The #vocalsynth trend taking over TikTok (and beyond)
Programs meant to replicate singing voices – also known as vocal synthesizers – have gained a cult following in niche online communities, with Gen Z embracing these technological advances to make their own forms of musical self-expression. This trend is especially popular on TikTok, with the hashtag #vocalsynth racking up 16.5 million views. Here, we’re taking a look at the enormous popularity of three of these programs.
Originally launched in 2004, VOCALOID is perhaps the most well-known vocal synthesizer program in the world. It finally garnered the attention of the mainstream media with the release of the 2007 Japanese vocal synthesizer Hatsune Miku, a “digital diva” with an international following; even those who are unfamiliar with vocal synthesizers could probably recognize Miku. Over the years, there have been multiple versions of the VOCALOID engine available for purchase, with the sixth installment – powered by cutting-edge AI tech – debuting late last year. While the popularity of VOCALOID is but a shadow of what it was in its heyday, many millennial and Gen Z consumers remain hardcore fans. To wit, the hashtag #vocaloid has nearly 5 billion views, and #hatsunemiku 4.6 billion views
Created following VOCALOID’s boom in popularity, UTAU allows users to create their own “voicebanks” by compiling voice samples or use already established vocalists. Unlike VOCALOID, UTAU is free to use, though the vocals produced on UTAU are generally more robotic and lower-quality and the interface can be more challenging to navigate. Many consumers use both programs, as the two “fandoms” for the software’s characters overlap heavily. The most famous of these characters is Kasane Teto, whose breakout popularity has made her essentially the Miku of UTAU.
While its founding company Dreamtonics is based in Tokyo, Synthesizer V has become especially popular among Western consumers. The program has been compared favorably to more longstanding synthesizer programs; it is generally higher-quality and more user-friendly than UTAU, and is arguably more affordable than VOCALOID – though the full product costs only slightly less, SynthV offers a fairly advanced “free trial” version of its program for consumers to use indefinitely. Because of this, it became the program of choice for Gen Zers, many of whom were turned off by UTAU’s steep learning curve and VOCALOID’s priciness.