Thoughts On MJ Hologram Performance: Is It Time To Stop Playing God?

2014 Billboard Music Awards - Roaming Show

Reactions to last night Billboard Music Awards performance has been mixed-and what an interesting mixture it is! While the media continues to spin this as one of the highlights of last night’s show, the reaction from the fan community has been quite a different story. Part of the problem for myself, and I suspect for many others, is simply that this event had been so overhyped prior to the show. Let’s go back to those press blurbs that had so many of us anxiously awaiting what we thought was going to be some miraculous resurrection of Michael from the grave. In particular, this story from the “Las Vegas Sun” and the details leaked by Robin Leach were what really set fans’ hearts and pulses into over drive:

Billboard Awards preview: Michael Jackson imagery is ‘as if he’s still alive’

By  (contact)

A “real-life” Michael Jackson will appear halfway through the 2014 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday at MGM Grand Garden Arena despite last-minute lawsuits and court filings to block the spectacle.

Late Friday, federal judge Kent Dawson ruled here that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove that patents on previous hologram 3D images held by two companies and an individual had been violated. The emergency lawsuit had been filed against the King of Pop’s estate and its trustees John Branca and Howard Weitzman by Hologram USA Inc., Musion Das Hologram Ltd and businessman Alki David, who says that he control rights to hologram technology. A veil of secrecy has been lowered over the Billboard extravaganza. The only official word from ABC and Dick Clark Productions is that “it will be a history-making performance.” My original story about the imagery was posted at Vegas Deluxe when Michael’s new album “Xscape” was released. But I learned exclusively Friday night that Michael’s image to be unveiled about halfway in the three-hour ABC telecast is brand new technology. “It was two years in development and took an additional six months to create for this network premiere,” I was told. “This is way, way beyond a hologram. It is way, way beyond what you know as 3D. This isn’t even digital. It is far more advanced and a totally new process.” “This lawsuit to attempt to stop the broadcast was just a stunt. It was ludicrous,” snapped L.A. attorney Howard Weitzman, who represented Michael’s estate and Dick Clark Productions, who is staging the BBMAs for ABC. “The court’s decision is not surprising.” I also exclusively learned that Michael will be seen dancing with a cast of dancers. He will be seen moonwalking back and forth the entire MGM Grand Garden Arena stage. He also will be seen dancing up and down stairs. “This is the most emotional piece of television we have ever produced in our 40-year TV careers,” two Dick Clark Productions execs told me. “A few people have seen it, a tiny portion of it, already in the arena and have been crying — it’s that powerful. Incredibly, it plays even better on the TV screen, so imagine how viewers will react at home. “They will be in a state of disbelief. It’s as if he’s still alive at the height of his career.” I learned that Michael’s estate trustees came across undiscovered L.A. Reid recorded footage of Michael that they didn’t know existed. The lawsuit says the music will be a new song, “Slave to the Rhythm.” “They didn’t know what they originally wanted to do with it or make with it except just wanting to capture him alive forever. That became the background format for this new technology. It might have gone to Cirque du Soleil. They might have found a way to complete the This Is It tour. “This has never been done before. It is 100 steps beyond anything anybody has ever thought you’d experienced as a hologram. It is so real, it is so lifelike, there is no way an audience would know the artist is not there in front of them. So real an artist would actually never have to go out on tour again or need makeup for an appearance. The artist is there without being there. You cannot tell the difference. “That will be proven Sunday night with Michael Jackson, just like he’s done before time and time again as a pioneer with music-technology breakthroughs.” A few key major city radio DJs were given a 30-second sneak preview of the spectacle after signing secrecy agreements. Under strict promises of remaining anonymous, I was told: “Within 10 seconds, I was shaking. Then I started sobbing. Michael was alive. I had goose bumps. He was as real as the day I last saw him alive. “I cannot tell you what he does, but his fans from this point on will never believe that he died. It will be four minutes they will remember forever.” No plans for its future use have yet been revealed, but I am told that plans will be forthcoming and will be expanded to include other song material later. Meantime, another lawsuit has yet to be determined. Cirque and MGM Resorts International have until next Friday to answer a case in Los Angeles Federal Court filed by Hologram USA claiming unlicensed use of the digital rendition used in Cirque’s “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/vegasdeluxe/2014/may/17/billboard-awards-preview-michael-jackson-imagery-i/

Wow, sounds almost too good to be true, right? Well, as it turned out, that seems to have been exactly the case. But caught up in the excitement and hype of Xscape’s success; swept along with the rising tide of MJ mania and all of the wonderful things that seemed to be happening, perhaps it became too easy to believe that anything might be possible. Even miracles. Granted, the hologram (or “holographic”) technology that made last night’s performance possible has been responsible for some pretty amazing things, such as the “resurrection” of Tupac Shakur at Coachella in 2012. And the reaction to that Tupac Shakur performance in 2012 was said to have been eerily similar to the reaction of last night’s Billboard audience, who seemed actually too stunned by what they were seeing to even cheer . But we were promised something that was supposed to make that Tupac hologram look like “a 1980’s video game. ” These were supposedly the direct words from the Michael Jackson estate, as quoted in The Daily Mail.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2630194/Michael-Jackson-perform-Billboard-Awards-Sunday.html

The anticipation, fed by these blurbs, continued to build to fever pitch throughout the day on Sunday, as fans tweeted about the event and the usual battles raged between those supporting it and those opposed. I was as caught up in that fever as anyone. The anticipation, for a few brief hours-reminded me of all the nervous anticipation and hysteria that used to precede any Michael Jackson event, whether it was a televised performance or a new video premier. It also reminded me that this is exactly the momentum that drives, and will always drive, such events. We want Michael to be here, among us again. We grasp at whatever straws are thrown, I sometimes believe, in a desperate attempt to suspend belief and have him among us again. I think we were all played a pretty trick last night in being fooled, even for a minute, into thinking that this could be possible; that a “virtual” Michael-through the miracle of modern technology-could somehow make this happen. This was a message I posted on social media before the broadcast:

What with all this hype over the Michael Jackson experience promised for tomorrow night’s Billboard Music Awards; people saying that it makes those who have previewed it break down in tears and so on, I had a thought. We know, of course, that this virtual image-no matter how great it is-is not Michael alive again and performing. It is what it is-an image. So with that being the case, what would make this any different from simply having a really great MJ impersonator on the stage-you know, one of those that looks almost exactly like him and has his moves, voice, etc down pat? That is an interesting question, but clearly, if these early reports are to be believed, it is NOT the same thing. With an MJ impersonator, you know it is not him but if they are really good at what they do, they can almost create that illusion, at least for a little while. But obviously, the reaction this virtual experience is invoking in people is something totally different. So the whole hype has indeed got me very curious. Clearly, there must be something very unique about this experience; something that totally supercedes any other past or familiar experience we have known, including watching some of his greatest impersonators and even the hologram of the Cirque du Soleil “One” show. I guess we will have to wait until Sunday night to get those answers.

The question that had been raised in my mind was exactly this: What is so special about hologram technology, when there is nothing a hologram can do that a good tribute artist can’t do just as well? (Either way, the audience must suspend their belief; in either case, what is being seen is only an illusion). I think the major difference is that somehow, with a virtual or hologram image, it becomes easier to accept that what we are seeing is-if not the real thing, at least a closer approximation to it than simply knowing that is a guy up there wearing clothes like Michael and copying his moves. At least, that is the idea in theory. There is a reason why most holograms look eerily like apparitions (in fact, the technology that produced the Tupac hologram is called “Pepper’s Ghost”). If you had a chance to see a Michael Jackson tribute artist vs. Michael’s actual ghost, which one would feel more authentic to you? Well, you get the idea, sort of. But the way this thing had been hyped, I was really almost expecting a fully three dimensional, flesh and blood Michael to pop out of my TV screen, one who would look and perform almost as realistically as the live performers who were there. I was, honestly, almost expecting to see something that would not even resemble a virtual image. And, for sure, I was expecting to at least see an image whose face and body LOOKED like Michael. At first, I was excited to see the Dangerous-esque set and the hot pose of “Virtual Mike” on his throne, leg draped seductively over the side. Wow, it sure did look promising to be one, hot number for about two seconds. But then, as “Virtual Mike” started to sing and move, the whole thing just felt very off to me. It didn’t help that the entire first few segments of the illusion was ruined by that annoying wavy effect.  Of course, this was live TV and holography is like any technology-things can go wrong. I heard that this was most likely an effect produced by the air current when the curtains were drawn back. Possibly, but nevertheless, it ruined some of the experience as it was quite distracting and only served to emphasize the fact that what we were seeing was an image; thus, much of the intended illusion was marred from the outset. Still, this minor flaw could have been forgiven had the rest of the performance lived up to the hype.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LNoljiAajo[/tube]

I wanted to be on the edge of my seat, squealing in sheer delight and excitement. Instead, I was just kind of sitting there, arms folded, thinking, “That doesn’t even look like him; it looks like an impersonator.” And, frankly, not a very good one, at that. I knew instantly, from the sinking feeling in my own gut, what was going to ensue as soon as I checked the reactions of other fans on social media. Now I am hearing reports that the hologram wasn’t even completed on time, and that a stand-in had been used to complete the dance moves. Christopher Gaspar, a Michael Jackson tribute artist, had posted this on his Facebook page, which some took as “confirmation” of the rumor:

christopher gast

However, while Gaspar admits to having once been used as a body double stand-in, he has sworn in a more recent statement that he had nothing to do with the hologram used for the Billboard Awards:

I just wake up. It’s 7am and everybody are sending me messages or friend request…. An hologram’ couldn’t be me because it’s a projection, anyway. They used me one time live on stage not for the billboard performance. I’m disappointed as you all because they said that is MJ and it was not MJ at all. When they used me for the performance they called my name to introduce me. Regards.-Christopher Gaspar

https://www.facebook.com/pages/CHRISTOPHER-GASPAR-OFFICIAL-IMPERSONATOR-OF-MICHAEL-JACKSON/187681481608

On a segment of Good Morning America this morning there was continued insistence that this was a project over two years in the making. I do love what a positive clip this is. “He was a dancing machine!”

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vqiRl5afgQ[/tube]

“Michael Magic” might indeed be a good way to explain it. But I think a lot of us this morning are asking the same question. How and why on earth did something supposedly two years in the making come across as looking so haphazardly and lazily thrown together? Honestly, this bore about as much resemblance to Michael-and to his dance moves-as the graphic that is used in the Experience video game-and was just about as impressive. Sure, I “get” that what we were witnessing was cutting edge technology that, a decade ago, would not have been possible. I suppose that perhaps, even a few years ago, we might have been wowed simply by the possibility of having a virtual image Michael who could sing and dance in front of our eyes on a live stage. Perhaps, in a way, it is indicative of our now jaded relationship with technology. We live in a society that has become harder and harder to “wow.” Perhaps we have simply lost some of our ability to truly marvel when we witness something magic. But Michael Jackson fans, in particular, are way too savvy to be fooled. While there is no doubt a certain amount of paranoia from some factions of the fan base, who will zealously scan every note on a new track searching for any sign of “fakery” rather than just enjoying what we have, I do feel that those of us who came away from last night’s performance feeling less than thrilled were justified in our letdown. After all, we had been led to believe that this was going to be something extraordinary; something that had supposedly moved grown men to tears. Perhaps I can echo the sentiment of many in saying, simply, if my expectations had not been so high, I might not have felt half so let down. Perhaps, had my adrenalin not been so pumped up from all the positive press over Xscape and its sales, I might have tuned in with more realistic expectations, and been thrilled just to see Michael being honored.

In short,  everything connected to MJ had suddenly started to feel “Invincible” again. Michael Jackson, after all, was the man who had made television history time and again. We all wanted to believe it could be true; that he could still do it one more time, even from the grave.

In a curious way, he both did and didn’t. Many of us certainly got what we were hoping for. Within minutes of the performance, it was a hot trending topic on social media everywhere, and the number one trending topic in the United States. And the media has certainly been abuzz about it all morning, most of it very positive, with headlines such as “Billboard Music Awards 2014: Michael Jackson Hologram Steals the Show,” “Jackson Hologram Steals Billboard Show” and now with the confirmation that the Billboard Awards show not only won in the ratings but boasted its largest ratings in thirteen years, thanks in no small part to the hype generated by the Michael Jackson Experience.

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/05/19/justin-timberlake-takes-seven-awards-but-hologram-michael-jackson-steals-show/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/michael-jackson/10840106/Billboard-Music-Awards-2014-Michael-Jackson-hologram-steals-the-show.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2632334/Michael-Jackson-hologram-performs-Slave-To-The-Rhythm-gets-standing-ovation-Billboard-Music-Awards.html

http://www.billboard.com/articles/events/bbma-2014/6092128/tv-ratings-billboard-music-awards-abc

Well, that’s all fine and good, and many are saying we should be grateful for all the positive attention and accolades. But I’m of two minds on this. Yes, a part of me is happy to see it. As most of you know, I have been very supportive of the album (which is fantastic) and proud of its commercial success. But maybe, sometimes, we do have to know when/where to draw the line. That is, the line between what is tasteful and appropriate now that Michael is gone, and that which crosses the line into simply exploiting the wishful need to have him here again-both as an idol and as a commodity. Or, to put it more bluntly, just because Michael once played a zombie on TV doesn’t mean he wants to be one in real life.

In A Curious Turnabout, It's the Media This Time Who Is Building Michael Up, While Fans Remain Mostly Mixed To Lukewarm
In A Curious Turnabout, It’s the Media This Time Who Is Building Michael Up, While Fans Remain Mostly Mixed To Lukewarm

It’s great if the media wants to spin last night’s performance into some sort of triumph (the media actually “building Michael up” again; who would’ve ever thunk it, right?). But it still leaves me with an unsettling feeling. These are people who, for the most part,  don’t really know Michael; who wouldn’t know a wooden moonwalk from a great one; who probably couldn’t even tell you which song the anti-gravity lean is associated with; people who would think the hologram “looked just like him” and moved “just like him” because their own memories have dulled with the passage of time. CNN’s Alan Duke put it best when he said that the hologram would be bound to most impress those who haven’t spent every hour obsessing over every detail of Michael’s face and body. I suppose that is true: I certainly wouldn’t argue it. But it does hit home an obvious point. Michael, just like Elvis and Marilyn Monroe and other icons before him, has now passed into the realm of caricature. These days, you can take most any overweight guy, stick him in a sequined jumpsuit, put a guitar in his hands, and people will say, “He looks just like Elvis.” You could take most any attractive young woman, put her in a white poodle dress and blonde wig, and have instant Marilyn. And so, too, are we beginning to see the caricaturation of Michael Jackson. Everything about him, from his iconic moves and dance  steps, to the way he walked, to his style of dress, and even down to his facial features from each era has now entered the realm of  caricature in the public consciousness. Sadly, as Michael Jackson the Icon becomes more accepted as a mere caricature of the public domain, the less we may come to appreciate over time just how dazzlingly original and magical he was. I couldn’t help but feel, in some ways, that what I was witnessing Sunday night was a caricature-a finely tuned and performing puppet, doing its schtick; one dressed to look like Michael; and to dance like him a little, but a puppet nonetheless.  Instead of experiencing the magic of Michael Jackson-or even being able to just let go and enjoy the illusion-I was acutely aware that I was watching something robotozized ; something that could sing and dance, yes. But never something that could feel, or emote, or actually bring us any measure of soul.

In short, I was missing Michael Jackson the human being. Michael’s earnest ability to connect emotively with his audience is something that can never be replicated in any virtual or artificial form. I knew this, of course. It’s just that I think it took this experience to really drive the point home.

We cannot, of course, fault the estate just because a Virtual Michael can never recreate what we all miss so much, and wish could be again. I don’t think anyone was expecting perfection, but I do think that, given all the hype, we were entitled to expect more than what we got. If that strikes some fans as if I am sounding ungrateful, I urge you to go back and read the terrific review that I lavished on Xscape.

Would I be singing a different tune if last night’s performance had turned out to be the extraordinary event of my fantasies? Perhaps. For sure, I was certainly mentally psyched to write what I hoped would be a very different post today.  I was hoping that Sunday night’s performance would leave me blown away and in tears, as it had reportedly done to so many. I was hoping I would be able to post what a wonderful experience it was; how even if no hologram could ever come close to being Michael, it could easily be the next best thing.

But maybe I needed last night’s eye opener. Maybe a lot of us did, if truth be told. If we need reminding, let’s go back and look at some of Michael Jackson’s greatest TV performances. Let’s be reminded of what this man could really do to a live audience, as well as the effect he could have on millions of viewers watching on TV.

In short, I suppose the best way to sum this up is that I’m not opposed to the technology. I guess I’m just disappointed with the quality of last night’s performance, and feel that Michael deserves so much better. I know exactly how Michael would feel about this whole hologram and “making TV history” hype. He would probably be all for it, but he would also say don’t even think about doing it until you can do it right; until you can make it the biggest and the best it can be. If it doesn’t leave them in absolute awe, it’s not worth doing.

We Had Him With Us For Fifty Years. Is It, Maybe, Time To Just Let Go?
We Had Him With Us For Fifty Years. Is It, Maybe, Time To Just Let Go?

However, there is another line of reasoning as well. Maybe it is time to simply let him go, and stop trying to play God.  We had Michael with us for fifty years. We have enough video images of the real deal to last us forever. And I have already seen that even one glimpse of Michael’s real image, projected onto a screen, can still generate more excitement, magic, and awe than all of the holograms put together. After all, “that” is real. And those images will always be there for us.

I am all for keeping Michael’s legacy alive through his music. I fully support Xscape, and hope there will be more posthumous releases if all of them can maintain the quality of Xscape. I think projects like Cirque du Soleil are wonderful. But maybe it is time to think about drawing some lines. Michael can continue to live through his music, but maybe we need to accept the fact that seeing and experiencing the magic of Michael Jackson live onstage is something that died with him. In fact, to go one further, maybe we should remember that he died trying to make that happen for us. How insulting is it, then, if we allow his image and legacy to be tarnished by second-rate, animated, performances that are simply relying on every cliche’ from his repertoire, especially when they are putting them on knowing full well that they don’t even have all of the bugs worked out of the technology? Maybe from a purely technological standpoint, it was pretty impressive (I suspect that most of the media hype and trending of the performance is for this reason alone) but, for me, it just emphasized all of the things I miss about Michael. His energy. His soul. His passion. His imagination. His ability to move an audience with just one lift of his finger.

Three Classic, Iconic MJ TV Performances. Just Compare Any One Of These To Last Night’s Billboard Performance To Appreciate The Enormity Of What We’ve Lost-And Will Never Have Again.

Motown 25, 1983:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGY7lKUwnu8[/tube]

Grammy Awards, 1988:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zALcfb4Fb1E[/tube]

VMA Awards, 1995:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukL-sxniSso[/tube]

I suspect we have not seen the end of Virtual Mike, but I just don’t know if I will have it in me to muster the same enthusiasm for an encore performance.  For sure, if it happens, I hope some vast improvements are made. Simply making it look like him, for starters, would be a plus.

Sorry to be so negative today. I wanted to be positive about this; I really did. One only has to go to my Twitter TL to see how hyped and excited I was about this. But even with all the great press hype and spins this has garnered, I have to keep it real. I was quite underwhelmed, and honestly, I think that went for most of the Billboard audience as well. I saw what I honestly thought could never happen after a Michael Jackson performance. People actually looked bored; certainly less than shocked or awed. To reiterate, that is certainly not the reaction that a real Michael Jackson performance would have received. It’s certainly not the reaction that a TV history defining moment should have received. If one doubts, just go back and look at how those audiences reacted to Michael’s performances in each of the clips I posted. You can feel the energy he created in those rooms when he performed; you can see the genuine awe in the faces of the standing crowd. Certainly you didn’t have people looking bored, or mugging stupidly at the cameras. Every eye was transfixed on that stage.

Is it fair to place unrealistic expectations on Virtual Mike? Of course it is. I have already been reading many comments to the effect that they could even revive the This Is It tour with Virtual Mike. Sure, why not? I’m sure they could wind Virtual Mike up; get him to sing and dance and do most anything, without ever a complaint; with no need to ever worry about him being late for rehearsal; with no need to fear that he will ever up and die on them. He will be perfectly compliant; heck, they might even figure a way for him to generate perfect, digital  tears during “She’s Out Of My Life.”

But he’ll never feel the pain of those tears, and he will never have a heart that connects to ours.

I suppose if you just want to experience something that is a technical wonder, then by all means enjoy Virtual Mike. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him. But if you want to experience Michael Jackson, turn off the TV and put on the music.

He’ll be right there. Waiting for you. Reliable as always.

ETA: I probably should note here that, according to reports that have come out today, the term “hologram” is a misnomer, since Virtual Michael was not a hologram proper, but rather, an avatar. The word “avatar” itself has an interesting history. In Hinduism the word avatar was used to refer to a deity who had taken a terrestrial form on earth. Very intriguing definition when you consider it in the context of what we saw on the Billboard Awards.

UPDATE 5/24/2014: I am posting here an interesting new article that appeared in USA Today and accompanying videos on  “how they did it.”

Jackson mirage heralds future of posthumous shows

Pulse Evolution, the digital firm that orchestrated Michael Jackson’s “appearance” at the Billboard Music Awards, exclusively invited USA TODAY to its studios for a look at how the illusion was created. USA TODAY

Marco della Cava, USA TODAY 9:44 p.m. EDT May 22, 2014


Jacksons_mirage_future_1
(Photo: Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY)

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — When a 1991 version of Michael Jackson got the crowd on its feet at last Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards, the computer wizards at Pulse Evolution knew they’d done more than just satisfied the Jackson estate’s brief.

With that winking, grimacing, moonwalking Jackson illusion, Pulse has taken a giant leap toward creating an entire new industry. Call it the Late Legends tour.

“We’re hearing from a lot of estates and promoters saying, ‘We’re ready for a concert,’ ” says Pulse Executive Chairman John Textor, whose Florida-based company has its computer-generated image headquarters just north of San Francisco in George Lucas’ old haunts.

Textor won’t reveal who’s been in touch, but notes that obvious candidates for a posthumous show include Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Bob Marley. Destinations clamoring for such spectacle “include big casino cities, like Vegas and Macau.”

The former head of Digital Domain (an Oscar winner for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) says he’s willing to entertain the notion of creating a multisong show for an estate, but cautions that “if we’re going to bring a Michael or an Elvis back into this form of stage entertainment, it must be story-based. You can’t have Elvis sitting on a stool singing 20 songs. That won’t work.”

The first time Textor and his Digital Domain team made a splash was when they presented the late Tupac Shakur rapping alongside Snoop Dogg at 2012’s Coachella music festival. After that, full-concert talk was inevitable, says Ian Drew, entertainment director at Us Weekly.

“Who’s to say it’s a bad thing, considering all the lip-syncing in shows today?” says Drew. “What’s the difference between Britney Spears and a hologram, anyway?”

Drew, who saw Jackson’s awards show performance of Slave to the Rhythm on television, felt the digital re-creation was impressive, but seemed a bit too much “like a very good Vegas impersonator.” But he adds that utter perfection isn’t what would draw fans to an all-digital concert.

“Some people go to shows to see a live celebrity, but I’d argue that for most it’s more about the communal experience of sharing that person’s music,” he says. “That was the reaction of the people at the Billboard show. They just wanted to rock out to Michael.”

But that sort of live action-plus-images love fest could be accomplished in a simpler way, says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, which reports on the concert industry.

“For a four-minute surprise in a longer show, this works great, but I can’t see this (technology) sustaining an hour-long show just yet,” he says. To get people together to celebrate the music of a deceased icon, “you’d probably do just fine playing his music and having videos and photos and a light show.”

There may be other obstacles beyond broad acceptance. The eight months of work that went into the Jackson spectacle was so painstaking, it begs the question as to whether a 90-minute concert is realistic.

Once the computer framework for a digital Michael was created, Pulse visual effects supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum used videos as well as feedback from Jackson collaborators, including Rich + Tone Talauega, who choreographed the 1996-97 HIStory Tour, and Jamie King, the writer/director behind Jackson’s Cirque du Soleil show One.

“What makes you believe that’s really Michael are the subtleties of human expression that are found in his eyes, mouth and those iconic gestures,” says Rosenbaum. “We had to worry about how light responds to skin tones in order to capture the essence of his persona.”

He offers an example of the level of detail that went into the project. After making sure that Jackson’s eyes are always “focused somewhere very specific, so they’re not just drifting,” Rosenbaum excitedly showed the result to Jackson intimates.

“They shook their heads,” he says. “They said, ‘Michael would never have been looking off to the right at that point of the dance, we know he’d be looking right at the audience.’ So we changed it. But it was that kind of work.”

Rosenbaum fires up a video monitor and plays a sequence of Jackson spitting out the lyrics to Slave, then freezes the frame.

“Look closely at his neck and how so many different ligaments are firing as he sings,” he says. “Jackson had so many wide-ranging expressions with his mouth and jaw, which made this truly the most difficult part of the process. He drives his performances with his mouth. It almost doesn’t matter what his body is doing.”

Nailing these illusion-selling close-ups “means this doesn’t stop with the Billboard show,” says Pulse chairman Textor.

Beyond holding conversations with various estates (“I stress to them that they need to bring their analog asset into the digital world, and protect those rights,” says Textor), he has fielded at times offbeat requests for his company’s services.

“A friend in the Republican Party asked me if we would create a digital President Obama and have him introduce Mitt Romney at the last (GOP) convention,” says Textor, laughing. “I’m a Republican, but even I wasn’t going to touch that one. But I’d say the possibilities of this technology are many.”

Perhaps the biggest magic trick of all here is that, even in death, Michael Jackson managed to both cause a stir and move the state of entertainment art forward.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/m…shows/9447595/

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPcng48uaxw[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSaMhHnQvNg[/tube]

 

71 thoughts on “Thoughts On MJ Hologram Performance: Is It Time To Stop Playing God?”

  1. Michael is dead but his soul is eternal.
    He took decades to finish one single song.The executors took 2 years to recreate him. And still came up with a bad impersonator. A hologram is not innovative nor creative,it is just another technical gimmick. This one was even grotesque and an insult to the man, the artist and perfectionist and to his family and fans.
    This is an example that not everything that can be done should be done.
    Why cant people accept that they missed out if they didnt see him perform when he was alive.
    He bound his soul to his work and recorded his every single move for posterity. Why is that not good enough. ??

  2. Sina, I soooo apologize but this post was actually not ready yet. I was still working on it and somehow accidentally hit the button that published my post in progress. However, since it is already so close to completion, I will leave it up and just edit in my changes, rather than deleting it again. Again, my apologies for posting it prematurely.

    1. Lol,I didnt notice,too pissed off.
      The sad thing is that its only 5 years since Michael passed away. It usually takes decades before a deceased turns into a caricature.
      Why already MAKE him into one and unrecognizable from the real man. Soon this will be the image that will be imprinted in peoples mind. What about his young children for who it will be difficult enough to remember their father as he was with all these false images that are spread about him.
      Michael was a popstar but he was a man, a human first, unique, not to be replaced imitated or impersonated. It was ok when he was alive but now he is dead it is bad taste. Do we admire technology now more than the man himself?

  3. I had similar feelings, Raven, as I watched last night. I was so excited/nervous/anxious that I could hardly take it in and then felt disappointed and feared the ensuing fall out. I have to say though, that after watching it again several times today and also reading the article below, I have a new appreciation for how ground breaking and amazing it really was. Did he look like our Michael? No. Did he dance like our Michael? No, but surprisingly, as difficult as Michael is to imitate, some of the moves were pretty spot on. For what the creators accomplished – full stage, full color, with dancers, and Michael singing a song he never performed live – it was pretty remarkable. The world saw Michael Jackson “on stage” again and the world is buzzing about it.
    To me the problem was more the hype than the performance. Expectations were so high I don’t think anything could have measured up except Michael himself. We all wanted him back and it will never be.
    I know there will be those who disagree with me. I’m not saying it was perfect, or everything I wanted it to be or should have been. I just would rather see the good in it and be grateful for those who worked to make it happen.

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/kevin-dingo/michael-jackson-hologram-performance-a-tech-geek-review/10152176244787462

    1. Well, for sure, given all of the positive reviews it has received, it’s given me some pause for reflection. I was like, Wait a minute, did all of these people see something I didn’t? Lol. I think it was more along the lines of maybe I could see all of the things that they couldn’t. To reiterate what has already been said, naturally the fans will spot every single flaw. Perhaps the general public can be more forgiving because they don’t really know any different.

      I’m grateful insofar as the good intentions that I believe were behind it. But I don’t believe we are doing ourselves or Michael any favors if we agree to accept mediocrity. If we lower our standards to being happy to accept mediocrity, then that is exactly what we’ll get from here on out. Fortunately, I think the estate does listen to the fans, and it seems they do try hard to appease the fans and to give us what we want. With that in mind, it’s important to let them know when a product isn’t up to standard-and certainly when it isn’t what was promised. Just as some important lessons were learned with the Michael album, perhaps some important lessons can be gleamed from this-things to improve; flaws that need to be perfected; mistakes that should not be made again.

  4. They tried to hard. The image is too perfectly defined. The real dancers looked blurred by contrast. If you want something to look alive it has to be a little “off-center.” That’s why “Michael” looked flat while the dancers had more dimension. Mystery is part of what makes something look real. And you’re right, Raven, what made Michael’s performances so great was the emotions he broadcast and shared with the audience. The image had none to share. That’s the pity of it. And yet, since Michael loved to be innovative and show us “firsts”, he might have supported this performance, and even chuckled over it.

    1. That’s a good point. The Tupac hologram also had that very flat appearance, but perhaps was not as noticeable because his image wasn’t interacting with other live performers.

      I do believe that, given time, they will be able to improve the technology.

      To go back to what I said in the post, I certainly don’t think Michael would be opposed to the technology or the idea. But being the perfectionist that he was, he would have certainly wanted it done right! Remember, this was the guy who said he cried after Motown 25 because he was so sure he had given a sub par performance.

  5. I have to say, beside the fact it didn’t really look like him, it’s hard to imagine a hologram ever capturing MJ’s energy

  6. Thank you Raven! …for me that post sums it all up. I do not even think that you are negative about all this – I would call it thoughtful. And thats the way I see it also.

    1. I am glad you see it that way. I am certainly not trying to be negative; in fact, I love all of the positive press Michael is getting right now. I love the album. I just have a lot of mixed feelings about the hologram/avatar. But like I said in my tweet, love it or hate it, we can’t deny it’s had quite an impact.

  7. Sigh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It seems to me that some fans are just never satisfied no matter what anyone does, and I seriously wonder if anything is ever going to be right that is put out since Michael passed. I agree with Corlista that the hologram wasn’t perfect and not entirely what was expected – but really guys, what did we expect? There is no way a ‘real-live’ Michael was going to appear – we all know about media hype by now. I am sure it must have looked pretty spectacular ‘live’ so to speak on the stage, and would of course lose something in translation on to a t.v. or laptop screen to watch it as I just have. But for all that I think it is just great.

    For me what is more important, is that someone cared enough to make the hologram and for one of the first ones ever to be of MJ – it seems to me that is a huge compliment.

    Same with the release of his posthumous music. There are always plenty of negative things to say from fans, and I wonder why the Estate and others even bother??? I am sooo glad that they bother, and think that what they are doing too promote Michael’s legacy is absolutely fantastic.

    There is no greater fan of Michael than me, and it pains me to hear all this critisism every time something comes out. Why can’t we just enjoy it all and show our appreciation for a change.

    I know there is freedom of speech, and everyone is entitled to their opinion – so this is mine!!

  8. Just read a post on All Things Michael from Eric Sundermann re the Xscape album, and his final words in the article are –

    ” it illustrates the weirdly universal appeal and influence this man had. He’s still very much a part of the fabric of who we are as a culture now. We were gutted when we lost him. We miss him every day. But still, loving him has never felt so good”.

    Now, that’s what I want to see written about Michael ………….

    1. Thank you, Caro, for supporting what I was trying to say. I agree with all three of your posts almost to a word but the one that brought me to tears was the Sundberg quote: “We were gutted when we lost him.” I’d read it before but this time it really hit me.
      I, too, feel Michael – our precious, supreme innovator – would be thrilled with such a ground breaking depiction of his being. Michael loved the world of film, performance, fantasy and magic. The creators gave everything to this end. Many worked extremely hard to make this experience happen, of course, because it’s “business” but also because they love and respect Michael and are dedicated to his legacy and for me, that says it all.

  9. Hi again last comment for today at least!! I feel more strongly about this post Raven than I have ever done before. I have now read your complete post, and still feel the same way. I am by no means a technophobe – I don’t even have internet on my Blackberry – but I have also watched the ‘performance’ several times and I still think it is great, for what it is!!! Of course it doesn’t have the soul and energy of Michael – how on earth could it? so comparing it with Michael’s live performances isn’t really ‘realistic either’ – pardon the intended pun!! But how can you say it doesn’t look like him. For me it looks more like Michael than many of the waxwork models in the various Madam Tussauds, and no-one gets up in arms about them.

    I would agree however with your comments on it being an avatar rather than a hologram, and perhaps in its truest sense, that is just what this is. Many people, sometimes myself, think of the ‘real’ Michael being an avatar, but certainly this is and I still love it, and I have a sneaky suspicion that Michael would be pleased with the effort in something so cutting-edge- just up his street.

    Not sure I want to see it used in concert form such as This Is It, bearing in mind how that ended as you say, but it still think it is a compliment rather than the insult you seem to think it is, or am I misinterpreting you?

    1. I will share with you what I posted on Twitter earlier today, in case you did not see it:

      “Despite my personal misgivings, can’t deny that Virtual Mike has had his impact!”

      I am not against the technology or the idea of the hologram/avatar in principle. If I had been, I wouldn’t have even tuned in to the show. I think it is just that, once I actually saw it, it really hit home for me just how irreplaceable Michael is, and that maybe there should be a time to simply say enough is enough. I am very happy with having the new music, but am just having very mixed feelings about the rest. I always try very hard, of course, not to “preach” to Michael’s fans. My opinions are my own, and often times I am simply using this blog as a place to vent and work through my feelings on some of these issues.

      I am sure that if they were to make enough advancements in this technology to take Virtual Michael on tour, it would be a bonanza. But yes, I do think any attempt to resurrect the TII shows, or to call it such, would be an insult, especially after everything that came out in the AEG trial. I certainly wouldn’t pay to see it-not if AEG was involved. I couldn’t live with myself. I would be thinking, “You helped kill Michael, so that now you can bring me this computerized avatar! No, thanks.”

      Of course that is all just speculating about something that may or may not ever occur, and let’s certainly hope that none of the parties involved (especially AEG) would ever have such poor taste.

      If such a tour were to happen in the foreseeable future, I would hope that it would have no affiliation whatsoever with TII. I think the Cirque du Soleil shows incorporate quite a bit of the themes and choreography that were planned for the TII shows. That is close enough for me.

  10. There are numerous MJ impersonators who look more like him than the guy used in the ‘hologram’. (Can a real hologram have a shadow?) This guy looks nothing like Michael Jackson. Even his body proportions, with an overly-long waist, are wrong. So they oversold it – that’s to be expected. But they hardly tried to create a plausible image. They used some random Asian or white guy, threw a wig on his head, and had him attempt a few signature moves. It’s almost funny.

    1. “They used some random Asian or white guy, threw a wig on his head, and had him attempt a few signature moves”

      It is still tacky , but would have been less insulting if they just had an impersonator than pretend to have Michael Jackson on stage. But people take the liberty to call Michael every damn name that crosses their mind so they can make him into whatever they think he is and make him do whatever they want him to, even perform a song he never in his life sang to an audience or performed on stage. Its like ‘shut up and dance’
      And the nerve that we should be grateful for this buffoonery?! Says who?

    2. I don’t think it was an impersonator, although my first thought was that it certainly looked like one! Of course I couldn’t help but notice how “off” the face and body looked. To go back to what Alan Duke said, yes, perhaps these are details that only those who have spent hours a day observing every detail of his face and body would notice. I “get” that the average viewer would probably never notice if the legs were too short; the waist too long, etc. But these kinds of details SHOULD matter, if for no other reason than the fact that his body proportions had a lot to do with the way he moved onstage and the way his dance steps were executed.

      But again, I think a lot of it for me was just feeling let down after all the hype. I was expecting something “life like” that was almost going to make me believe Michael was on that stage. That illusion never happened for me, so I guess I felt somewhat cheated. I can’t deny that it has certainly had a positive impact in the media. But like I said, all of the accolades are coming from people who will never look at those kinds of details the way that the fans do-and are certainly not going to care as the fans do.

        1. The image itself is definitely a virtual image. That is very apparent. The big question is: WHOSE image is it? And was this some sort of composite image, or a whole? I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an impersonator or body double, but I think it is a faulty generalization when fans start trying to state assertively that it is this or that impersonator, and presenting such theories as facts. It reminds me of the whole Jason Malachi controversy when the Michael album came out. Suddenly, fans were not only convinced that the Cascio tracks were fake, they even asserted they knew exactly who the “fake” voice belonged to! While there may be some valid points made (I think someone commenting mentioned Valentino’s short moonwalk steps) it’s not an entirely convincing enough comparison to draw any real or decisive conclusions. Personally, I think the Christopher Gaspar dude, if anyone, probably looked more like the hologram than Valentino. But Gaspar now says it’s not him, so…who knows, really? I am sure we’ll be seeing a lot of theories in the next few days and weeks.

          This might be a good time to address another issue that many keep bringing up. Michael DID love magic and illusion, and he employed illusions quite a bit in his concerts (and, yes, body doubles, too). That wasn’t him, for example, during Thriller when you saw him singing with the werewolf head on; that was a body double. And it wasn’t him who shot off across the room at the end of Man In The Mirror. He used such trickery often to create illusions, either because he would need to be prepared physically to be somewhere else onstage (as during Thriller) or because, realistically, only a stunt double could perform the routine (being blasted off with the jet pack, for example). But I don’t buy that as an “excuse” for the hologram. This was being sold as something that would authentically look like Michael onstage. It’s the difference between Michael using a body double to create an illusion during a number, and actually having an impersonator come out and perform “Wanne Be Startin’ Something!”

          We are already suspending a certain amount of belief in accepting that this is a virtual image. But the image itself should be as authentic as possible. If not, it only serves to pull us out of the illusion, and that’s what happened for many of us. Thus, it kind of defeats the whole purpose of the virtual performance. Again, if it’s nothing we can’t get just as well from a tribute artist, then why not just have a tribute artist perform?

  11. I have to say. I was pretty impressed by the hologram. To be quite honest I hoped that it would look exactly how Michael looked psychically. I really don’t wanna bring this up, but are you going to write a post on your thoughts about Jimmy Safechuck coming out accusing Michael of child molestation? Again I don’t wanna be a killjoy, but it’s been causing me to lose sleep for days. I’ll end this comment that at least people are still talking about the hologram for the time being.

    1. No immediate plans to. He’s really a non-issue. Maybe as it gets closer to Wade’s hearing date in June.

  12. “The question that had been raised in my mind was exactly this: What is so special about hologram technology, when there is nothing a hologram can do that a good tribute artist can’t do just as well?”

    I watched the Vevo version on full screen and saw things I hadn’t noticed before (although I had watched it a few times in other formats). To me, that was the clearest version. Then I saw that the very ornate scene that opens with “MJ” sitting on his throne disappears suddenly at one point and then appears again at the end. Also there are dancers that appear and disappear in a burst of light. I think these effects can be overlooked if you have all your attn on the “MJ” figure or if you are looking at a less clear version. Looking closely, I could see how the scene ‘comes to life,’ as if it starts out as a photo/painting, and then shimmers a bit, and then starts to move.

    In the Vevo version too I noticed the cameras/projectors in front and on the sides that maintain the illusion.

    I like the use of that pose of MJ’s–sitting so casually on a very ornate throne, one leg thrown over the arm. It’s casual and regal at the same time. I think that was a great choice for the opening and closing.

    1. Yes. Definitely no complaints about the concept, although my husband made a valid point that it wasn’t very imaginative (i.e, that it was all reminiscent of things Michael had done before). I think they were trying for a balance between what would look familiar to fans. something that would be somewhat familiar and would look like something Michael would do, vs. going for something totally new. I’m not sure if it was just me, but parts of it reminded me of the Remember the Time performance where Michael sat center stage in a chair throughout the entire song (he had a fractured ankle and couldn’t stand or dance). Although it was a performance borne out of necessity, it provided an interesting visual, giving the appearance that he was sitting on a royal throne.

      I think this was the effect they were going for here. I loved the concept, at least, although I understood my husband’s point as well.

      But this was the sort of thing where there was no way to please everyone. Either you do something that feels completely familiar-exactly like something Michael would have done-or you take a risk and go for something completely new and different. By sticking with the tried and true, they run the risk of turning Michael’s performances into caricature; on the other hand, if they carry it too far in the opposite direction, they are going to get flack for trying to “change” who Michael was, or for not being authentic to the way he would have done it. I think it was smart to take the risk of doing something slightly different; something a bit left of center, but not in a way that would have been totally out of character for Michael. Michael is not here, so it would be stupid and disrespectful to attempt concepts and choreography that he might not have ever done. By looking at his past performances and using those as models, it’s easy to say, “Okay, this is how Michael might have done this song” and then, from there, use a bit of imagination to make it into something new-but still “like Michael.”

      That was the challenge they were up against, and I think they came up with a good concept that struck the right balance between innovation and keeping it familiar. None of us can know, now, how Michael might have chosen to perform STTR live; what concepts or visuals he may have created for the number. No doubt, it would have been a much more creative concept with Michael involved, but that goes right back to the whole heart of the issue. He isn’t. Michael did have a tendency to stick with the tried and true, once he had found a perfect formula that worked for him. This is why he never changed his basic choreography for his most famous numbers. Michael knew that once he had created something iconic, it was what the fans expected. So even in life, he was plagued by the same dilemma-how to be inventive and evolve without totally alienating his audience.

      Again, I thought they had a quite interesting concept that struck the right chord between inventiveness and remaining faithful to what Michael would have done. They certainly could have taken the easy route of just having the figure appear onstage and do a straight performance. I somewhat both agree and disagree with my husband. I think it was imaginative, but perhaps not far enough left of what Michael had already done. I got what my husband was saying; that it seemed a bit cliche’-ish in the way they were simply recreating concepts borrowed from Dangerous and HIStory. On the other hand, I also understand that, either way, it was bound to be a no-win situation, as you can’t please everyone when it comes to Michael Jackson. ESPECIALLY when it comes to Michael Jackson.

      I think it was a wise middle ground they aimed for; something slightly left of center, but not too unfamiliar. Keep in mind I am referring to the concept of the number, not its actual execution, which is another issue altogether.

      I agree that the intended effect was probably that of a painting or portrait coming to life, which was quite clever. This is one of those things where it may take many viewings for its full scope to become apparent, because as you say, I think most of us were too transfixed on the Michael figure to notice anything else.

      1. I’m going to bring up the racial implications, because no one else has, and someone needs to, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. For the first time since he days of legal segregation, there were NO black winners of the Billboard Music Awards. Not even in the “black” categories –
        top R&B artist – Justin Timberlake. Forbes Magazine has declared that a “blonde white woman from Australia”, Iggy Azalea, is the queen of hip hop. Except for the odd ‘feature’ performance, black artists have been shut out of their own music. Trying to replicate the image of Michael Jackson by using a non-black impersonator was the icing on a very ugly cake. As one writer put it “Black artists, your services are not needed”, not even to portray a black man. The message is crystal clear.

        1. I agree with your points in regard to the distribution of the awards in those categories. The appropriation of black culture and music by white artists is nothing new, but it is a disgrace to see how it continues even into the 21st century.

          As for the “white impersonator”-or WHATEVER it was (lol!) I guess we have to keep in mind that the intent was to portray Michael from around the time of the Dangerous era. They were obviously going for his 90’s era look, which would also mean post-vitiligo. Of course, this always gets into the more complex controversy of “black Michael” vs “white Michael.” It is a ridiculous controversy, of course, because Michael was ALWAYS a black man, regardless of the appearance of his skin. But I guess the intent was to portray Michael from a more mature era-which meant, of course, getting “white Michael.” This is one of those unfortunate controversies where it is always going to be a no-win no matter which way they go. If they emphasize youthful “black” Michael, such as during the Thriller era, they will get flack from fans who accuse them of just pandering to the popular version of Michael and ignoring his mature era (when his appearance was most ridiculed by the media). On the other hand, if mature (hence, “white” Michael) is overly emphasized and marketed, it brings up more uncomfortable implications (that the estate is racist; that they are pandering him to the “white” market, etc-trust me, I have heard ALL of those arguments).

          Even with tribute artists, this is problematic, simply because Michael did go through so many changes in regard to skin pigmentation from the 80’s to 00’s. It’s very difficult, for example, for a black tribute artist to look like Michael from the 90’s, without using a lot of garish pancake makeup. I have seen many try it, and they do just end up looking very garish (think Flex Alexander from “The Man In The Mirror” movie, lol). On the other hand, white tribute artists cannot realistically recreate Michael’s 80’s-era appearance (and thankfully, no one these days has the bad taste to perform in blackface anymore).

          So as you can see, there are really no easy resolutions for this problem, which is one that is completely unique to Michael Jackson because of what he endured with his vitiligo. Other than using Michael’s REAL images, it is always going to be a problematic issue in recreating Michael’s look from later eras because it is always going to come down to this conundrum: Whether to use a white actor/impersonator/body double, and risk the ire of his black fans, or use a black actor/impersonator/body double who is going to look completely unnatural? Short of a black body double being willing to completely depigment his own skin to look like 90’s era Michael Jackson (which I don’t think would be possible anyway) there isn’t really an easy solution-certainly not one that is going to be able to appease everyone.

          Something else that is very unique about Michael’s appearance in the 90’s and 2000’s is that, even with his very white, translucent skin, he still had very discernible African-American features (and yes, for the benefit of the lurkers here who are going WHUT??? this was true even AFTER cosmetic surgery). This presents yet another unique challenge in being able to recreate his appearance authentically, especially if actors or impersonators or body doubles are used. The only ones, in fact, that I have ever seen who could really almost pass for him are the ones who have had surgical enhancement themselves in order to look like him-but that’s carrying things a tad far, even for someone who makes a living impersonating Michael Jackson.

          1. “So as you can see, there are really no easy resolutions for this PROBLEM which is one that is completely unique to Michael Jackson because of what he endured with his vitiligo.”

            There is no problem really. It becomes a problem when they want to re- create, a man who was too unique to duplicate.
            Leave him alone, problem solved.

            Here is an article about the technology behind the MJ hologram.

            solved.http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/showbiz/2014/05/20/erin-pkg-elam-michael-jackson-hologram-technology.cnn.html

        2. I agree with Raven regards to hologram but thought your point regarding Forbes and billboard was a fair 1.

          I think not only in America but in UK too we have a lot of closet racists (Even say there in the majority).
          I hear all sorts weekly when my fellow white workers feel safe in there group to say things I wont repeat here.
          But staying on point in regard to the industry just look at Run D.M.C. only video continually played Aerosmith collab and even regarded as there “cemented crossover” position. Jay Z didn’t get recognition he deserved until Heartbreaker with Mariah Carey from majority of White audiences (only 2 of his 20 best selling songs came b4 and are both lower than Heartbreaker) same as Run D.M.C.

          Then there’s Michael. Off The Wall doesn’t make No.1 and it was no accident that him and Quincy knew how the industry worked and had The Girl Is Mine come out 1st and Van Halen on guitar for Beat it.
          Joe Vogel mentioned recently in his article how Eminem has been crowned the king of hip hop and we all know about Chuck Berry.
          I think there are other reasons true but you have to be blind to say race is not playing/played apart in treatment of black artists.

          As I wasn’t born at the time when I look back at MJ’s treatment at the time above and before I always had impression it wasn’t that he was accepted as a black man/performer more that he was simply too good to be ignored and the MTVs/radio had 2 play him cos of the demand.
          Just a final question 4 any1 here can anyone name me 5 Rock bands that were all black members in the last 20 years? or further I bring it up cos when my boss at work spoke of the good old days of music every band/act he mentioned was white. Which sums up that era 2 me. No MJ no Prince no Whitney it leaves me a bit baffled I’d give anything to be alive at that time to see MJ so why the complete lack of acknowledgement? I know what my moneys on.

          1. Depends on what you mean by “rock”. Hard, head-banging rock music just isn’t very popular with black Americans. But there was one black rock band that gained prominence in that period, Living Colour. (Not to be confusing with the black sketch comedy show In Living Color.)

            You’re wrong about MTV and Michael – Michael Jackson was the biggest music star in the world, but until he called them on their racism, MTV had no problem keeping him off their network. They saw themselves as a rock music outlet, primarily for white suburban fans, and had no qualms about stating that publicly.

          2. We probably shouldn’t forget that the greatest rock guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix, was a black man.

            In the early days on MTV (which I remember quite well) the main acts they played were mostly early 80’s New Wave bands like A Flock of Seagulls, Devo, The Buggles, etc. They would also occasionally play vintage clips of classic rock acts. (Technically, Hendrix and Gary “U.S.” Bonds were the first black artists to be played on MTV). In those days, roughly from about 1981-’82, there were still not a lot of videos to choose from for rotation, so there was a lot of reliance on old clips and those sort of cheesy TV appearance videos, where all you saw was the band doing a straight performance of the song with maybe some weird graphics or visual effects thrown in. As the first “real” videos began to circulate, there was an emphasis on bands and artists with unique or weird looks (“novelty” acts, in other words) because it was now all about the visual. Indeed, throughout the 80’s this was the biggest complaint you heard from rock purists, or music purists in general. Pundits at the time were convinced we were heading into a new, shallow era where music would be all about appearance and synthesizers would take over from real instruments. There would be no real artists anymore. (Kind of sounds very familiar with today’s arguments about auto-tuning, etc).

            MTV justified the strong lack of black artists on the channel as simply being indicative of the fact they were a rock format and that there were few black rock artists. If a black artist did cross over, they would still resist on the pretense that the artist’s genre was r&b. There were a few token black artists whom they deemed “safe,” such as Jimi Hendrix, but that was only because Hendrix had already been long accepted into the mainstream of white rock.

            I remember that Rick James released a very huge crossover album in 1981, Street Songs. Of course, “Super Freak” was the big hit of that album. I remember owning a copy of Street Songs (heck, we all did!). This video, too, would have predated Billie Jean and it was played on MTV, but I don’t remember if it had a very heavy rotation. Lol, it’s still a great song, but the video is cringeworthy.

            The fact remains, however, that Michael Jackson was the first undisputed African-American MTV star, one whose videos were regularly featured in heavy rotation.

            I also think that it was largely Michael’s success that paved the way for Prince to break through in 1984 with Purple Rain, then came Tina Turner’s huge mainstream “comeback” with Private Dancer and the explosive debut of Whitney Houston in ’85. There was also Living Colour, the band Simba mentioned, although they only had one hit and I think were pretty much regarded as a novelty. However, all of these artists went into heavy rotation on MTV. Suddenly, MTV had realized that “black” could be cool-and successful. But still, these artists remained pretty much the exception rather than the norm. That would not change until the infiltration of hip hop in the latter half of the decade.

            There was also, I believe, a general consensus on MTV’s part that artists like Michael Jackson, Prince, and Whitney Houston, as pop artists, were relatively harmless (i.e, non-threatening) to what remained their primary demographic throughout the decade. It was only after the hip hop revolution that the playing field was changed completely, but for sure, those artists owed a huge debt to Michael.

            The Aerosmith/Run DMC video is generally looked upon as a watershed video. It was very symbolic (and prophetic!) as it was all about tearing down those barriers.

            But the racist element is still out there. For every three people who were glad to see those barriers lifted, you will have at least one person sighing and lamenting “the good old days of MTV, when they played real rock” (translate: Before it was taken over by hip hop and thugs). I would imagine your boss falls into the latter category.

            It’s all part of history coming full circle, however. The same people who were so outraged over Michael owning Beatles songs, or marrying Elvis’s daughter, never much considered how often The Beatles and Elvis sang songs written by black artists-and raked up millions while, often, those black artists went unrecognized and penniless.

          3. @ Raven Prince’s Little Red Corvette and 1999 , Eddy Grant Electric Avenue and Pass The Dutchie by Musical Youth were all on MTV before or at the same time as Billie Jean. Ofcourse BJ broke all records but MJ was not the first black artist on MTV.

          4. I thought that Little Red Corvette came later, but it might have been about the same time. Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue was from 1983, so is actually after Billie Jean or about the same time. But as I was saying, MJ was the first black superstar of the MTV generation. I don’t think too many would dispute that, but no, definitely not the first black artist shown.

            ETA: Went back and looked up Little Red Corvette. It was from 1982, so yes, right about the same time as BJ. I still don’t think Prince was really played in heavy rotation until the explosion of Purple Rain, but Little Red Corvette, as I recall, was a huge hit-definitely very popular on the radio. I just can’t remember now how much airplay it actually got on MTV.

          5. Coincidentally yesterday I went to a Prince concert, the almost last one of the European leg .It was a great show and he played all of the classics including LRC. While watching the concert I was thinking of Michael and what could have been since Prince and Michael are the same age. Ofcourse the hologram crossed my mind and I was wondering what his thoughts could be on the MJ hologram . And if after life he would want to be resurrected like that. My guess is No way,
            I think Michaels ‘ problem’ is that because so many imitate him they think he is replaceable and people will not see the difference. Even some fans don’t. see it or don’t mind so they are easily satisfied.
            Princes concert confirmed to me that I really cant see myself sitting through a concert of a hologram the way I enjoy a live show. There is not even a comparison to the anticipation, starting from the waiting in line to get in and knowing that somewhere inside the artist hinself is preparing for the show, the opening ,the response , the emotion, the energy, the interaction between the artist and audience/fans all dressed in purple, the surprises, but also the imperfections of the concert and most important the timing of it all, very organic.
            I am happy there are no Prince impersonators ,at least Ive never seen one. And that Prince though also an icon in his own right, always put the music first. It would also be difficult to imitate Prince, he does not have a signature dance and he is not predictable. His stage act includes playing different instruments dancing and conversing with the audience. So the chances of a Prince hologram are little to none. But I hope he made provisions in his will to prevent it. Imo Michael unfortunately became a victim of his stardom, so much that it distracted a lot from his artistry. What he needs is focusing on his art and charities not on afterlife gimmicks.

          6. I love Prince, but with all due respect, the big difference between him and Michael is that Michael is much more iconic. The glove; the fedora; the moonwalk, the crotch grab; the “shamones” and “hee hee’s”; the Thriller video-all of these things and more have been absorbed into our cultural identity, in the same way that Elvis and his hip wiggles, or the Beatles and their mop tops, are now iconic cultural symbols.

            I have often wondered why Elvis and Michael, in particular, seemed to inspire so many imitators. As you say, it seems almost impossible to imagine someone impersonating Prince. The irony, however, is that with performers like Elvis and Michael, their very uniqueness and originality is what made them perfect candidates for endless imitation (as the old saying goes, often imitated; never duplicated). The danger in this, as I have stated, is that over time people will start to remember only the endless stream of imitations they have seen, and not the original. This is where the risk of caricature comes in.

            I suppose it is more difficult to imitate a musician. I could never see anyone seriously attempting to imitate Prince, nor Jimi Hendrix. (Not sure Elvis really counts; he played guitar a little, but was hardly a master of it). For some reason, those artists who tend more to be lumped under the heading of “performers” or “entertainers” are usually the ones singled out.

            In some ways it’s a bit of a back handed compliment that Michael is so often imitated. There is the insinuation, of course, that entertainers prone to this type of imitation are not taken very seriously, which is one way it can be viewed. On the other hand, however, it also bespeaks of the great affection that people have for him and for his enduring appeal. He is one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable celebrities on the planet; so unique that anyone “imitating” him has only to bust a few signature moves, and everyone all over the world instantly recognizes who it is.

            Prince, for all his talent, will never have that kind of iconic appeal, but I’m sure he’s fine with that; it was never his trajectory or his path to be that kind of performer. I’ve never been much for the Prince vs. MJ debate, or who is “better.” They were/are simply different; two very different artists and very different types of performers, each unique in their own way.

            I know what you mean about the anticipation at a live show. I sometimes look at all those videos of people at MJ concerts-especially all of the girls crying and passing out-and will think, “My gosh, if I had been in the audience at an MJ concert, I believe I would have dropped dead from the excitement and anticipation before he even hit the stage!”

            Oddly enough, I even felt it somewhat at the Immortal show, even though “the star” wasn’t even in the building. It was my first time to see the show, and maybe just the fact that I was going to be experiencing it with such a large and appreciative audience, all of us sharing in the common experience of celebrating Michael, made it feel almost as exhilarating as the real thing.

            ETA: While on this subject, I wanted to share an amazing video that I saw today. This kid was inspired by the hologram performance:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5gKWA_thwc

            The beauty of Michael’s dance moves is that they are so accessible that even children can learn them, and yet so complex that adult tribute artists and some of the most accomplished dancers struggle to get his precision and timing just right. For the record, it’s pretty obvious to me that this kid has also studied the “real” MJ. He brings the much needed energy and dynamic to the performance that only “Real” MJ could accomplish. But it is kind of sweet to know that even his “virtual” performances are still inspiring new generations of dancers.

          7. What a cute mini Mj. I love that he does not just copy the moves but also brings in some of his own.
            That is indeed the natural appeal Michael has. But Michaels influence goes beyond music and dance. He introduced phenomenons that have become part of a universal language. A word like ‘moonwalking’ no one will associate with astronauts walking on the moon but with Michaels iconic dance. Everyone will have an idea what a moonwalking bear looks like, like in this awareness test .

            That is the impact that Michael had and why Imo there is no need for tricks to keep him relevant. At least if relevance is not only measured by album sales but by cultural impact.
            Jimi Hendrix and Prince are not impersonated but their work is definately imitated. It is standard material for guitar teaching and every child who aspires to become a guitar player will name them along with some others as their role models.

            The Michael vs Prince debate is childish. They are the best of both worlds.

      2. Thanks for your reply, Raven. The pose that starts the performance is from a photograph–one I’ve seen–of MJ sitting with one leg over the throne chair he had at Neverland. That’s what I meant re the opening setting a tone that was both ‘historical’–in that it is a pose taken from a real photo of MJ–and ‘contemporized’ to the ” Virtual MJ” that will perform a song MJ never performed in real life. I thought it was a clever transition from old to new.

        1. I think you’re probably referring to this one:

          http://www.examiner.com/article/architechural-digest-takes-a-rare-peek-inside-michael-jackson-s-neverland

          Here’s another version where the right leg is thrown over the side (just as the hologram performace):

          http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/michael-jackson/images/32184636/title/pop-throne-belongs-mj-fanart

          There was also a nearly identical pose done featuring a very young Michael:

          http://teddybishop.wordpress.com/category/michael-jackson/

  13. Well I have to say I was disappointed by the entire thing. This was advertised as the Michael Jackson Hologram. The technology quite simply is not there yet.
    Motion cameras couldn’t get his facial features right, God only knows what it would of looked like trying to pick up some of his tap dancing.
    Other than the eyebrows being to thin, other than no cleft in the chin, other than the lips being wrong, other than the dancing being nowhere near the standard (body popping wasn’t at this is it level when he hadn’t performed for years). Putting all of that a side then its like Michael Jackson.

    If it had been promoted as “a computer generated image that captures the LIKENESS of MJ” it would of at least been honest but that doesn’t appeal as much.

    My concern is same as Sina’s “Soon this will be the image that will be imprinted in peoples minds”. This doesn’t further a legacy it diminishes it. Yes business choices are made over music creativity at times in this industry but this wasn’t any performer. At his absolute peak he was the greatest of all time reduced to this?
    They should of waited until the technology had advanced to capture a video/performance and work from it or use the motion sensors from Ghosts skeleton scene.

    Also the press coverage is so supportive in my opinion cos the estate has had 2 performances for MJ on 2 networks creating mass ratings and helps them get more money from advertising. The rest are seeing this as an open buffet to get there MJ ratings fix.

    Raven you said what I was thinking there must be a line in the sand that you do not cross. For me this didn’t just cross the line it went so far over they came back round to the line and stepped over it again. At what cost is this at the end of the day small moment of time of good press worth?
    Is it more important to have positive press and support everything the estate does blindly to keep this momentum going? I was happy to see his other albums selling when Xscape was released. I have no objection to demos being released if quality is good and don’t agree with those who say songs that didn’t make albums aren’t good enough. Beat it, Human Nature, and PYT were left off at first were they poor songs? Dangerous was top ten in Mongolia almost all week which shows his global pull; so did they really need this holo/avatar?

    Or should Michael be remembered for what he gave us and left behind? I thought your point on that he virtually died to get back on stage is very good one.
    Yes it is difficult too keep a deceased artist relevant to new generations when there not here to promote albums themselves. But it must be done the right way you can’t just chuck anything out there to keep his music on the radio or performances on TV.

    If the youth of today are going to see Virtual “IT” tour you have to wonder what chance this man below has of being remembered for what he was as videos like this will be removed while the holo/avatar is front and centre. I’m no anti anyone I think there’s at least another albums worth of releasable material but I’m not sure I want it if this is the supporting act for it. We would all like to see MJ riding high forever but that is not possible as in sport music can be very fickle and move on to the next IN THING even if its nowhere near past performers.

    I would rather MJ’s performances be remembered for when he was a live than desperately clinging on to him and coming up short. If technology gets too the point to do a life like one off MJ likeness performance that would be nice but even then its still a shadow to the man so why not just stick with impersonators or artists inspired by him.
    One news report said it was like MJ as you never seen him before…. they got that right but not the way they meant. This is how he should be remembered for me… and its just a promo!

    1. You hit on a lot of my points about this. Monday (the day I posted this piece) was rather difficult for me because I was still trying to sift through what I felt in the wake of the Billboard show. Part of me felt that it was a macabre and cheap exploitation, but I also had to honestly examine how much and to what degree that this was from simply being disappointed by the quality of the virtual likeness and performance. The one emotion fed the other, and with justifiable reason. Why? Well, look at it this way. Let’s say that what if all the hype had been true and this had truly turned out to be the television event of the century, with a seemingly resurrected Michael Jackson taking the stage again. I think we would all be in shock and awe. But my worst fear was…what if this turns out to be a complete failure? An utter joke? The media will never allow it to be lived down, and Michael’s legacy will have suffered another blow. Well, as it turned out, I don’t think it was a complete failure, and the media response was actually quite surprising in light of what it could have been. But it did end up leaving a bad taste for me, nonetheless.

      The music was enough. They were already on a roll with the success and all of the critical acclaim of Xscape. The album didn’t need cheap gimmicks to sell it, and I think that once all of the hype of “how it was done” has died down, people WILL pretty much see this for what it was-a gimmick.

      Oddly enough, the album’s Itunes sales actually went DOWN in the aftermath of this event, although sales increased on Amazon and for STTR. But I was really expecting to see a stampede in increased download sales after Sunday night, and that didn’t happen (although it may be of interest to note that, according to ThePiratebay website, Xscape is the #2 most ILLEGALLY DOWNLOADED album in the world right now!). But I don’t think this stunt had the impact on sales that they were expecting/hoping. However, I guess it did have the effect of putting him in the media spotlight for several days. I know fans always relish that kind of thing, but the point is, it doesn’t last. That kind of hype will only last until the next “big thing” that everyone is talking/trending about comes along. And it’s only then that we may ask ourselves: At what cost did we allow this to happen? The following morning, Good Morning America conducted a poll asking if viewers thought the performance was cool or creepy, and the majority voted for “creepy.” Of course, some people are just going to hate on Michael no matter what, and one has to honestly wonder about the connotation of the word “creepy” in this context, a word that people tended to apply to Michael even when he lived.

      Come to think of it, this was a lot of what Michael had to deal with when he was alive, always knowing that he was only going to be as great as his last performance. I suppose, in a way, it is true of every performer. You walk out on that stage, into that spotlight, and know that by the next morning (or even within minutes now, thanks to social media) you are either going to be built up or ripped apart.

      But…what if the technology improves, to the point that a virtually lifelike performance by Michael COULD be done? Well, notice I did not say I would never watch again, lol. I only said that I don’t know if I would be able to muster the same enthusiasm. I would probably watch again, but with a lot less expectation.

      Who knows, I might even be thrilled.

      But it also wouldn’t bother me terribly if the idea was retired and never attempted again.

      1. The fact that Xscape is the #2 most illegally downloaded album in the world right now is particularly upsetting in light of the Billboard ratings. It also is a sad commentary on the increasing willingness of the public to steal what doesn’t belong to them no matter what the cost to others.

        1. Sigh. The whole thing about Billboard and that debacle over the bundles sales has blown up and gotten so ugly. I would like to post on this but I don’t have time today. However, for those who don’t know, an article that appeared in Yahoo News yesterday (and which has since been deleted) confirmed that Xscape had the top spot-until Billboard rather arbitrarily decided not to count 9k units (let’s translate: 9,000!) copies because they were sold as bundle packaging with those who bought Cirque du Soleil tickets. Fortunately, this article was seen and posted on social media and many forums before it had a chance to be deleted:

          Michael Jackson loved the charts, so he would have been disappointed by this week’s news. Xscape, a collection of previously unreleased tracks which he recorded between 1983 and 1999, just missed becoming his seventh #1 album. The album enters The Billboard 200 at #2, behind The Black Keys’s Turn Blue. Jackson’s album sold 157K copies. If it had sold just 7K more copies, it would have debuted at #1 and Turn Blue would have had to settle for the runner-up slot.

          Turn Blue had a big lead in digital sales (95K, compared to 54K for Xscape), but Jackson’s album sold more physical copies (103K, compared to 69K). How to explain this? A lot of Jackson’s fans wanted the CD for a keepsake.

          At first it looked like Xscape would come out on top, but Nielsen SoundScan and Billboard didn’t count nearly 9K copies of CDs that were given away with the purchase of a ticket or T-shirt at Jackson’s Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas. (Chart policy is that consumers have to actively choose to buy an album. They can’t just get it with bundled with something else.)

          https://music.yahoo.com/blogs/chart-…224447243.html

          The problem that many fans are having with this policy is that it is not a policy that Billboard has consistently enforced, as evidenced by what happened with Madonna’s sales in 2012:

          Madonna has the no. 1 album on this week’s Billboard 200. She sold 359,000 copies of MDNA compared to Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee, which opens with a really impressive 199k first week. But many of Madonna’s sales came through a bundle option, in which fans who purchased tickets for her upcoming tour received a code that could be redeemed for either a physical CD or a digital download of the album. 4/4/12

          http://www.billboard.com/biz/article…in-madonna-and

          And also, Prince’s bundle sales were counted in 2004:

          In 2004, Prince added a new milestone to his storied career: a revision of Billboard’s chart policy. That year, he staged the biggest comeback of his career by embracing the legacy he’d largely spurned over the preceding years. He performed several of his biggest hits with Beyonce on the Grammy Awards, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and embarked on his first full-scale arena tour in many years.

          Capitalizing on the excitement, Prince bundled copies of his “Musicology” album with tour ticket purchases, handing out copies of the album to each concertgoer upon entrance to the venue. The distributed CDs were counted by Billboard and SoundScan as sales for the corresponding week of each show, resulting in “Musicology” peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 — his highest-charting album since “Diamonds & Pearls” in 1991. The promotion led Billboard and SoundScan to tighten up their policy on how tickets bundled with albums would count for charting purposes.

          The only justification for this double stantard would be if, indeed, Billbaord has changed that policy since 2012, and how consistently it is enforced. And for that info, I would have to do a little more in-depth research (which, again, I just don’t have time to get into today).

          But getting back to the Yahoo article, the phrasing of it is very interesting indeed:

          At first it looked like Xscape would come out on top, but Nielsen SoundScan and Billboard didn’t count nearly 9K copies of CDs that were given away with the purchase of a ticket or T-shirt at Jackson’s Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas. (Chart policy is that consumers have to actively choose to buy an album. They can’t just get it with bundled with something else.) 5/21/14

          What this tells us-exactly-is that Xscape DID have that #1 spot in the bag, until this decision was made. And the way they worded it makes it almost sound as if it was an arbitrary decision that was made after-the-fact.

          It would be a different matter, perhaps, if these were FREE copies of the CD that had been given away in those bundles. But in this case, it would appear that a legitimate transaction was made with these purchases; money exchanged hands. People willingly purchased these bundles with the knowledge that the CD was included, so then why would that not count as a legitimate purchase?

          It’s also interesting that Hits Daily Double, which is USUALLY about 99% accurate in predicting how Billboard’s rankings will go, declared Xscape the clear winner as of Tuesday, with a close but very clear margin:

          http://www.hitsdailydouble.com/sales/salescht.cgi

          http://www.hitsdailydouble.com/news/newsPage.cgi?news09882m01

          http://www.hitsdailydouble.com/news/newsPage.cgi?news09881m01

          Of course, we have to keep in mind that even though HDD is usually a very accurate predictor of how Billboard’s rankings will go, they are still two separate charts who use different criteria for their rankings system. That difference is explained somewhat here:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Albums/Archive_44

          I had a very sneaking suspicion that, with this race for Billboard #1 being as tight as it was predicted to be, that there would be some controversy no matter WHO came out on top. It reminds me a little of the 2000 presidential election (lol) only the stakes aren’t quite as high.

          Although I am understandably concerned about whether those 9k units should have been counted, I question whether waging an angry campaign against Billboard is really the best answer. I think it has to come down to whether an actual injustice was done, or if this was indeed a fair count and Michael’s numbers were simply bested. To truly make that determination, we would need a much wider sampling of recent artists whose bundle sales have counted; otherwise, I don’t think we can make a strong case for what was allowed in Madonna’s case over two years ago. Only a few days ago, fans were praising Billboard to the hilt for the hologram performance and for their honoring of Michael. Would they then turn around and deliberately sabotage his chart ranking? I just don’t know.

          My concern is that raising too big of a stink over something like this could, in fact, just create a very negative backlash. Unless an intentional sabotage-or even an accidental miscount-can be proven (which is going to be near impossible because Billboard will find a way to cover themselves regardless) it is only going to make MJ fans look like a bunch of sore losers and, of course, will be picked up by the media as “Here goes those crazy, rabid MJ fans again.” It may, in fact, only serve to make us look just as bad as The Black Keys did when they were acting so unprofessionally in the media about their competion with Xscape. I doubt that a horde of angry emails and tweets is really going to force Billboard to cave in and do a recount. If they did, it would be an unprecedented first. And…let’s just say they did cave in and do a recount, and then declared that, Oops, we made a mistake, Black Keys; you weren’t Number One after all. What kind of effect is that going to have? Then we will have them and THEIR fans up in arms, and the whole mess could get very, very ugly.

          I realize a #2 debut on Billbaord is a bit of a letdown. Even if we say it is #1 everywhere else, on every other major chart, for those of us in the US there is a still a sense that Billboard is THE one that counts most; it has been the industry standard in the US for over five decades. It feels a bit like when I am trying to convince a student that they should be proud of achieving a B, when we all know that every student really wants an A. Still, we have to look at the bright side. #2 is still very impressive, and we have to keep in mind that Xscape is still a very high selling juggernaut right now, one that not only gave The Black Keys the race of a lifetime for this spot, but that had to concede by less than a mere few thousand copies. It could still very well overtake the #1 spot NEXT week, and that is what I feel we should really focus on.

          And, yet another very positive note that has gone completely overlooked in all of the anger over the bundle sales controversy, is that the single Love Never Felt So Good has climbed all the way into the Billboard Top Ten this week, to #9! That is a HUGE jump of over 13 places from where it was last week!

          But I am going to continue researching this issue with the bundle sales as I have time, and paying attention to the information that others find. If it turns out that this WAS an intentional sabotage, and it can be proven, then there will definitely be hell to pay.

          1. Love the way writers ‘explain’ why Xscape did so well – because rabid Jackson fans bought copies as keepsakes, not because that many people actually wanted the album for its music. How exactly did they determine this? How does that differ from the Black Keys begging heir fans to buy more than one copy of their album so that they could beat out MJ? Whatever, there will always be an asterisk by this ‘victory’ for the Black Keys.

          2. I think they meant it more as a way of explaining why Xscape has sold more physical and retail copies, as opposed to Turn Blue which had higher digital sales. I didn’t really take it as an affront but I guess it depends on how you interpret the comment of fans wanting the CD for a keepsake. The truth, however, is that in Michael’s case, you will have many more fans buying physical copies for that reason. Most of The Black Keys’ fans are probably kids who really don’t care about having a physical CD. They just want something on their Ipods.

            Ironically enough, I recently did an interview with the band Drivin’and Cryin’ (a huge 80’s band whose big hit “Fly Me Courageous” was an MTV anthem). The comeback of vinyl was one of the things we discussed, and Tim Nielsen, the bassist, said that real fans love to have something physical that they can hold in their hands; something they can hang up; something they can get autographed. Although many kids now think vinyl records are cool, I somewhat disagree with Nielsen that it’s going to be the next big wave of the future. People today have been spoiled by the convenience and portability of digital technology. I don’t see us reverting back to the days of stereo players, turntables, and LP’s. But he’s right in that there is a kind of vintage cool in physical copies, which I suppose could apply these days to CD’s as well as to vinyl records.

            BTW for anyone interested, you can read my interview with Drivin’ and Cryin’ here:

            http://valleyplanet.com/blog/934-not-straight-to-hell-just-yet

            BTW, yes, I would certainly agree that The Black Keys’ comments probably spurred a lot of their fans into buying. But again, just as I was saying in my comment to Nina, most fanbases ARE driven by a sense of competition. We’re proud when our favorite band or artist beats out someone else, even if that means someone else’s dream is sacrificed in the bargain. It’s just all part of the competitive process which can be cutthroat at times, and which the industry thrives on.

            But I think that kind of behavior and competitiveness between fans is one thing; quite another when the artists themselves start egging it on. I kind of like The Black Keys’ music but I lost a lot of respect for them in how they conducted themselves in the media. As I commented on one forum discussion, if The Black Keys were going to be upset with anyone, they should have been upset with their management or Nonesuch label or whoever was responsible for making their release date May 13th.

          3. It’s quite possible Billboard has changed its policy since Madonna’s and Prince’s bundle sales were counted. But I’m afraid this will become even more of an excuse for fans to engage in a very counterproductive—and by now, predictable—fulminating about MJ’s mistreatment. This, despite a mountain of evidence of his promotion (and, indeed, “resurrection”!) in recent weeks.

            I honestly don’t know what more the fans want. Maybe, as the Yahoo article says, “Michael Jackson loved the charts,” and maybe—just maybe—he’d be disappointed to come in at Number 2.

            But I’m not all that exercised about it. With all due respect, Michael didn’t *always* have the best taste, or the best priorities when it came to things he cared about. And where is it written in stone that other fans have to so *abjectly* impressed by sales statistics and chart rankings? FWhere is it written in stone that we have to take chart positions and numbers and statistics seriously at all? Why? For what?

            I don’t know about anyone else, but I know what I love. I know what I love about Michael’s music, about some of the songs on Xscape, and about what MJ’s legacy *could* be if someone—perhaps those who claim to “love” him as fans—would cease this cycle of buying, buying, buying into this corrupt industry’s own terms, terms that Michael himself—ironically—helped to bring about. ‘

            You know, it IS possible, I believe, to love Michael Jackson, to enjoy his music, to buy his records, and to still resist the painfully debilitating discourse that continues to surround him—a discourse where one cannot simply appreciate, but must “buy into” him as a commodity whose main function and value—for execs and fans alike—is to generate sales, produce the highest numbers, and gain entrée to the Guinness Book of World Records.

            Don’t like the tabloids? Don’t buy ’em, and don’t buy into ’em. Billboard Magazine is just another kind of tabloid, peddling something we might call “chart porn.”

            Who cares if they have a different way of tallying numbers? It’s not the end of the world. We got some new music. Michael Jackson’s reputation was enhanced tremendously, drawing new fans into the fold. What more do people want?

          4. I do agree there is sometimes way too much emphasis on chart performance. Unfortunately, any new product from Michael Jackson seems to be especially judged by this standard, part of which comes, no doubt, from the insurmountable challenge of having the biggest selling record of all time. This is so true that even a multi-platinum album like Bad was considered a “failure” by some pundits.

            The emphasis on numbers can go to the extreme sometimes, but I think all fan bases, to some extent, are guilty of this. It is all part of a culture that feeds off this kind of validation. The same validation that is so important to us even as teenagers, when peer pressure and the “group mentality” rules and you think it’s so cool when all of your friends like the same band or artist that you like. I think there is just a very basic part of human nature (wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something embedded in our genetic code, lol) that seeks this kind of validation; of being a part of some communal experience. And, of course, the human need to be recognized and appreciated for one’s accomplishments, which in a way is what awards and chart rankings do (aside from also breeding competition, of course). Even indie artists who pretend they could care less about sales usually do, deep down-if they are honest with themselves. It’s the same way with artists who may say that winning awards is stupid and pointless-but most are still usually very honored when they are nominated-and certainly not stupid enough to refuse acceptance if they win.

            I know where I stand in regards to my love of Michael’s music and my appreciation for him as an artist, and certainly he proved himself years ago. Love him or hate him, he is nevertheless one of the most esteemed performers and musical artists of all time, one who is routinely listed in the Top Three to Five of most any list of great or influential performers.

            But I still can’t deny, there is something very gratifying in knowing that Michael can still put out an album in 2014 and have it go straight to the top of the charts, or that nearly 45 years after his first chart entry and five years after his death, he can still have a hit single in the Top Ten.

            Do we NEED any of this to “prove” how worthy he was, or why he is still great? No, of course not. But I think, when it’s all said and done, a lot of it comes down to simple pride. I know numbers aren’t everything, but it does make me feel proud when I see his name at #1. When I see that, it makes me think, “Yes, Michael, you can still do it! People still love you.”

            I guess what I’m really trying to say is that there is a common sense side of me that definitely agrees with you, but I can’t deny that I am proud when I see a new release by him go straight to the top. I don’t think it is possible to invest in an artist to this extent, and not feel some measure of pride when you see that kind of validation. I suppose, when you break it down to its essence, that is what those charts and numbers mean to people-a kind of validation that something you love is also still loved by many others. Chart numbers are a very real and physical representation of that validation, and I think that is essentially what it boils down to.

            Michael certainly doesn’t need to, or shouldn’t, have to continue to prove himself from the grave, or to be put in competition with himself from the grave. But, as I said, I think many of us feel a sense of pride when we see his name at #1. “Yes, Michael you can still do it!”

          5. Nina Y F, incredibly patronizing for you to state that Michael Jackson didn’t always have the “best taste”. As an artist, and a human being, he had the right to express his own particular taste, whether you or anyone else approved. Whose taste do you think he should have substituted for his own?

          6. I think you raise a lot of good points here, Raven. Why is this kind of numerical validation (I should say *domination*) so important? The irony that I see in this situation is that Michael himself brought into being the kind of winner-take-all system that persists today in the music and entertainment industry. I’m not sure the results have been altogether beneficial.

            I remember when I used to champion those obscure artists that nobody had ever heard of, and I even took pride in being “in the know” in this way. I didn’t assume that “market share” necessarily correlated with artistic quality. But something in the culture has definitely shifted, and myself along with it. I, too, found myself rooting for Xscape to take the #1 spot (which it has internationally). I hope it remains there.

  14. Re keeping a deceased artist relevant . Jimi Hendrix died 41 years ago, Elvis 34 years, Bob marley 33, John Lennon 34, Freddy Mercury 24. Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Tupac.Whitney Houston. There is not one single day that you dont hear their music, see films, documentaries or discussion online on youtube or fansites. Bob Marley died before my son was born yet my son knows all of his songs. All these artists stayed relevantt because they were geniuses and unique in their league. Good music is selfsustaining and needs no gimmicks or make believe.

    This is a Queen show 2 years ago, with Freddy Mercury ‘performing”. Before the show there was a buzz of an FM hologram . This was shortly after the Tupac hologram, which btw looked more like Tupac than the MJ one like him. But the movements were not fluent and the look of it was still flat and dead. I do not know if the FM hologram ever materialized, but the bandmembers would not have it.

    “I don’t want to sit up here with a hologram of my dear friend,” said Taylor in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “Were somebody to use a hologram of Freddie, I don’t think I would have an objection. But I don’t want to. It just didn’t sit too well with me.”

    I wonder if the executors or LAReid or whose idea it was actually saw and approved the hologram before the show. And if so, after knowing Michael for years if they really thought that this is what he looked like. Ironically in one of his interviews LAReid said that he offered Branca to make a biopic of Michael and Branca refused, thank God!.

    I think the only goal of the hologram or whatever it was ,was to have ‘Michael ‘ perform and ‘promote’ the song no matter what it looked like.
    But as I was more in shock by what I saw than impressed by what I heard , the whole song got lost on me.

    Michael has generated enough money for his estate, its time to put quality before quantity.

    1. You know, interestingly enough, I think you are right. The idea WAS to promote the song and the album, but the song actually became swallowed up by the spectacle. I don’t think it was exactly the result they wanted. I honestly think they could have used one of his hits from 30 years ago and no one would have even noticed!

  15. With the Estate, PulseEvolution, the Taluega Brothers and Jamie King having released statements and videos concerning development of this project, and having watched the BBMA’s a dozen times, I’ve grown to appreciate the level of dedication by those who worked with and admired Michael Jackson that went into this computer animation (not a hologram at all). And it helps knowing the Alki David wasn’t at all involved, despite the bogus claims he made during an interview with CNN. Having said that, I still prefer watching Michael via his short films and unmatched live performances, but understand that at least one purpose of this animation was to promote Xscape, now #1 worldwide.

    1. I have found some new articles and videos on the creation of it, which I’ll post as an addendum here in a bit. Most fans have probably already seen them, but anyway, they are interesting and, I feel in all fairness, should be included to round out the piece. Even if the end result wasn’t perfect, or maybe not as perfect as many of us would have liked for it to have been, these articles and vids really give a good sense of just how much work went into what we saw-and just how challenging it actually is, or would ever be, to create a virtual image that could actually duplicate Michael’s authentic moves. In short, it’s really NOT possible with the current technology. That is pretty much the message I got from it. But like I said, it will definitely give a new appreciation for the labor of effort involved.

  16. You speak my mind June, and I still watch the ‘performance’ every day and enjoy it, along with now over 6 and a half million people in the last 5 days – that says something for it I feel!!

  17. I really do hope that one day soon the truth about who is the performer behind this hologram or not-hologram will come out. It is just not fair that there is a certain “gag order” and people spread all these speculations, rumors and accusations. Me myself i know the truth but cannot speak it. Yes, maybe it`s best not to know all the details. But now a brilliant and dedicated artist is being misjudged, one who has been visually manipulated, who is not allowed to speak for himself in this matter and who`s name is ignored and denied by the makers while others take the credit for this (after all successful) project.

  18. Why can’t Michael’s fans just let go and enjoy the bounty?

    Just enjoy the Xscape album?

    There’s Michael in there-in the music, and he’s just brilliant.

    1. Amen and in the words of Michael himself “The sound of applause rolls across the universe, and (s)he bows”!!

  19. Yipes to your update. Never mind dead icons. If the politicians latch on to this concept, soon it will be impossible to tell who said what. President Obama introducing Mitt Romney? This would make it so much easier for superpacs to put words into someone’s mouth, and so much harder to refute lies and get to the real truth. Please transport me back to the last century!

  20. Rolling Stone hasn’t always been fair and honest about Michael, but they got this right:

    “Worst Misuse of a Pop Icon: Putting Michael Jackson’s Name On Whatever That Was”

    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/billboard-music-awards-2014s-15-best-and-worst-moments-20140519/worst-misuse-of-a-pop-icon-putting-michael-jacksons-name-on-whatever-that-was-0503365

    In case anyone still has doubts about the hologram using an impersonator, Karen Faye posted this side-by-side comparison. Honestly, would you ever think this guy was Michael Jackson, in any circumstance?:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/wingheart/media/grid?idx=2&tid=468450684778463232

    1. I regard it very hypocritical that the Rolling Stone, who always disparaged MJ and never took him seriously, now talks about “misuse” and “cash-in”, about MJ’s perfectionism, his significance and his legacy, and feels the need to protect him against his Estate Executors.
      Suddenly I read (some) articles of journalists, who never were interested in positive and unbiased reports on MJ, which talk about his exploitation by his Estate – articles of exactly that branch that exploited MJ the worst and earned the most money with him with their negative press. It couldn’t be more duplicitous. They seem to have a new policy: Now they no longer attack him, but his Estate, to impede success. To me it’s not adequate for fans to use the comments from this corner to support their distrust towards the Estate.
      Its the task of the Estate to handle the finances, and we may be of different opinions if they do this in a decent way or not, but this kind of comments from certain media people is pure hypocrisy.

      1. Either it’s hypocrisy, Susanne, or they’ve amended their views, for all kinds of reasons…. now that Michael Jackson’s “brand” is big business again. It’s no longer *de rigeur* to put MJ down; in death, he’s attained iconic status. He serves a different function now in the popular imagination. Any way you look at it, he’s back in the limelight, for better *and* worse.

        Different people write for Rolling Stone (like any other publication) in different ways, and of course they bring their own biases to their articles. While the magazine may have a “house style” of sorts (as some variation on “groupthink”), it’s always been up to individual critics to register their views.

        The objections raised to the “whatever that was” may have less to do with support of Michael Jackson than with the idea of trying to use this kind of device to replicate a living artist—and how tacky that is.

      2. I agree, Susanne. The comments also make it clear that RS readers regard MJ negatively, to say the least. On the other hand, RS interviewed Carlos Santana recently and he said some wonderful things about MJ, including this comment: ” As you know, I totally identity and equate myself with Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Jimmy Hendrix and John Lennon. I am one of them and we all have the same message to transform fear on this planet into light and love.” Carlos also made another great positive comment about MJ in the interview, so I hope RS will end their historical and recent slighting of MJ (think Randall Sullivan, for instance), but I am not holding my breath on that one!

      3. I tend to be very distrustful, overall, of those who instantly start singing “exploitation” every time there is a successful Michael Jackson venture. It’s no coincidence that this indignant chorus rises up every time either, A: Michael Jackson’s profile has risen again, and B: His name is in the news, not due to some scandal, but due to the success of his art.

        While I have my own personal misgivings about the “hologram/avator” it is still, nevertheless, true that there are some who will cry foul every time the name Michael Jackson is successful again; every time his brand is generating money again, and every time his name is in the news for the right reasons. Suddenly, he is a victim of “exploitation.” No, I think it is simply that there will always be haters who will resent anytime they see that Michael is successful and being celebrated, whether posthumously or otherwise. I just hate when they try to be cloy about it, cloaking it all behind some feigned concerned for Michael’s “exploitation.” Funny thing is, none of these people are very concerned when the media is trashing him; they’re never concerned when a dead man is being slandered; they’re not concerned when the details of his autopsy are splashed on TV screens. But just let his mother try to seek justice, and it’s “there goes that greedy, bloodsucking family” or let there be a successful album and it’s “exploitation.”

        This was an article that perfectly sums up everything I said:

        http://www.gigwise.com/photos/90051/7/how-michael-jacksons-legacy-has-been-trashed-since-his-death#gallery

        When I first saw the title of this piece, I was actually expecting it to be an article about the Wade Robson allegations, or the phony FBI story, or the autopsy shows, or…well, gosh, take your pick. It’s not as if there is any shortage. But, no, these writers weren’t concerned with any of THOSE things. So what were the things that had supposedly “trashed” Michael’s legacy since his death? Um, let’s see…the Xscape album (#1 worldwide), the Immortal show (the 2012 top grossing tour of North America, according to Forbes), and “This Is It” (which broke box office records as the top grossing concert film of all time). And I’m sure I could probably think of a few things far worse than a metal tribute album. In fact, about the only thing I actually agreed with was about the seance, but who is going to take something like that seriously, anyway?

        I am not necessarily referring to the hologram (my post pretty much stated my feelings on this) but it does seem that there are some who just want to wave the “exploitation” flag every time Michael is being celebrated in a positive way.

        1. Yet I can understand where this is coming from, Raven. Among people who regularly write about music, or music aficionados, an artist’s legacy is specifically their MUSICAL legacy. So it doesn’t surprise me that these writers are concerned about how his “brand” is marketed and sold, etc., more than about any allegations or scandals.

          Mainly it’s because they know that the scandals, etc. will go away over time. What will last, however, is the *music*—so it’s the music that must be carefully preserved and attended to. They don’t want it to be cheapened—what they imagine “cheapened” might look and sound like.

    2. There were certain angles where “it” looked more like Michael than others, but when you look at it straight on, you can definitely tell there is no resemblance.

      1. Of course there was no resemblance of the face, that was the intention of the producers. The performer`s actual face, might as well say the head (that actually looks VERY similar to that of MJ, was replaced by some virtual construction. That`s why the eyes looked so “wrong” for instance…

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