Doin’ It With the Gram: Musicians and Advanced Technology Collide Once More for Audience Appeal, but Will Audiences Ever Find It Appealing?

by Jordan Mark

Sunday was my 22nd birthday, and on that day, I had the craving for ABBA.

I’d been in an ABBA mood the few days before. Something got me wanting to hear the joyous sing-alongs and harmonious instrumentals. My birthday was just another day of feeling the ABBA sunshine gloss over myself in warm satisfaction. I then came to find out it was the perfect time to be getting into the ABBA spirit because they recently announced that, after a 40-year period, they’re going to release a new album. While the November 5th release date is miles away, they did release two songs – “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” – for listeners to chant along while they wait.

While the announcement of a new album is beyond exciting, they also announced a concert in May 2022. What struck me about that announcement was that the concert will have the group as digital holograms of themselves from 1979. This is yet another case where the use of holograms and other digital technology is being used on artists, and it makes me question how much they’ll impact society’s comfort with it.

Within the past 15 years or so, the use of holograms has been implemented for artists like Whitney Houston, Tupac, and Roy Orbison. The upcoming Fox show Alter Ego plans to have people become their dream characters using digital technology. Even artists that don’t have actual human anatomy have gained adoration from those that do, such as the Vocaloid phenomenon talents of Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka. Our trust (or lack thereof) with advanced technology complementing our culture is thought about here and there, and yet there’s a growing comfortability with seeing these advanced technological processes on artists. That, or it’s just being pushed on us more and more each year.

I could see the comfort level of this technology in the music world being attributed as something used for creative or nostalgic purposes. Many that have been featured as holograms have passed away, and the yearning to experience a moment in time with them at their peaks is prevalent, especially nowadays where nostalgia is such a focus. With the ABBA announcement, the technology is being utilized for that: to allow people to experience a time they wished they could have lived (or for those that did, re-live it with a different perspective). ABBA is consciously making this decision themselves, which makes me wonder if other artists will follow suit when they get older. I’m not quite sure how I’d feel seeing a hologram of an artist performing, but as long as it doesn’t attack me afterward, then I don’t see why it can’t be used. Then again, I’m not including factors like upholding an artist’s legacy respectfully. It boggles my mind how people are stretching the boundaries of maintaining an artist’s legacy, and the idea of holograms in general opens even more discussion on what’s considered a pleasurable concert experience between different generations.

Will we get a hologram of Charlie Watts anytime soon? Probably not (we’re still grieving). Just know that if you see a bunch of Lollapaloozers losing their minds over pixelized caricatures, you will know that we probably have distinctively differentiated the Zoomers from the Boomers once more.