Holograms and Whitney: Morals of Posthumous Use of Artists

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With the announcement of the brand-new Whitney Houston hologram tour titled ‘An Evening with Whitney’, Jack Whyles gives his opinion about the remixing and re-use of artists’ songs and images after they’ve passed.

In 1991, the wonderful Freddie Mercury announced that he had HIV just days before his death. During this announcement, he said that “You can do what you want with my music…but don’t make me boring”. Nowadays, we’re coming up with more and more mind-boggling ways to use the material that artists have left us with after passing. Whilst hologram tours – one of the most bizarre uses of an artist’s material – have been around for a few years now and I’ve had time to process their existence, I’m still undecided on whether or not going to one of these so-called ‘concerts’ would be a little bit uncomfortable – for lack of a better word. The idea of being in a concert hall full of people going crazy for a hologram of a dead singer – such as Elvis or Whitney Houston – doesn’t really sit right with me. 

Personally, if I saw that my favourite artist, David Bowie, was ‘embarking on a worldwide hologram tour’ then I think that I’d probably have to give it a miss. Whilst promoters are trying their hardest to make these gigs seem like ‘live performances’ worthy of your hard-earned cash, the simple fact is that the emotional connection and buzz that is created by the artist being there in the flesh is lost. 

For me, this is what makes a concert worth the money you spend on it. If I wanted to experience an artist’s material, then I could simply open up Spotify or put on one of their records, watch a documentary about their life or open YouTube and watch their live performances. Sure, you could argue that the artist is no longer alive, so seeing them via a hologram tour attended by a lorry-load of fans is a nice way to pay tribute to their legacy, but for me I would rather go and watch a tribute act with real people performing live, or listen to the original music as the artist intended.

That brings me to posthumous songs and albums. Often, these have been mixed and released by the family or friends of the artist in question. Most recently, the relatives of Leonard Cohen have announced a new album scheduled for release later this year, named ‘Thanks for the Dance’. For me though, posthumous songs and albums are really tough to get right. More often than not you find that the final mixes of the songs have had little to no input from the artist themselves – besides the vocals – which takes away the personal touch that for me is essential, making the songs harder to connect with. 

Of course, in the modern age of music where everything is systematically produced and algorithms rule, music is no longer just produced by a small, tight-knit group of people. Computers that understand the best-selling hooks or lyrics are now controlling the entire industry, desensitising many modern listeners to the emotion that music can hold and sucking the soul out of new releases. Personally, this is why I cannot get along with many posthumous releases. They have been put through the same process that many of the pop hits of today have been put through, ending up lathered with catchy hooks and funky beats. For many modern listeners this won’t be an issue, but for me this is a no-go zone. 

Even though I may seem against the fact that so many legendary artists are having new material released after death, it isn’t like it’s doing any harm. Sure, it could just be that relatives are trying to cash-in on the infamous post-death career boost that so many artists receive, and for me the Star Trek-style ‘live performances’ are a little freaky, but at the end of the day can we really complain about new material from some of the best artists in recent times? Probably not. I suppose it’s up to you to decide how you feel for yourself; maybe try and go to a hologram concert and see what you think. For me though, I’m probably just going to stick to the classic albums and tribute acts.

[Header image courtesy of People]