What does it mean to be a pop artist? FEMM believes it means being anything you want. The Japanese duo discards the issues of identity and agency, donning a fictitious role as android mannequins who are here to deliver the masses from their shackles through music, art, and dance. The FEMM project is a collaboration between different talents, bringing together multiple songwriters, producers, illustrators, animators, and more, all filtered through FEMM’s own personal cyber goth preferences. In one video, they mix underground dance music with hyper-pop aesthetics, wrapping it all within a kaleidoscopic video of CGI dancers and mirrored chrome surfaces. In another, sleek rap and R&B sounds are paired with the neon alleyways of a Neo-Tokyo in the dead of night.
流行偶像应该是怎样的？对于 FEMM 来说，可以是任何你想要成为的样子。日本少女二人组合 FEMM 是由机械人偶扮演的虚构角色，在卸下了身份标签和繁琐的线下经营模式之后，她们将音乐、艺术和舞蹈的才艺毫无保留地公示于众。但其实 FEMM 是一个多人合作项目，汇集多位作曲家、制作人、插画家、动画师等，最终由 FEMM 加持赛博哥特式风格。在她们的一部音乐 MV里，两人融合地下舞曲与 Hyper Pop 美学风格，加入了 CGI 动画和金属镜像效果，共同呈现出万花筒般的繁杂画面；另一部 MV 设定于夜深人静的东京，两人站在霓虹闪烁的巷子里，如夜莺般灵巧地玩转着 R&B 和说唱风格 。
Pop music is frequently a space where the work of multiple artists and visions is expressed through an avatar, albeit usually it’s a living human being. The human face of the music gets draped in costumes and paraded around on red carpets and glowing stages for billions of people to project parasocial feelings onto. The option of discarding the human element in place of a digital avatar willing to do whatever our corporate overlords demand could be a great way to make them wealthy. But so far, it’s mainly been individuals creating digital models to replace their physical, human selves. And Hatsune Miku, the world’s first digital superstar, is a hologram with warbling Vocaloid ballads crowdsourced from fans around the world.
The idea of bringing in different groups of people to help write an album has long been common practice. Artists from Beyonce to Katy Perry enroll dozens of artists for a single project. Exploring these deep lists of credits can be very fun in itself, and can often be career launchpads for lesser-known collaborators. This sort of assembly line musical output goes at least as far back as Motown in Detroit and reggae in Jamaica and has resulted in a lot of timeless music.
这种“人多示众”的方式其实在流行歌坛屡见不鲜，可以追溯到底特律的 Motown 唱片和牙买加的雷鬼音乐。从碧昂斯（Beyoncé）到 Katy Perry 等一众歌手经常招募数十位艺术家共同参与一个项目，翻看这些创作者列表是一件很有意思的事情，而对于幕后艺术家来说，这也是一个不错的曝光机会。
FEMM embraces this process wholeheartedly, expressing it with a gleaming techno optimism. In our interview, they don’t break character and seem to eagerly anticipate the technological singularity, when the whole process will be fully automated. But for the moment, it’s still a very human project behind Oz’s curtain, and although no single person can be credited with the mannequins’ output, a lot of talented names are there to be appreciated. Max Prentis and Deathburger have created album cover art. Liam Wong directed one of their videos. And they’ve collaborated with local rapper Duke of Harajuku of Tokyo Vitamin notoriety.
FEMM 的制作团队五花八门，强烈的“科技乐观主义”（techno-optimism，认为科学技术发展是社会进步的动力）视觉元素也融入其中。她们从不会背离角色设定，并透露出对“科技奇点”（technological singularity，认为技术发展将会在很短的时间内发生极大的接近于无限的进步。）的热切期待，热忱于创作流程的完全自动化。就目前而言，这个项目很大程度上仍然需要人为参与：Max Prentis 和 Deathburger 设计了专辑封面；摄影师 Liam Wong 导演了她们的一个 MV。另外，她们还曾与东京创意团体&音乐组织 Tokyo Vitamin 的说唱歌手 Duke of Harajuku 联合创作过歌曲。
Although it’s intentionally impersonal—cloaked in an aura of manufactured secrecy and sensory overload—FEMM does use their voice for a cause. The whole project is a metaphor for feminism, with girl power being an explicit and central theme of their work. And they’ve made protest music as well, railing against Japan’s proposed laws to limit dancing in public, which was ultimately defeated.
在 FEMM 的表演中，她们常常有意抛开“人情”，以呈现出一种人工制造的神秘与超负荷的感官；但 FEMM 的音乐也蕴藏深意。从组合名字不难看出，整个项目是某种女权主义的隐喻，女性力量是她们作品所表达的强烈主题。她们还曾用音乐以示抗议，抨击日本政府提出的限制公共场所跳舞的法律。后来，这条法律提案在全民的抗议声中被否决。
Most of the project’s output so far has been designed to be best consumed on a screen, but they’re planning a FEMM 2.0 of sorts. Their recent Sit Down live video was a glimpse of what’s to come, streaming an appearance on stage live, scaled beyond the outmoded human with massive screens looming over the crowd and interactive lights amplifying performers’ every step. One day soon, viewers will be able to witness their full cyborg glory in real life.
到目前为止，组合的大部分作品仅可以在网络上观看或收听。未来，团队还将推出 FEMM 2.0，以全息影像的方式在现场带歌迷一览她们的风采。而在最近发布的《Sit Down》音乐视频中，其采用的画面的便是舞台现场的表达方式，足以让观众感受巨大屏幕的震撼，通过互动光影放大表演者的每一个舞步。相信很快，观众将能够在现实世界里领略到这对机械人偶组合的华丽。