Voice of Tomorrow

Next time someone makes the rusty old complaint that the future was supposed to have jetpacks, hit them with this. Silvery-voiced, anime-inspired, dreamed-up-in-a-computer pop stars are the thing now — the thing to which kids groove, academics expound, and all of previous pop music has been building. Like pop singers worldwide, Japan’s vocaloid starlets sound like sugar spun from the guts of a laptop, but in this case there’s a sort of synthetic authenticity: These vocals are a computer, rather than an Auto-Tuned human. Almost as fascinating are the pretend singers’ digital avatars, who star in videos, games, and occasional in-concert holograms. There’s grist here for a generation’s worth of conference papers. You can marvel at (and maybe make sense of) this phenomenon at the J-Pop Summit, a two-day Japanese pop-culture street fair that features dance parties (with the Danceroid crew!) and live performances from real live performers including the Patsychords, Layla Lane, and teen duo the Bayonettes from the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp. There are also films (including premieres of anime and J-pop videos) and a conference featuring thoughtful discussions of all the latest in Japanese pop music, especially vocaloid. Look for the vocaloid greats the Zaneeds, who are sort of like the Neptunes except the Zaneeds’ electro hitmakers are entirely virtual. Their music is delicate, soaring, and wistful, something like a baby bird first shoved from its nest.
Saturdays, Sundays, noon. Starts: Aug. 27. Continues through Aug. 28, 2011

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