Whitney Houston’s hologram is going on a world tour. Is nothing sacred?

This latest development sounds like it’s been lifted from a crass 1980s sci-fi film

Technology in music has proven to be a good – often great – thing, but the latest development sounds like it’s been lifted from a crass 1980s sci-fi film.

Holograms are not a particularly new development in music. Over the past few years, artists such as Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G. and Michael Jackson have been “brought back to life” using augmented reality. Their one-off performances have split opinion into “cool novelty” and “definitely creepy”, but it’s now been announced that as well as a hologram of Billie Holiday “starring” in a daytime show at New York’s Apollo Theatre later this year, a hologram of the late Whitney Houston will embark on a world tour next year.

These reanimated musical ghosts are the creation of Hologram USA, and Houston’s tour has been fully sanctioned by the president of her estate, her sister-in-law Pat Houston. Despite both parties stating the tour is an opportunity “to share her spectacular gifts with the world again”, it’s difficult to see how the idea will resonate with anyone other than their bank managers.

Apart from the obvious tackiness of exploiting a deceased singer in a way that goes further than the usual posthumous DVDs or Best Of collections, it raises questions about what audiences have come to expect of a live performance. Does spontaneity and atmosphere count for nothing? Isn’t a huge part of any successful gig due to the engagement between fan and artist? Where do you draw the line?

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Having seen Houston play in Dublin two years before her death in 2010, it was clear that she was far from her best. Occasionally, she was great. Sometimes, it was sad to see how far she’d apparently fallen. But at least it was real, which is more than can be said for a money-spinning hologram that serves no musical or memorial purpose.