Music

Let Sleeping Celebs Lie

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Amy at home in London in 2008
(All Credit: Blake Wood)

The career of the late, great Amy Winehouse seems to be set for a comeback, despite her untimely death in 2011. Is her image being exploited? Or is this a celebration of her fame?

Newly-released footage of Amy Winehouse has been posted online, showing a live performance of her song Love Is A Losing Game. The video is from a small, intimate gig that was held the night Winehouse won five Grammy awards for her album Back to Black and the song was the last single to be released in the singer’s lifetime.

It’s probably not a coincidence that a new documentary about the artist, Amy Winehouse – Back to Black, is set to be released on DVD this November. The documentary, which follows the tumultuous creation of Winehouse’s second album, features new interviews from frequent collaborators such as Mark Ronson, as well as more unseen footage of the artist.

On top of these new releases, BASE Entertainment has announced an Amy Winehouse tour, where audiences will see a holographic Amy perform in a similar fashion to other holographically-resurrected celebrities, such as Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson. This plan, despite its somewhat ghoulish nature, has the full support of the Winehouse estate.

Many fans are offended by the plans. Jules LeFevre, Music Editor at Junkee, took particular aim at Amy’s father Mitch:

“There’s something very morbid and upsetting bout this trend”, LeFevre tweeted, “why can’t we just let these artists – their families, their friends – rest?”

She went on to quote something Mitch had said in an interview: “Fans have been clamouring for something new from Amy, but there really isn’t anything new.” LeFevre added in her tweet: “There’s nothing new because she’s dead. Let her rest. Stop mining her memory for money.”

However, Mitch Winehouse, in the original announcement, said that all money from the tour will go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which helps young people deal with addiction.

Perhaps charity is an acceptable excuse for displaying deceased artists. But what about the singers that have been used as holograms without charitable intent? Roy Orbison, who sang the classic Pretty Woman and co-founded The Traveling Wilburys, is currently on tour in the US despite dying 30 years ago. Orbison’s son has defended the tour by admitting that the hologram setup is too expensive to make any profit, but with 28 US dates and a European tour already completed, the math behind that might not add up.

Some proposed hologram tours were quickly shot down by the artists’ families or estates; Whitney Houston was going to have a tour in this fashion, and Prince was set to appear in this year’s Superbowl half-time show before the public reminded organisers that the singer once referred to celebrity hologram technology as “demonic”.

So, the jury is out on holograms. But what about the use of their image elsewhere? Netflix is rumoured to have a Prince biopic in the works, Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddy Mercury’s biopic) is accruing critical acclaim in theatres, and of course Ms. Winehouse has an upcoming documentary. Are these misuses of a musician’s legacy? Or are they merely celebrations of their subjects’ talent?

Oddly enough, a decent summary can be found amongst the complaints concerning the Amy Winehouse hologram.

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It’s a great idea to give people the opportunity to see icons they may have missed. But surely that’s what the music is for? In my humble opinion, I think the talent of these people is showcased best in their songs, not their image. We should let them rest – but I predict this opinion won’t catch on as long as there’s money to be made.

By Bryce Arthur

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