Willow Smith, Will and Jada Smith’s precocious 9 year old daughter, just released her single "Whip My Hair," a smash hit that heralds a great career. Are 9-year old superstars a 21st century phenomenon? Not really. Mozart was 5 years old when he was performing in Vienna's royal court, and Michael Jackson was a child prodigy, performing with the Jackson 5 when he was just 6 years old. No, the rockstar who truly represents 21st century entertainment is Hatsune Miku.
Hatsune Miku plays to sold out concerts in Japan and her popularity is spreading across East Asia. With long blue hair, which she likes to wear in pigtails, Hatsune Miku's style matches the school girl aesthetic commonly seen on Tokyo’s streets. It’s hard to guess her age. She could be 13 or 15 or even 18 years old. One thing is certain, however: she will never age. That’s because Hatsune Miku is a 3D animated hologram whose voice is powered by a singing synthesizer application (for details, see this great article on Singularity Hub). But the 25,000 fans that fill stadiums to watch her don’t care that she isn’t flesh and blood. They love her!
This video of Hatsune Miku’s live concert in Japan is a must-see.
We've had some interesting reactions to the video. Some people thought it was completely "weird" while a few people, despite themselves, ended up enjoying Hatsune Miku's songs. Of the two of us, one found a concert with an animated rockstar completely normal while the other found it strange. Here's the bottom line: it doesn't matter what you think. People much younger than you - those babies playing with iPhones in their strollers who think real and virtual are the same thing - are going to be completely comfortable with the idea of cyber rockstars. Animated rockstars are legitimate heirs to Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Eminem. Today’s pop stars need to think about a strategy to counter the inevitable popularity of 3D competitors. So don't be embarrassed if you're dancing to Willow Smith's catchy tune. As far as 21st century entertainment goes, she's really quite a traditional music star.
Ayesha and Parag Khanna explore human-technology co-evolution and its implications for society, business and politics at The Hybrid Reality Institute.