In defense of Vocaloids Part 3: Tell me a story

On Monday, December 5, 2011 1 comments

I love stories. At heart, I’m still a little kid wanting my mom to read just one more book before bedtime. If something attempts to make a narrative, no matter how sloppy it is, I’m automatically more inclined to like it. Stories have more meaning. In fact, there is a possibility that stories are stored in a different part of our brain that other, abstract facts. This is because stories are a uniquely human experience. Our minds are designed to frame things in terms of our own experience, which translates into narratives. We can relate and care about fictional characters because we can take their stories and relate them to the narrative of our own life.

The song "Daughter of Evil" had such a strong narrative that it got its own theater production based off of it.

How is this relevant? Well, one of the most beautiful things about the Vocaloid fandom is that many of the songs are narrative. As already stated in my previous post, you don’t need to understand the lyrics to appreciate a song. I would contend that the same is true for stories. When the notes and composition are tight, you can create feeling and conflict without retreating to words. Take opera as an example. Many of the most beautiful memorable operas are in foreign languages, like Wagner’s Ring Cycle or Madama Butterfly
Even if you don’t speak the language, you can still appreciate the story. Of course, having actors and translated lyrics certainly helps.

Fortunately, thanks to the magic of the internet and bilingual, artistic nerds, many Vocaloid songs have a new-age equivalent. Several songs are subtitled, and they come complete with animated music videos. These are called PVs, and they vary wildly in quality, but they help illustrate the story. Take a gander at one of my all-time favorite songs and see. 
With the internet, it really isn’t that hard to find the translated lyrics to a song. And while songs should stand by themselves, it’s amazing the kind of awesome sagas people make with singing software. There is mothy, one of my favorite producers, who weaves some of the most delightful dramas about the damned, or Machigerita’s creepy Dark Woods Circus series, or Kokoro. The list could go on forever.
How many mainstream songs make the effort to tell a cohesive story? Not very many. And with many modern music videos shifting to pointless post-modernism over actual content, PVs are a refreshing break. They aren’t over-glitzed, senseless spectacle (most of them, anyway). Instead, the stories they tell add an extra dimension to the songs.
Remember when Lady Gaga made a narrative music video? Remember how it made no sense, and the only reason people watched it was to see her strip?

What do you think? Are there any mainstream songs that tell stories that I’ve overlooked? Because I’d love to hear about them!

Part 4:

1 comment:

  1. Although I don't not strongly favor cohesive stories as lyrics (which I think are too restricted, provided that I'm not a fiction reader), and actually love abstract PVs (post-modernist videos MVs, or in other words, PVs that serve no practical sense) , I do agree that storytelling lyrics are a big selling point of vocaloid culture.

    PS: i want to clarify that PV = promotional video, PV includes CV and MV (corporate videos and music videos). Japanese use the term "PV" as an equivalent to MV, PV doesn't really indicate a "storytelling MV" as implied in your article. There's currently no term that specifically means "storytelling MV", as of yet.