Initially, I wasn’t going to watch the 2014 Billboard Music Awards this past Sunday, but only because I was nervous about seeing a Michael Jackson hologram. To me, it was just too soon to happen. Of course my curiosity (and Twitter) got the best of me and I tuned in to see how they’d pay tribute to the man that helped define entertainment for my generation. What I saw left me with mixed reaction. I was both impressed, and disappointed at the same time. I was Impressed, because I mean it was an undeniable spectacle that brought the house down. I was disappointed however, with the idea that it’s only been five years since he passed, but they’ve been cashing in on MJ’s legacy ever since. Not only that, but would a well documented perfectionist like Mike himself even want to be remembered in this way? And it got me thinking even more. Are these hologram performances tainting the legacy of fallen musicians?
“What’s up, Coachella!” A risen Tupac Shakur screamed at the Music Festival just two years ago. Swaying across the stage to the shock and disbelief of the crowd was a rapper like we’d never seen before. Tupac, in all of his tattoo’d glory, running through his classic hits without any hiccups. His interactions with both Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre was unbelievable. It was the first performance of that caliber for the Hip Hop community. Although I enjoyed it like everyone else, I knew it would just open the flood gates for more performances like it. Media execs would see it as a cash cow, aiming the new strategy at an audience obsessed with reliving those glory days. Or better yet, the generation that came much later and didn’t get a chance to experience these artists in their prime.
And so a year later, and Compton great Eazy E rose to the stage for a performance with Bone Thugs N Harmony at Rock The Bells. While there were no evident mishaps, just a day later and The Wu-Tang Clan got in on the fun and resurrected Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Looking to follow the success of Pac’s performance, ODB’s set however, was riddled and overshadowed by bad sound quality and poor execution. Granted they’re still working out the kinks in this new technology, but it was almost painful to witness. I consider these artists to be very delicate because as I stressed before, they came before this newer generation’s time. When this is how they’re being introduced to them and there are glitches, how will they feel compelled to visit their catalogs of music?
I’m almost certain that 10 or 15 years from now, this new technology will be flawless. It’ll probably be the only way legendary artists are honored. Hell there’s even been recent talk that James Brown could be getting the hologram treatment soon. Remember when they used to just bring out musicians that looked up to the ones that died to give a moving tribute on stage?
Those days are fading away fast, and it’s because today we lack artists of a high caliber that can put on a fitting tribute. The Michael Jackson hologram showed me that we’re moving away from reality at a scary pace. Pac died in the 90’s, so when he took the stage at Coachella it was well received because it was completely out of the ordinary. We were creeped the fuck out, but intrigued. Although we shared those same sentiments with MJ’s performance, it was seemingly rushed. And then they debuted it at not the Grammy’s (The Oscars of Music), not the American Music Awards, but the BILLBOARD Awards!? I often rant about the need to create new memories or the lack there of, and it’s because if they aren’t created then the focus is heavily fixated on the past. I don’t want to see legendary artists remembered through these half-assed holograms. I’d much rather see them honored by musicians that look to mirror or trump their success. I hope that’s taken as a challenge from the artist in you.