I've become addicted to vocaloid music. I realize that these programs have actually been around for several years and I had even heard of Hatsune Miku before, but somehow I just didn't 'get it' until recently, and now my outlook on the whole phenomenon has completely changed. I've gotten kind of obsessed, to be honest...
If you already know all about vocaloids then feel free to skip the next two paragraphs. But I think that even if the technology isn't new it's still unfamiliar to a lot of people. Certainly it was unfamiliar to me, anyway. Basically, Vocaloid is a series of singing synthesis programs originally developed by Yamaha in which you can just input lyrics (in text) and a melody to make music. Of course a wide variety of effects can also be added. The programs use databases of recorded phonemes from singers/voice actors as their base to construct the lyrics from. Therefore there are many different versions of the vocaloid programs out there based on different people so each has a unique 'voice'.
In what turned out to be a brilliant marketing decision, Crypton Future Media decided to develop characters to represent the voices in their vocaloid products. Essentially virtual musicians to go along with the unique 'voice'. The most famous of these is Hatsune Miku, who you may have heard of even if you've never heard the term 'vocaloid'. 'She' has become a cultural icon in Japan. But there are others as well, like the more recent Megurine Luka (who's voice I prefer, honestly) who is a 'bilingual' singer--meaning her database contains phenomes for both Japanese and English. There have been English language vocaloids as well, but they really haven't caught on here the way they have in Japan.
Vocaloids are essentially instruments. Anyone who buys the program can make a 'Hatsune Miku' song. This means there is a huge quantity of vocaloid music out there, but the quality and genres can very widely. But thanks to these programs would-be composers can include actual lyrics in songs they make at home without having to actually be able to sing. And that's pretty darn cool. There have been a few professional bands that have used vocaloids (like Supercell), but most of this music is made by amateurs. But it's amazing how good some of the stuff they have made is. I thought I would list a few of my favorites. A lot of them come with corresponding animations so I'll give youtube links.
Most Hatsune Miku songs seem to be pop stuff which isn't exactly my favorite genre. Still, there are some pretty cool songs out there:Love is War
(Supercell) - My favorite Hatsune Miku songs and honestly one of my favorite vocaloid songsSaihate
(music and lyrics by Kobayashi Onyx) - Up-beat weird fun. Kind of short, though.World is Mine
(Supercell) - Another Supercell song. Very popular.Two-Faced Lovers
(music and lyrics by Genjitsutouhi-P) - Very fast paced song. I dare say an actual human would have a heck of a time singing it...
As mentioned I do prefer Megurine Luka's voice. It's lower-pitched than Miku's (rather high-pitched) voice. The ability to have English lyrics without a thick Japanese accent is a nice feature, too. Here are some Megurine Luka songs I like:Double Lariat
(music and lyrics by Agoaniki-P) - A pretty silly song, really, but it's really well done. One of my favorites.The Little Mermaid
(music by 4124, lyrics by 紅月満) - Based on the original story, not the Disney version damn it.Bullet For Prisoner
(music and Lyrics by QWIC) - Not as well known as some of the others here, but a great song.Just Be Friends
(music and lyrics by Dixie Flatline) - Probably the most famous Luka song. Not really my style but it's not a bad song and it's worth mentioning.
I think I already said this, but I really do think it's amazing what some people have accomplished with these programs. There have actually been vocaloid albums that have topped the charts in Japan (at least briefly). Think about that for a second. Virtual pop stars topping the charts sounds like something out of a science fiction story, but this shit is real. Though there is still room for improvement in this software (and they are working on it), I do think that this is the future.
I'm not even going to get into the weirdness that is the live vocaloid concerts they've done. Look that up yourself.