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Virtual Pop Music: The Creation and Rise of Aimi Eguchi

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Guilty by design, she’s nothing more than fiction.
She dreams in digital, cause it’s better than nothing.

– Orgy, “Fiction (Dreams In Digital)”

You thought we had pop scandals here in America? Oh, Lady Gaga’s new outfit is outrageous! Chris Brown cried on stage at a tribute after punching some chick! And speaking of which, can you believe that Rihanna bondage video?

Sure, that’s all good and fine, but Japan has us beat.

Take the strange case of Aimi Eguchi. Eguchi is the latest addition to Japan’s popular girl band AKB 48 and, according to her website, is a normal 16-year-old from Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo.  She enjoys track and field sports, and blogged that her goal is “to become a new idol like never before by taking the best parts of my AKB big sisters.” Keep that in the back of your mind for later on.

Eguchi made quite a splash with the fans of AKB 48. She was so cute and popular that she quickly became the centerpiece of a chewing gum commercial. Fans were in love with her, but something didn’t feel quite right.

Message boards were alight with discussion about Eguchi. AKB producer Akimoto Yasushi stated that she was selected out of a recent audition to promote as the next generation’s idol.  Many wondered where this girl had really come from. No background information was available on her upbringing, and suspicion grew to the point that confectioner company Ezaki Glico (makers of the gum she promotes) was forced to reveal to the world the secret of Aimi Eguchi:

She’s not real.

Eguchi, as it turns out, is a CGI creation of Ezaki Glico. She was created using the features of her bandmates. In other words, she really was “a new idol like never before by taking the best parts of my AKB big sisters.”

Picture if that had happened over here. Could you imagine, back in the late ’90s for instance, if the world had fallen for Justin Timberlake of ‘N Sync…only to discover he didn’t even exist? Visualize Selena Gomez or Demi Lovato as completely computer-generated pop stars.

And that’s the tick–we only joke about it. Pop has become so manufactured in the eyes of many that this sort of thing is mentioned and joked about over here all the time. Going all the way back almost 50 years to The Monkees (ironically, one of the first “manufactured” acts became a talented force all their own), studio and label-generated acts thrown together with little concern for talent and more on the dollar have nearly become an American staple. Indeed, pop music as a whole is now seen as a manufactured, soulless genre.

But what would happen if it actually came to pass over here that one of our idols was a computerized counterfeit? The outrage over such a scandal; the American people being “lied to” would be splattered all over TMZ as details of the “scandal” leaked on a daily basis and lawsuits flew fast and furious.

In Japan, however? Not so much. Heck, this isn’t even the first time this has happened! Hatsune Miku also became a Japanese pop sensation, only to be outed as a virtual creation as well.  Japan’s reaction? Miku became the commercial face of Toyota Motor Corp. to promote its vehicles in Japan – and in the US.

How far away is America from its first virtual reality pop star? And would we even notice if it’s already happened?

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About Michael Melchor

Michael Melchor has covered pop culture in all its forms for several publications and websites, including BackStage Pass magazine, 411Mania.com, and Examiner.com.