As a rule, I don’t click on any English Vocaloid songs with high expectations. Usually, the majority of them are either covers of existing English songs or not produced in anywhere near as good quality as Japanese Vocaloid songs. After Hatsune Miku’s English voicebank tried to appeal to the U.S. crowd with Sharing the World on David Letterman, I was pretty much through with them entirely. Curiosity got the better of me when I noticed that my favorite, GUMI, had a song that ranked Niconico Best #1 for a few days. GUMI’s English V3 voicebank did have the popular Cyber Thunder Cider release, but the vocals were too fast and the pronunciation near indistinguishable. Echo, however, makes it to one of the few English Vocaloid songs I have no problem listening to on repeat.
What makes Echo sound so much more natural is that it was written by someone fluent in English, a realistic necessity. Once you nail down the flow and stresses of certain words in the English language, not to mention the grammar which can be excusable at points since Vocaloid songs don’t make a lot of sense at the best of times, you can start to appreciate the song for its other qualities.
What’s most surprising is that the song was a collaboration between the English artist, and relatively unknown Crusher-P with Circus-P, famous producer of Circus Monster who is also unexpectedly an American producer. It turns out that U.S. producers stick together, and they’re both relatively young and draw their own art. You can hear his signature electronic beat and what I call “creepy voice from the beyond” style tuning to great effect in Echo.
In the normal convention of Vocaloid songs from both producers, the song is uploaded with a single image. The lyrics flicker through the TV screen head and the colors remain the grayscale of an antenna TV signal. The girl is also curiously attired in a sailor suit with a spider-like amount of arms extending out, all of the tops of the hands in shadow. What I’m guessing is that the multiple hands express the “Echo in the mirror” idea that the song derives its title from.
The lyrics read well and sound relatively smooth. You can hear the prominent Asian accent, but otherwise most of the words are distinguishable and flow fine in English, which is helped by the fact that they and rhyme. They also like to incorproate some emotes and shorthands like the “:-)” face, “idk”, “tho”, etc. which adds a little more modern day textspeak to the aged TV setup.
Overall, the song uses the simple but effective TV-head image well. Several lines, specifically “Why I’m switching faster than the channels on TV, I’m black then I’m white” directly reference the metaphor. The song also goes along with the idea of fighting an invisible enemy, alluding to a schizophrenia of some sort that’s going on with her mind. There’s only one point where we see human-like eyes on the TV:
After that, the girl-figure(?) sticks with using emotes and generic expressions to transmit their feelings. Although the PV at first warns about flashing images, nothing much happens apart from the screen inverting a little to look darker and glitchy. Unless someone gets extremely uncomfortable from staring at the relatively unchanging, flickering fake noise of the screen, there isn’t much more to the PV.
What I find really interesting is they convey a theme without an explicit story. Instead, we get a mix of the repetitive edm beat without the lighter pop element that makes it fun – it’s quite dark and does a good job of mixing catchy and unique. GUMI’s tuning takes on a clear note of desperation that follows the stanzas until it hits the segment where the repetition comes in and the dark “echo” effect is achieved.
Overall, I think it’s a really strong song that deserved its moments of fame. Hopefully, the English producer team sets an example for future English releases – it can be a perfectly “Vocaloid-esque” song, so long as the English flows. Using English words shouldn’t cause a drop in quality due to poor use of the voicebank’s accented ability.
-Well-done English lyrics.
-Strong but dark edm beat that matched GUMI’s tuning.
-Mad props for English producers to rank that high.
-Lack of connected plot, and weakness in some of the pronunciation.