Are posthumous performances of our favorite artists cool, or just ghoulishly macabre? That’s the question that’s been thrust back into the spotlight thanks to Michael Jackson’s ‘holographic’ appearance at last night’s Billboard Music Awards. MJ magically appeared as a projection onstage alongside live human dancers to perform “Slave to the Rhythm” for the recently released Xscape, recorded before his death.
For many of us, last night’s image immediately calls to mind a similarly ghostly experience back in 2012, in which Tupac Shakur took the stage at Coachella alongside live performers such as Eminem, Dr. Dre, and others. At the time, just like the aftermath of last night’s show, viewers seemed torn between being captivated by the afterlife cameo, and creeped out that a near-live image of a human is being used essentially as a puppet.
Posthumous albums are one thing, but posthumous live performances? We’re not so sure. If we allow these ‘holograms’ to proceed, what’s next? Will Jim Morrison sing “Light My Fire” at the grand opening of a barbecue joint someday? How about Kurt Cobain singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at a high school graduation?
The idea cuts into deeper issues about humanity and mortality, which will continue to arise as technology begins to outpace evolution. Where does the line exist, and how will we know when we’ve crossed it? Apparently, for many, the proof is in the experience. Social media was abuzz after the performance with users who saw the image as an affront to the memory of Michael Jackson, regardless of however clouded his legacy may be by his own improprieties during his life. That said, others reveled in the spectacle of the performance, enjoying a glimpse of MJ, in whatever form. Frankly, we had trouble getting past the sync issues, regardless of the other factors at hand.
In case you missed the show, we’ve embedded the video below. What do you think about posthumous performances? Do they go too far, or is it just a cool technology? Let us know in the comments.