

TIL Rating: 2.25. I quite enjoy the handful of songs I do like, but I don’t actively go and find new stuff nowadays.