Tupac is alive! Or at least in 2D imagery. This past weekend, deceased rapper Tupac Shakur “preformed” alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. Tupac, one of the best-selling music artists in the world, died more than 15 years ago in a tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. He made his mark in music as a chart-topping rapper with an incredible presence in pop culture.
His presence on stage created a frenzy across the media. One witty Twitter user even created an account for his hologram (although technically it’s not a hologram, but actually a 2D image carefully reflected off an angled glass).
There’s no doubt that his performance stunned a lot of folks in the audience as his ghostly image was projected unto the stage. Tupac’s virtual performance has set a higher bar. His image was physically lifelike and his performance was the first that wasn’t delivered while he was alive. Advancements in computer graphics created an illusion far more realistic than its predecessors and has opened up the discussion of a new form of virtual concerts.
There seems to be trend of deceased singers singing “beyond the grave” and we will continue to see this phenomenon more and more as technology progresses. Iconic stars have been brought back to life on stage utilizing virtual technology, taking their likeness and voice and digitally re-creating it. In the past, a digital Frank Sinatra was brought on stage to sing at Simon Cowell’s 50th birthday. But with this new trend comes the question of whether we’re even ready for our favorite artist projected as ghostly images in this eerie spectacle? Would these artists have even agreed to this?
Tupac’s Coachella performance has signaled a new era of virtual concerts that will surely bring in big bucks. However, using the images of big-name artists like Tupac also exploits the legacy of these artists. While the idea of seeing your favorite bands or artists live is entertaining, we should also remember to respect their legacy and not take advantage of their popularity. “Resurrecting” these artists is a contentious issue. James Montgomery of MTV said it best: “… the appeal of most great, long-gone artists lies in the fact that they're no longer with us: They are certainly timeless, yet they are also of a certain time. They define an era, an ethos, and they most certainly don't deserve to be resurrected.” Should we really be capitalizing on their legacy? Seems like society blurs the line between respecting these artists and benefitting financially off their death.
For some, this recent event looks like a clever marketing strategy to get people buzzing about the possibility of seeing more popular, deceased artists on stage. Talks are in the works now for a tour involving Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg with the virtual Tupac. Ultimately it’s up to the fans to decide whether or not it’s a good thing. We will likely see more virtual concerts like this in the future, although living, breathing performers have a bigger appeal.
Beyond the Grave: Capitalizing on the Legacies of Our Favorite Artists