Hologram performances diminish worth of live concerts
The relationship between a musician’s life and the consumption of his or her creative output is pretty unpredictable. This past February, both Sony and Apple were slammed for increasing the price of Whitney Houston’s albums The Ultimate Collection and The Greatest Hits in the United Kingdom iTunes store within a day of her death.
Yet when deceased rapper Tupac Shakur “showed up” for a surprise performance at Coachella via computer projection with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, it was generally positively received.
While there is a huge difference between raising the price of an artist’s work less than 24 hours after her death (regardless of whether it was because of an pricing error, as Sony stated) and re-animating the dead, there is a definite factor of irreverence associated with both.
Contrary to popular belief, the Tupac that appeared was not a hologram. It was actually a commercialized version of an illusion called Pepper’s ghost, which projects an image onto a mirror positioned to reflect the image on a piece of thin mesh hung over the front of the stage, creating the illusion of a three dimensional figure. It has angles and shades that give the illusion of depth, but in reality it is simply an image. Dr. Dre has stated that he intends to take this “Pac-o-Gram” on tour in the near future. There is very little about this decision that can be viewed as redeemable. The idea of a dead rapper performing “live” is not only creepy, but ultimately degrades Tupac as a performer and musician.
It is impossible for any two live performances to be the same. With Pepper’s ghost, however, this variability is flattened. Each performance must be perfectly choreographed beforehand, which destroys the spontaneity of a live concert. And really, what’s the point of a concert if there is no spontaneity? However, this is not what is most sinister about “Pac-o-Gram.”
One of the reasons that Tupac is so loved is his singularity as a musician. With “Pac-o-Gram,” you might be able to see Tupac perform at Madison Square Garden, and then see him perform again at a bar two blocks away 30 minutes later. Thus, his uniqueness is essentially destroyed. It is tacky, tasteless, and disrespectful of musicians. But even more frighteningly, it suggests that musicians are more valuable dead than they are alive.
Tupac’s posthumous discography is notoriously huge. Eight albums have been credited to him since his death and this is merely the next step in the desecration of his memory. Make no mistake; his duet with Snoop Dogg at Coachella was awesome to watch and was by all means unexpected. But this is no different than releasing eight albums of “new” material posthumously or raising the album prices of an artist’s work immediately after his or her death.
This is a move motivated by greed and will only succeed in watering down Tupac’s reputation. While death is unfortunate and inevitable, it brings a certain solemnity and gravitas to an artist’s work that is inimitable. This zombification is incredibly disrespectful.