This month saw publication of The Oxford Handbook of Music & Virtuality, containing my chapter, "Hatsune Miku, 2.0Pac and Beyond: Rewinding and Fast-forwarding the Virtual Pop Star."
In it, I survey a history of virtuality in pop music stars, from the Chipmunks and the Archies up to Gorillaz and Dethklok — many of the non-corporeal, animated characters that presaged current virtual pop stars like Hastune Miku and the Tupac resurrection.
The abstract for my chapter: "Pop music fans on both sides of the Pacific recently witnessed the debuts of several virtual pop stars, from the premiere of a “holographic” rapper Tupac Shakur at the 2012 Coachella music festival to frequent live concert performances by Japan’s famously digital idol singer, Hatsune Miku. This chapter rewinds the history of such virtual pop stars to examine the features that made commercially and culturally successful characters of Alvin & the Chipmunks, the Archies, the Muppets, Gorillaz, Dethklok and many more. In each case, success of a virtual performing character is directly related to its situation within the context of a performer narrative and to its visual depiction stopping just short of the uncanny valley. For these and future virtual pop stars, navigating that precipice is the key to popular acceptance across cultures."
The book contains some great stuff, including a challenging consideration of the Beatles as virtual entities late in their career (by Philip Auslander & Ian Inglis) and a thorough examination of crowdfunding models and their effect on creativity (by Mark Thorley). Great book overall, worth encouraging your library to stock!
I'm THOMAS CONNER, Ph.D. in Communication (Science Studies) and culture journalist.