Long live the king?

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It’s fitting that Dick Clark Productions is the outfit that brings us the Billboard Music Awards each year.

For those of us that missed it — including me, until I caught Monday’s round of infotainment shows that pry my eyelids open each weekday morning — the company named for the man who we thought would live forever brought us a performance that seems to suggest people really can live forever with the help of technology.

An eye-catching (some would say downright creepy) 3-D hologram image of Michael Jackson, who died in 2009 in a tragically failed attempt at deep sleep, as the late pop icon performed songs from his posthumously released album “Xscape” while surrounded by 16 living, breathing dancers. Epic Records CEO L.A. Reid struck something of an apologetic tone, as if the “made-up Michael” could get a take-two after some adjustments.

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“We tried to do as best we could what we thought Michael would have loved, and those of us who knew Michael really well, we had a good perspective on it,” L.A. Reid told reporters backstage. Reid worked on the album and released it. “But the truth is, you can’t ever really know because he wasn’t there.”

It’s not the first time the entertainment world pulled a Lazarus on an ever-fawning public. In 2012, the Coachella Music and Arts Festival did the same thing with rapper Tupac Shakur, who was alive for 25 years and now dead for 17 — but has remained a prolific rhymer through the years.

It would be easy to decry this as technology’s latest insult to the intelligence of those who remember popular music, pre-Internet. I’ve danced around the point before, but when it became too easy to “share” music, it then became too easy to create what has passed for music. Even the King of Pop had actual keyboard players toiling through the night to get a perfect sound. (Producer Quincy Jones once said he kept Rod Temperton up late one night to perfect a certain slowness to color Jackson’s 1983 tune “Human Nature”).

If a few tricks of light and lasers was all that was needed to bring the gloved one back to life, I suppose it’s progress. Lazarus of Bethany, from the Gospel of John, spent four nights in a musty tomb. And he didn’t have to put up with the glaring lights of the media and a public that fuels it.

Danny Barrett Jr. is a reporter and can be reached by email at danny.barrett@vicksburgpost.com or by phone at 601-636-4545.