Four years ago, the Vocaloid culture that we know today didn’t exist. NicoNico Douga was still a young site at that time. No Vocaloid songs with millions of views, no Vocaloid albums topping the Oricon charts, no MMD, no UTAU, no VocaRan, and so on. In short, there was no Miku Hatsune. But four years ago, there was Sweet Ann.
Okay, four-years-minus-two-days ago. Sweet Ann is a “space lounge robovocalist sensation” according to her developers, the Swedish company PowerFX (her name is a pun on Sweden) and she was released on June 29, 2007. She isn’t the first Vocaloid – the honor goes back to her fellow Engloids, Zero-G’s Leon and Lola –, but she was the first VOCALOID2 voicebank. The only information PowerFX has revealed on her voice provider is that she’s an “Australian singer whose artist name is ‘Jody'”. Her character item is a chicken drumstick.
In Japan, she was released on September 21, 2007 by Crypton Future Media, who was PowerFX’s distributor in this country; it is in fact Crypton who introduced PowerFX to YAMAHA. Japanese fans sometimes call her wil alternate names such as “Amane An” (甘音, sweet sound; 餡, an, which is the name of a sweet red bean paste) .
Her original boxart depicts a somewhat old-fashion singer, with a greenish stictch on her neck to fit her image as a Frankenstein monster-style artificial human. PowerFX would later use a similar concept for Big Al’s original boxart, before changing it for his release. You can view one of her demos uploaded to YouTube by PowerFX on August 21, 2007 which aimed to demonstrate her super-human skills in a battle-style exchange with singer Kitto:
The video below, uploaded on October 14, 2007 (less than a month after the Japanese release), marks the first appearance of 脳内アン (nounai an), i.e. a “mental representation of Ann” that would come to be used by some Japanese fans instead of her original design, deemed not appealing enough.
During a January 4, 2010 interview, PowerFX’s CEO Bil Bryant also talked about a “design competition” open to everyone for Ann’s new avatar, but no further info has filtered since then. New illustrations for both Big Al and Sweet Ann were uploaded to the company’s website on April 6, 2011, but it would later be announced that the new designs were only to be used by their Taiwanese distributors. Below is a demo uploaded by E-Capsule, using the Taiwanese design.
And now let’s listen to some of her most popular songs as well as songs uploaded for her birthday:
And here’s a popular duet with Miku, “Lividus”, where Sweet Ann mostly does backing vocals.
And here are some pics uploaded by artists on pixiv:
You can view more illustrations on pixiv by searching this tag.
Long live Sweet Ann! Bil Bryant said they were considering updating their voicebanks to VOCALOID3; nothing confirmed as of now, but we may have a pleasant surprise in the year to come!