Today’s Video of the Day takes us on a strange journey into Japanese music and pop culture. The song is called Donut Hole, and it’s by a Japanese pop group called Devine Diva, whose lead singer is a girl named Gumi. The producer goes by the stage name Umetora. Gumi and the other members of her band, Luka, Miku, IA, and Rin, are insanely popular and have a huge following among anime and J-Pop fandom.

Umetora is one of a number of producers that has managed to bypass the whole “needing a band of actual musicians” thing by using a program created by Yamaha, called Vocaloid. This software lets you enter the words to a song phonetically, assign pitches and timing to each syllable, and produce a vocal line directly from that using musical voice synthesis.

Vocoloid has its limitations. For more thoughtful ballads, the synthetic nature of the singer becomes more apparent – it sounds like somebody singing through a Vocoder that’s been turned up a bit too high. It’s good for short, staccato delivery, though, making it perfect for singing songs in Japanese and other Asian languages.  The vocal qualities of the synthetic singers are adjustable to a degree as well, making it possible to create unique voices.

We present Donut Hole by Umetora, who not only composed the music and performed it, but who also encoded the performance of Gumi, his own creation, so that she could sing it.

Conceptually, producers and songwriters working in Vocoloid are the next logical step beyond aidoru (a Japanese word for a singing idol manufactured and marketed to be adored by the public), in which a singer’s persona is often created from whole cloth rather than being based on any particular individual. Now producers can skip the human element entirely and work with completely synthetic voices.

The lyrics are presented translated into English, and printed in Romanji as well so that you can see all the syllables being sung. The words to the song are in stark contrast to the almost frantic energetic pace of the song. You can’t help but feel happy listening to this stuff, yet the song is about unrequited love.

This is great music, there’s no doubt about that – a lot of J-Pop does tend to sound alike, and the similarity of the tools used to make the stuff also tends to define that sound. Setting that aside, the work of Umetora and other producers like him is genuinely and uniquely creative in its own right.

Enjoy Donut Hole!

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