Hatsune Miku Review – virtual idol brings atmosphere minus the baggage 4/5

Last weekend yet another endless snaking queue formed around the Brixton O2 academy. The name of the latest pop star to grace the iconic venue was placed subtly over the entrance, obscured only by the chilled breath of queueing fans, a seemingly normal night before an early January gig in Brixton.

However, flashes of teal wigs and a noticeably younger clientele audience demographic than usual give hint that something unusual was about to take place. Hatsune Miku, a virtual idol with a career over a decade long, was soon to be projected onto stage for a ‘live’ performance complete with a band, choreography, and some well honed projection technology to bring her to life.

Created by Crypton Future Media as a mascot for the Yamaha Vocoloid software and subsequently made open source, Miku has a huge library to play from – over 100,000 songs and counting created by fans and artists alike. It is precisely this open source nature of ‘ownership’ amongst her fans that brought the atmosphere inside the building to near fever pitch, every polite reminder to turn off flashes before the start brought screams of anticipation.

This was only Miku’s second appearance in London, a fact that is remarkable considering the level of excitement in the room but understandable given the logistical task of putting on such an event. For myself, it was a chance to relive some nostalgia as someone who was a more committed fan in my youth, but ODDS & ENDS still managed to elicit a wave of emotion when hearing the final chorus belted out by virtual vocal chords

Miku sang in multiple languages including this English number by Anamanaguchi

With no support acts, Miku burst onto stage – quite literally – to introduce herself and other Vocaloids to the crowd, who clearly needed no introductions. The two hour gig is a relentless onslaught of J-pop, nu-metal and dance tracks with barely time to breathe for the band who persist with an energy to match that of their virtual singers. With a blend of some classics – of course World is Mine made an appearance – and newer material, the holographic pop-stars set a breakneck pace for their audience who responded in kind with LED glow stick choreographies and endless cheers.

In an era where every popstar comes with baggage, whether it’s a scandal or a moral belief that they’re keen to promote, Miku stands apart with her fellow Vocaloids as a clean (but not sterile!) group of stars that you are free to enjoy the music of. It’s that simple, and that’s all it needed to be this time round, I have no doubt fans eagerly await the announcement of the next UK date for MIKU EXPO. Fingers crossed for 2021!

An SU Election Omnishambles

I wrote this opinion piece for Nerve Magazine but it was rejected on the grounds that SUBU wouldn’t approve. It’s a shame our student media is gagged in this way but thankfully the blog exists.


After last year, the pressure was on SUBU to get these elections right. Indeed, in my role on the executive committee I oversaw the changes to the bylaws that were made to avoid the problems of last year. But let’s face it, does anyone really feel like these elections went any better?


The rules and the enforcement of them failed to actually change anything, it just forced any rule breaking into private messaging with a simple “we can’t enforce it” from the Returning Officers. Tell me, what is the point of rules if they don’t apply in all scenarios?


To answer all this and to review this election properly let’s go back the beginning. The elections campaign started with the ‘Candidates Question Time’, in theory an opportunity for voters to scrutinise candidates. Tokenism, with one question from SUBU themselves and one question from students per role, it was hardly an exercise in scrutiny. It also certainly isn’t an opportunity to scrutinise manifestos, leaving candidates to promise what they like with no way to challenge.


Meanwhile, societies had their rights to free expression gagged as they and their committees were told they could not endorse or oppose any candidates. The excuse was that we couldn’t be seen to endorse candidates whilst “wearing our SUBU hats”, but I was free to endorse as a SUBU executive member as if that isn’t the same.


This hit a peak when my very own Liberal Democrat Society was threatened with “sanctions” by the SUBU elections team following a post I made endorsing candidates. Sanctions which they had no power to enforce, and that SUBU activities said they had zero business or power to threaten.


I saw complaints from friends, of harassment by candidates, swept aside by the elections team with non-answers. After last year’s harassment allegations, amongst others, led to a disqualification it seems unforgiveable that this would happen.


Of course, the results themselves would have to be equally farcical. Just a few hours before results are due to be officially announced, rumours start circulating that the results had been visible if you logged in to vote after the deadline. This was then confirmed by the elections team in an email to candidates. The leak was due to a setting on the elections system being set to the wrong option; at this point an unsurprising error.


Just before results candidates were required to fill out “feedback forms” for how the election was run. This is more sinister. Candidates report being made to complete the form in front of the RO’s. They also claim that the forms themselves were already completed with positive feedback.


Now maybe I should stop complaining and start proposing solutions, although by no means perfect, as elections are a messy game. The rules drew the ire of candidates and students alike, the fact that no former candidates were brought in to consult on where the rules might be circumvented is shocking.


Another solution should be to encourage staff members to report candidates for infractions, especially harassment. Students have complained for years about being “chased” through the Poole House Atrium, right under the nose of staff members staffing the election booths. We need to take a hard line on harassment because it’s driving disengagement from SUBU.


Let me be clear, this is not a criticism of the new full time officers, they will be held to account in numerous ways over the next twelve months. This is about SUBU. If the aim of this election was to restore faith in the SUBU election process it has been an unmitigated disaster.