Recently, Michael Jackson has had more successes to add to his huge career. He got another number one album with second posthumous offering ‘Xscape’, making him one of the only artists to have a number one album in each decade of their career, and another top ten single with ‘Love Never Felt So Good’ featuring Justin Timberlake. However, the biggest achievement is the 3D hologram at the Billboard Music Awards performing ‘Slave To The Rhythm’. On a night that featured Robin Thicke’s embarrassing apology to his wife, and Kendall Jenner admitting she’s not a good reader, the performance was certainly the highlight. It was the result of over a year’s planning, filming and choreography – and it all paid off. With Michael’s famous dance moves and unique vocals present, it made a lot of people happy to see him as they remembered him. Yet it’s almost caused as much controversy as it has happiness, with many people claiming that the hologram is not of Michael Jackson but of an impersonator and by looking closely at the face it is clear to see why that is the case. In my opinion, this couldn’t be more disrespectful, especially to his family. Of course it wouldn’t be a physical embodiment for obvious reasons, but in all honesty you shouldn’t use an impersonator then claim it’s him, out of respect at least.
There has been a surge of fury over the actual video itself, with people claiming it differs from his usual style. It had elements of Cirque du Soleil and weird masked dancers that would not look out of place in Daft Punk, not something I, nor many fans, would associate with the King of Pop.
He was in charge of everything in his videos from the filming to the choreography in his performances, and that performance would almost be a destruction of his legacy. It didn’t have the usual finesse of Jackson’s performances and, though the background of the animation had a slight resemblance to his ‘Remember the Time’ video, it was hard to see the similarities between Michael and the 3D image. It was almost like his legacy was being crushed – pretty devastating considering this was the highlight of a pretty boring awards ceremony.
Jackson’s reappearance highly contrasts with the hologram of Tupac at Coachella festival in 2012. As one of the biggest music festivals in the world, Coachella is the perfect place to make a memorable performance, as people flock from all over the world to attend. Amongst a weekend that included Pulp reuniting for their American fans, the performance was the main attraction and was internet gold within minutes. Performing alongside Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg, it was a rap fan’s dream. The interaction with the audience made the hologram more realistic albeit more tragic, as Tupac was cruelly taken before he could make this huge impact in a festival setting in his lifetime. By saying “What the fuck is up Coachella?” this animation was almost human and with the names behind it (James Cameron’s imaging companies, by no means) it is understandable why. Unlike Jackson’s though, it wasn’t a 3D hologram but a 2D projection and was described as “genius”, considering he delivered material not performed in his lifetime like Jackson. His exit was as cool as his entrance by exploding into a ball of light, almost symbolic of his explosion of talent. Watching the animation reminds us of what a great talent Tupac was and now a lot of people like him because it’s cool and that he’s a tragic feature which for some unknown reason, is inspirational to the youth of today.
With these hologram performances, the most disrespectful part has to be the fact that they perform material not known by their fans in their lifetime. Although this material can be good (Michael Jackson’s latest album is proof of that), they may not have wanted the material to go out. It may have been left off a record for a reason. It may have been associated with a person or a memory they want to forget about. Apparently in the case of ‘Xscape’, all the songs on the album was material that was considered for his other albums ‘Off The Wall’, Dangerous’ and ‘Bad’, but didn’t make the cut.
“The interaction with the audience made the hologram more realistic, yet more tragic.”
There must have been a reason for this. Even if it’s the simple case of the track wasn’t good enough, it shouldn’t be released as material for a new album. The only thing which should be acceptable for a posthumous album to be released is if the album was complete while the artist was alive and they consented for the album to be released, similarly to a posthumous role in a film by an actor. Similarly, if there are animated music performances by dead musicians, why can’t the same be applied to actors when they accept a posthumous award? The reason it’s not done is because it is disrespectful to the families of the deceased. Talk about double standards.
Although I am ultimately against the use of animation and holograms in music performances, there are some exceptions. Elvis Presley has often been reanimated in music videos with huge success. Unlike Jackson and Tupac, it is not overly creepy or disturbing because the animation consisted of footage that actually exists of him singing the songs rather than make a video just for one performance. He did a duet with country superstar Martina McBride on festive tune ‘Blue Christmas’, whilst he did a live performance of inspirational hit ‘If I Can Dream’ with infamous warbler Celine Dion on ‘American Idol’, a performance which has gone down in history. Although neither were intended to be duets, they worked perfectly well. If anything, it may have provided Elvis with a new fan base by the songs being re-released by current musicians so more people can hear the great music. That’s not sordid, that’s quite clever.
Now, it’s unclear where we can draw the line in terms of hologram and animation. It seems acceptable to use holograms of dead musicians if it is going to be a talking point and a historic performance. Yet it seems like the eye-watering amount of money spent on these holograms and animations could be used to book huge living musicians rather than animating those who have already made their impact on the music industry.