Every concert is different, and every concert means something different to different people. The band you show up to see because you're seeking deep emotional release may be the same band another person bought tickets for just to have a conversation in an interesting place. Shows you go to because you want to belong to and foster a community are shows others attend so they can be looked at. It's often hard to know what the strangers around you are hoping to get out of a particular concert experience.
I mention this because Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku is coming to town, which wouldn't be particularly noteworthy, I guess, except that Hatsune Miku doesn't exist. Hatsune Miku is a hologram, and not one of those “see a beloved performer back on stage even though he has been dead for a few years and maybe buy a T-shirt while you're here” holograms, either. Oh, Miku sings and dances and has a live band, but she's more anime dreamgirl than uncanny recreation of someone you've seen on TV a bunch of times.
Other than the possible Ween reunion coming our way, there is nothing in the world of concerts I'm more looking forward to than Hatsune Miku playing at The Bomb Factory. It's a concept that is so ridiculous, so weird, so very 2016 that I'd literally be counting down the days to the show if there weren't an app for that kind of thing.
Originally my excitement was pretty base level: I wanted to know what kind of person is a fan of a piece of software. Directioners, juggalos, people who still listen to emo — those are all people I can understand. We make connections to music, deep, personal connections that we can't always explain, and yeah, sometimes that opens us up to mockery. But a concert is a chance for us to come together with other like-minded and occasionally picked-upon folks in celebration of something that means so much to us.
So I can only assume that somewhere out there in Dallas – because why else would the hologram come to town? — are people who are really, really into the collected works of the thing named Hatsune Miku. And this news is probably the best news ever for them. So good for them. I still want to know who these people are, but the more I've thought about it, the more my reasoning has gone in a different direction.
I think Hatsune Miku, as a concept, is creepy as hell.
Pop music, as it stands, is already built on a web of lies. Social media is the best thing to ever happen to pop music, because it allows manufactured pop stars to seem like real humans. The word "brand" is kind of dumb when your friend Steve uses it to explain why he makes bad jokes on Twitter, but brands are important because good songs are only going to make you so much money.
And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I love pop music. I love the pop music machine. I'm not bothered when musicians who have a voice or face or [insert body part] that a corporation can exploit choose to sell out so they can live a better life.
But I draw the line at holograms, because they're the first step in taking humans out of the music-making process altogether. Miku doesn't lip sync, you see; she's a vocaloid, a synthesizer that sings basically. Someone programs the words and the melodies, and someone else syncs her animation to those words and melodies, and a bunch of people in Dallas pay money to see this and maybe, eventually, buy the software.
It's corporate synergy taken to its logical, creepy conclusion.
So of course I have to go see that in person.
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Because this is how the fall of human music-making starts. Soon the computers will be smart enough to write their own songs with their own melodies and design their own hologram dances. How long before one becomes smart enough to write a top 10 hit? We already gave Meghan Trainor a career, so don't act like giving a hologram one is unrealistic. Why not get in on the ground floor for that?
Overdramatic much? Maybe. But even if it isn't the beginning of the end of an era, the whole idea is just weird enough to be fascinating. Better to see the hologram of someone who never existed than some sort of digital zombie.
Sure, they're both soulless, but at least I don't have to worry about how Miku would feel about being a hologram.
The piece of software known as Hatsune Miku plays The Bomb Factory May 14, 2016.