Synthetic Pop and the Death of the Artist

Next up we'll have a Dalek barbershop quartet.

June 27, 2011

Well, I called it.

We now have fully synthetic pop stars, and not just virtual copies of anime or video game characters. I’m talking full-blown people.

Japan actually had a completely virtual pop star for about a month until her digital identity was revealed this week.

Eguchi Aimi was the latest member of Japan’s AKB48, an all-girl group that consists of several different teams of performers. She was featured in a commercial, a magazine spread, and was listed on the group’s website. For all intents and purpose, she seemed to be a real person.

Then we find out that she’s actually a composite, which really begs the question…

Japan, this group had sixty-plus members, all attractive young women who were willing to work and perform. Did you really need a completely virtual singer?

I’ll give the management credit. The fact that people were even debating whether Aimi was real or not speaks volumes to the level of detail put into her design. Furthermore, the stills, while looking Photoshopped, are nevertheless quite impressive. She sings, she takes photos, and she’ll never ask for a raise. She’s the perfect client for her creators.

Fame by ~ShimmiChan on deviantART

Of course, this doesn’t answer the question of why anyone would even make her. It’s not like they have a shortage of starlets. In fact, Aimi is a composite of other members of the group. This could easily be a test of the new technology, a stunt to show everyone just how far the programming and hardware can go.

Me? I’m terrified. Management managed to pass off this construct as a real person for a respectable amount of time, and given a year or two, the technology might easily be good enough to do away with the tiny imperfections that tipped off some fans. Think about it. Any recording company with sufficient money will be able to make pop stars on demand.

Combine that with this little study that shows there is a scientific basis for what we consider to be “catchy,” that we might be able to scientifically determine if a song will be a hit in the next few years, and we have everything we need for companies to start churning out Justin Beibers, Lady Gagas, and Rebecca Blacks. Given how Facebook and Google can target ads based on your likes, this will make it so much easier to target specific demographics.

Skynet Nokia parody by ~paulelder on deviantART

Do you think the Grammys will give the award to the programmer or the virtual person?

And if you don’t think a company will invest some money in a pop star that doesn’t eat, drink, sleep, and will do anything and everything without complaining or going on a cocaine binge…

Hi. Welcome to America. Land of the free. Home of the Whopper.

Commercialism. by *WhatIfItAllWouldEnd on deviantART

Let’s get the links out there.

  • It looks like Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero is going to be a miniseries for HBO. I have fond memories of that album. I used to listen to it as I walked around the Capitol on my lunch break. The dissonance was amazing for clearing my head.
  • Evanescence is coming out with a new album. Without sounding too hipster, I remember hearing them before they got big. Their REALLY early stuff (the albums you can only find on eBay now) is really haunting and a lot more personal, but I’m looking forward to this new one.
  • And finally, seeing as how I ripped the Miss Universe contestants for not understanding basic scientific vocabulary, someone was kind enough to further show how dumb their arguments were by replacing one little word in some of the responses. Enjoy, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

No Love for Faux-Artists

It's funny because it's wasted youth and obsession that borders on psychosis...

April 15, 2011

I am done with the internet.

You know how I often say that education is the key to our society’s survival and how all opinions are just opions until you actually show evidence for why your point of view should be taken seriously?

Behold the ultimate argument for my philosophy.

That’s right. Someone went and got a Leave Rebecca Black Alone tattoo. Why? Because we shouldn’t judge her just because she’s 13 and released a crappy song.


I have EVERY right to criticize her. She paid for a music video and song and didn’t even have the talent to sing herself. She needed a little electronic help. If I were to publish Charcoal Streets tomorrow and I got a scathing review from the New York Times, I’d expect them to look at it if it got enough attention. I can’t believe I have to say this again…

When you throw your hat into the ring, you accept the consequences.

Rebecca Black + Justin Bieber by ~xDinoSkittlex on deviantART

I’m not about to celebrate mediocrity just because someone tried. If Black had honestly tried, if she’d sung herself, if she’d written the lyrics, and if she’d endeavored to make something more than a masturbatory music video, I might cut her some slack. But no. She did nothing but show up for a recording session and a video shoot.

The guy that got that tattoo is going to regret it in three months. And if he doesn’t? He’s a bigger idiot than the people paying Snooki thousands of dollars to speak about her life.

No, I didn’t make that up. Rutgers is paying Snooki thousands of dollars to basically talk about herself and what it’s like to be Snooki. You know… what you can basically gleam from watching twenty minutes of Jersey Shore. To top it all off, this faux-tan piece of border-line alcoholism is going to get paid $100,000 dollars per episode of the new season of Jersey Shore.

Yeah, $100,000 to get drunk, act like an idiot, and hook up with random strangers.

Mona Snooki. by ~battlefate on deviantART

“But it’s the American dream,” I can hear some of you say. “Sure, it’s more than twice what the average teacher makes in a year, and she’d be touching lives the same way an STD after-school special touches lives, but it’s the same thing, right?”

Yeah, if I may get a bit political, rewarding laziness and not contributing anything to society is basically the rallying cry of the GOP right now. “Don’t tax the right or watch corporations,” they say. You could make it one day, and would you want someone else taxing you and telling you that you have to pay more because you make more?

Yes. I do.

I don’t enjoy paying taxes. I really don’t. My biweekly paycheck could be so much sweeter if I didn’t get taxed, but if I make enough that I can pay the government $250,000 a year and I still have enough to buy Blue Label, travel Europe for the summer, and maintain a fleet of classic cars, I think I’ll be fine.

I am plain sick and tired of rewarding mediocrity and lavishing people who act like 5-year olds simply because they can. If Snooki and Rebecca Black didn’t have any publicity, they’d be attention whores who, in five years time, would be either in rehab or dead in a Motel 6 dumpster. Actually, they might get there even with the attention.

Little Attention Whore by ~Cyberfish on deviantART

And if I’m overtly harsh, it’s because people who keep calling these two and people like them “artists” are REALLY starting to piss me off. And I rant about them because so many people seem to pay attention to them. Stop it. Stop giving them praise. Stop sharing their videos and antics just because they’re horrible.

You make it hard for people who are actually trying to do a good job.

Now let’s get some links to clean that aftertaste of tanning accelerate and your bowl of cereal.

  • Speaking of greedy pricks that steal money, take a look at this wonderful article that details a tax proposal that not only makes sense, but would save our economy while making the rich pay for their fair share.
  • One more video for the weekend. I’ve got five more words for you, and a film that predates Star Wars and is the basis for endless tropes in the space opera genre and for some of my favorite childhood memories. Are you ready for this? Live. Action. Wave. Motion. GUN.