Hatsune Miku on Late Show with David Letterman

hatsune miku david letterman live

This isn’t a “Fan’s React” video, it’s actually Hatsune Miku’s 4 minute spot on Late Show with David Letterman. How the two mix originates from the promotional campaign for Hatsune Miku’s U.S. Expos that include a concert in NY and LA Halloween events (more info at their site). In order to reach a widespread audience, they went to a rather traditional media outlet. I would like Miku to be popular with a worldwide audience just as much as the next fan, but my reaction was more the kind of cringe you do when one of your classmates outs you for your closet otaku status. Was the choice to debut on U.S. telivision “live” in such a way effective in getting the word out? Watch the clip below the cut.

Here are my own opinions and analysis of the event.

Marketing Decision:

Although the news that she would be a “guest” was released earlier and caused a stir among fans, Hastune Miku was announced on the day of with very little background. Yes, “Computer-Generated Idol from Japan” encompasses what the program persona is, but Hatsune Miku is so much more than just a digitized performer.

Miku’s voicebank, after all, is a creative tool that many new or small bands, producers, artists, animators, etc. manage to come together and make a name for themselves out of. The reason why certain songs are popular also come from their lyrics, PVs, and production team’s brand. Remove all of that context, and even an extremely famous song like World is Mine won’t have the full impact for an American audience that can only perceive “autotuned hologram.”

On top of all this, they chose CBS’s Late Night with David Letterman…of all shows. Traditionally, companies book a spot on his show ahead of time, but if we take a look at the demographic – elderly, white man with a live studio audience in a small space interacting with performers about their new releases, Miku doesn’t have a lot in common.

Miku’s largest fanbase comes from teenage to mid-twenties and up consumers of Asian pop culture. That’s not to say she wouldn’t appeal to Americans that have no knowledge of those areas, but more so people like gamers, people already in geek cultures, people that enjoy electronic music and those that use social media. It’s not exactly a twitter storm topic right now, like Lady Gaga was (though it’s scaled down considerably).

What I would have preferred: Having a famous creator/spokesman/song producer on the show explain their experiences and pitch Miku as a technological and community brand instead of as an odd gimmick.

Not really awkward, but the audience is more than a little lost

Not really awkward, but the audience is more than a little lost

Performance Choice:

Music may be a universal language but…maybe we should talk about how Miku’s Japanese accent is hard to understand already, let alone her English voicebank. Sharing the World is one of those English songs that rivals Glass Wall in my list of “English Miku songs that really fall short of Vocaloid song standards but were performed anyway,” (the only one I’ve liked at all was the previously reviewed Bu-La-La). They can’t even go with the “East Asian” angle that would be the biggest draw to her art gallery and concert shows anyway.

Sharing the World’s lyrics are very generic, once again pushing the “music will connect our feelings globally” theme. It’s grammatically incorrect or awkward in many places. Of course, it’s hard to translate her pronunciation and emphasis in a way that sounds natural to us. I really wonder why they didn’t at least get an English speaker/songwriter’s input into creating in a foreign language. Her hologram performance also skimped on the MMD, so she mostly sang into her mic instead of doing any flashy dancing or special effects. I did like the live band accompaniment that gives more of a taste of the actual concert feel.

There’s nothing really wrong with going for the “global” theme song route, but I wonder if any fans still remember Melody when it came out shortly after Miku’s release (god that’s old). Melody ran on similar veins, but it was a pretty successful song in drawing new fans. Even if the company didn’t want to have Miku sing one of her well-known Japanese songs, I wish they had something less flat that exhibited the potential of Vocaloids. Tuning Miku’s voice to be a bit more realistic, and adding a little band variety to the repetitive electronic instrumental might have helped. Her voice itself wasn’t very clear either.

The free art gallery in NY, on the other hand...

The free art gallery in NY, on the other hand…

Fans (and my) Reaction:

Online media sources don’t have much to add to the event, since David Letterman didn’t interact with Miku, and Miku herself did nothing more than sing. So they shared the video and politely added that Letterman looked a bit confused. I don’t think he was so much confused by the segment as he was by the lack of scripted reaction he could have, seeing as Miku couldn’t respond.

From what I see via comments, already established fans either supported her appearance or complained about the song choice and shrugged it off. I find it disappointing, however, that there’s a lack of reaction and shares I can see from outsiders, which is the real target.

What is true is that bad publicity is still publicity. The problem is, it wasn’t even “bad” enough to generate that (Like Gangnam Style being made out to be a joke/meme), and regular viewers of Late Show don’t sound like the type to really gossip long about this. My verdict is that it’s not the debut fans would have wanted, but hopefully the appearance on what is considered a validating show will warrant some new clicks, wikis, and shares. The bulk of the truly effective push for ticket sales will still probably come from friends getting other friends on board, if you can convince more casual fans to pay $90 a pop for the concert.

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A vitasoy-fueled blogger that feels taller than her actual height online and therefore believes in the shoutbox that is the digital landscape. Fan of Japanese idols with their real or electronic personalities and beats.

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A vitasoy-fueled blogger that feels taller than her actual height online and therefore believes in the shoutbox that is the digital landscape. Fan of Japanese idols with their real or electronic personalities and beats.


  1. I’m wondering why the marketing team booked Letterman? LIKE of all the shows to appear on…

    But it is very true, what would have made a more pronounced impact would have been maybe a meet and greet with a producer/artist/musician who could explain what Vocaloids–as a tool for creative output–are all about and then segue into “Want to hear what it’s like?” And then cue the live performance that was prepped with much-needed background.

    The videos were cringe worthy to watch :'( But ah well, even if Miku doesn’t reach a “wider” audience, I think the built in fanbase is strong enough without mass appeal

  2. I like Vocaloid but do not understand it well enough to label myself a hardcore fan. I like the characters but cannot tell others what my favorite song is.
    I covered the performance myself and watched the episode as it aired. It went as well as I expected. Actually part of me thought it would have been worse. I thought Conan o’ Brien, Jimmy Falon or Jimmy Kimmel’s shows would have been better choices to have Miku guest star on but Dave got her and this is what we got. At least the crowd applauded, fixed or not.

  3. Pingback: Hatsune Miku Expo 2014 in New York | Tiki Torch Kwan

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