@ZackTeibloom Hologram performances are an affront to live music and need to stop immediately or “live” music will go down a path far worse than 3D movies. That’s what I want to feel. I wish I could just say that and have it be true, but I was legitimately tossing and turning last night, trying to decide if I truly despise this gimmick or if I could come around on it. It’s tough to say definitively that hologram performances are a terrible thing, especially since holograms have historically made things better. From sage advice in Star Wars to making baseball cards you turn from side to side to gawk at, holograms enhance already awesome things. Well, not Will.i.am during the election, that was ridiculous, but for the most part, holograms have always made things better.
I feel like you must already know this if you’re reading an analysis of it, but since I had to explain it to my sister and another friend today, a hologram of 2Pac performed two songs during the Dre/Snoop extravaganza Sunday night at Coachella. It was bizarre, kind of cool and really gimmicky. Look, 2Pac is dead. So are Elvis, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and half of The Beatles. This is a reality we have to live with. Plugging Kurt Cobain into Guitar Hero and making a hologram of 2Pac doesn’t change that. It cheapens their legacy. I understand having a recording of Nate Dogg play during his parts of a song, because he’s an integral part of the band and it wouldn’t be right to do it without him. But a hologram that has 2Pac saying “What the fuck is up, Coachella?!” Seriously, what the fuck is up? It’s sacrilegious and tacky and fake. When you have Dre & Snoop & Eminem & 50 Cent & Wiz Khalifa & G-Unit live, in the flesh, bullet wounds and all, why project 2Pac into the proceedings? It was as unnecessary and excessive as the Dre/Snoop cover of “Jump Around.” Live music is a sacred thing. I’m aware that this isn’t the first time* there’s been a digital image of one artist performing with another, but this is the first one that’s gotten huge national attention as soon as it happened. I fear that we’re heading down a terrible path if this goes from an occasional gimmick to the norm and I can’t even come to grips with how I truly feel about it.
If you haven’t seen the hologram performance, give it a glance.
When Andy e-mailed me “zombie regulatorrrrrrrrrs” two nights before Coachella, I was intrigued. We thought Nate Dogg would be the one to get hologram treatment, but all he got was a seriously 90’s Bar Mitzvah-esque slide show full of pictures slowly zooming out to reveal a young Nate with Snoop. The Bar Mitzvah slide show got old pretty fast, but was a crazy expensive (reportedly $100,000-$400,000) hologram better? Kind of, I suppose. You know how when you’re watching a movie in 3D and when things first jump out at you, you have that “whoa!” reaction, but then twenty minutes in, the glasses get annoying and you wish you could take them off? That’s mostly how it felt. As it was happening, I thought it was kind of cool, but odd. I never relaxed and let myself enjoy it. I watched it with a critical eye, wondering what to make of it. I kept wanting Snoop to put his hand through hologram Pac or interact with him in some way but of course he couldn’t, just like 2Pac’s hologram couldn’t smoke a giant blunt or joint on stage like Snoop and Wiz did. When 2Pac’s hologram dissolved into thin air, part of me thought, “cool!” before the slightly more sensible part of me feared that we’d just entered a horrifying new future for live music. Obviously holograms won’t replace live music, but we can’t open this can of worms.
Reaction has been mixed. Nas loved it. It’s worth noting that he recently tweeted, “Shout out to Kid Rock! One of the realest muthafuckaz out there.” Take his opinion with many grains of salt.
“Tupac has almost become Elvis, where people still think he’s alive, so the hologram thing I thought was genius of Dr. Dre and Snoop,” the veteran MC tells Billboard.com. “It just shows you how amazing Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg are, and how they hard they’re riding for their West Coast brother Tupac, in the name of hip-hop music. I thought it was a great look for hip-hop as a whole — it stepped hip-hop up a notch. And it was also revolutionary on a performance scale.” -Nas
Grantland wants it to happen:
“So here’s what I’m saying: Let Hologram Tupac tour — arenas, stadiums, bowling alleys, backyard barbecues, my apartment, wherever — and then let the people decide for good if we are ready to traverse this breach. Let Hologram Tupac get out there and mix it up with the masses; either they’ll run toward his ice-cold ghost arms, or they will flee to the hills in terror. But one way or the other, we’ll know if it’s time. Unleash the Hologram Tupac.”
OK, not all the whole staff:
“Seeing it was cool, then terrifying, and then awkward, and then cool again, and then the worst thing ever. I think. You know what? I don’t know how I feel about the hologram. Actually, if there were a Luther Vandross hologram, I wouldn’t be mad. Or I might be furious. I hate NASA.” -Rembert Browne
That bold part totally nails it. How do you process such a thing? I’m glad I saw it. I like seeing random, odd things. I applaud them for trying, I suppose. I’m OK with it this time, but this is America. We never stop when it’s enough. There’s already rumors of expanding this one-off (OK, next weekend too) into a world tour. Eventually, that will lead to:
See, this is what I’m fearing. Entire festivals built around dead artists. I can’t even start discussing this poster without mentioning what a horrendous job they did with ordering this line-up. G.G. Allin and Drowning Pool slotted higher than Led Zeppelin?! The Beatles aren’t headlining?! Jesus gets lowest billing of all?! OK, that’s funny. Anyway, we don’t want this living in the past, holograms of old artists thing to become a reality. Of course I’m sad I never got to see any** of these artists live in real life, but if I saw a hologram of them, that wouldn’t change that. I have not seen 2Pac in concert. There are better ways to do this. Whether it’s a cover band*** or an old band with a new member replacing the deceased or just a video or voiceover of the deceased, any option is better than a hologram.
I’d like to end on that note, as a champion of live music and saying that holograms are stupid and phony and music snob blah, blah, blah, but I’d be lying. The truth is, the above poster sounds like an awesome time. I’d get to watch all my favorite bands in a live venue one after another with guaranteed awesome performances? It’s like a far better concert film, right? Would it cheapen it? You can’t tell me you’re not intrigued, even if that intrigue is cloaked in disgust. I always thought something would come along like Dubstep that would make me feel out of touch with “what the kids are listening to,” but now I’m left wondering if holograms are that thing. Am I going to tell my grandkids, watching a Bieber 3D hologram projected into their living room, that “In my day, we watched real musicians! I mean, sure, they played synths and lip synced and rapped over packaged beats and pressed play on a laptop, but they were there in person!” I hope none of that happens, but what if I’m the one going to a festival in five years to see some hologram festival. It’s a very confusing time to be a music fan. I don’t know how I feel about any of it.
*I won’t subject you to it, but a virtual Elvis performing with Celine Dion on American Idol video exists.
**I did see James Brown three months before he died and Ray Charles when I was barely old enough to remember.
***Caitlin and I see LCD Soundsystem cover band All My Friends every chance we get. I’d rather watch them play live music over a hologram of James Murphy, every time. Even if Caitlin has to help All My Friends’ singer remember the lyrics. Especially when Caitlin has to help him remember the lyrics.