Before I jump into my little diatribe about respecting artists and their work, let me just say how incredible I think it is that technology now allows us to recreate the visual characteristics and mannerisms of a human being as a standing, moving picture. Just think how it will eventually impact our world. Families will be able to interact somewhat personally from across the globe. Doctors will be able to project images of your own organs right in front of you. And most importantly, we can resurrect the dead for as many thrilling performances as we want!
I wasn’t there when Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg played Coachella with the hologram of Tupac next to them, but I’m sure it was quite a thing to see. That being said, I wonder if it felt like he was really there? While it must have looked amazing, there was no real human interaction, no one to feed off of. Tupac wasn’t able to hype up the audience the way he did in person.
At the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, appeared on stage as a hologram to perform a track from his latest album, Xscape (which I’ll complain about in a minute). I adored Michael Jackson — I have most of his albums on vinyl. I performed “Man In The Mirror” for my 3rd grade talent show. I was desperately trying to figure out how to afford tickets to London for his final performances — but the reality is that MJ is not alive to perform anymore.
Michael Jackson was a very private person with a dark and haunted past. An incredible perfectionist, his albums were released 4-5 years apart because he was meticulous and needed to make sure everything sounded the way he wanted. That being said, I am in no place to judge what he would or would not have wanted. All I’m saying is that the posthumous release of Xscape is mainly comprised of unfinished and unreleased songs from 15-30 years ago. If he wanted them to be made public, he could have easily released them himself.
The bottom line is that Michael Jackson is not alive anymore, so we can’t justly put those words into his mouth. We still have an amazing collection of music and stories from the artist, as well as some troubled history. Shouldn’t that be it? Why do we have to go back through his demos and previous recordings and not only make something he doesn’t have his stamp on, but then make his false body dance to those tracks? Oh right. Money. Sony paid roughly a quarter of a billion dollars to access those songs. It’s disgusting.
Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe this is the future of performance, where we all sit back and enjoy the nostalgia of our idols. Because that’s all this is at this point. Nostalgia. Something from our past that we can’t seem to let go of. I know I can’t let go, but I hold on to what we had of one of the greatest performers in history. I cannot get behind reworking someone else’s art in a way we think he might have wanted, because we can’t know that for sure. It’s not fair to do that to people who can no longer speak for themselves.
All those sketches of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions, no one ever colored them in. It’s not right. That is Michael Jackson’s work, and his duty alone to finish. I haven’t listened to Xscape because it’s not Michael’s creation. Yes, he always worked with great producers who had a hand in his final product, but it’s not the same. I’m not trying to start any fires here. I just want to point out the fact that we need to celebrate the gifts we were given from the greats and let the dead rest.
Watch for yourself. You make the call.