The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival will host a new holographic performer this year — but it won’t be Tupac, or any other deceased musician. On Thursday night, Japanese holographic performer Hatsune Miku was announced as part of the festival’s 2020 lineup, scheduled to perform April 10th on Weekend 1 and April 17th on Weekend 2.
To Western audiences unfamiliar with Hatsune Miku or her uninterrupted success in Japan — she’s routinely sold out arenas in the country for more than a decade — her origins can sound like something out of a sci-fi novel. She is not a real person, but a combination of a software program and a virtual animated character.
Hatsune Miku was first released by audio-media company Crypton Future Media in 2007 as a singing vocal synthesizer software called a Vocaloid. (The name “Hatsune Miku” roughly translates to “first sound of the future.”) Modeled after the voice of anime actress Saki Fujita, the software has the capacity to “sing” lyrics and phrases through a user’s text commands. Since its launch, more than 100,000 user-generated songs have been created for Hatsune Miku, and more than 4,000 are now sold through Crypton’s record label, Karent.
But what Hatsune Miku is best known for today is her personified character, created during the software’s initial marketing. She appears as a 16-year-old Japanese pop idol with turquoise twintails, usually wearing a silver vest, black miniskirt and a tie that matches her hair color. When performing “live,” she appears on a video screen or, more commonly, as a hologram. But unlike other virtual artists such as U.K. band Gorillaz, Hatsune Miku’s voice is entirely computer-generated.
The character performed her first show in 2009 at Japan’s Saitama Super Arena, and made her U.S. debut in 2011 at the Anime Expo convention in Los Angeles. Since then, she’s gone on to perform on The Late Show With David Letterman, open for Lady Gaga on her ArtRave tour and, most recently, feature on Big Boi’s 2017 song “Kill Jill.”
With all the steady success — and fervent fanbase — it begs the question: Why is she performing at Coachella now?
The answer may lie in the rest of the lineup, with the festival bringing in more international acts, and especially Asian pop artists, than ever before. Fellow Japanese pop act Kyary Pamyu Pamyu will also perform at Indio this year, alongside K-pop mainstays BIGBANG and Korean hip-hop artist Epik High, plus more than a dozen other acts from around the world.
With the sudden wave of both K-pop groups and Latin-American artists making it big in the U.S. over the past three years, it could be that Coachella’s organizers are finally opening up the festival to a wider variety of world acts — including ones that should have played at the festival years ago.