We have to stop resurrecting R&B icons

For some reason, no one wants to let go of the dead. These musical stars that we idolize suddenly pass away, and then we are fiends for any little piece of them that we can get. If they ever recorded anything that wasn’t commercially released, we want to buy it on a compilation album. Every family member, no matter how closely related, needs to be interviewed and given a reality TV show. A star-studded biopic is necessary, no doubt starring someone who always idolized the singer while growing up. And after all that is done, we want hologram versions of them to go on tour. Where did this crazy belief come from that as long as we keep buying their products and claiming that they were the best to ever do it, they will never die?

Let’s examine some of the more egregious examples of this:

Tupac Shakur

For years, people refused to believe that Tupac had actually died. Just like Elvis, people speculated that his death was some big hoax and he was hiding out somewhere, like there was a phantom “Rapper Protection Program” or something. It didn’t help matters when a nearly steady stream of material continued to be released.
But eventually, the material stopped and the Tupac hype fell off. Well, at least until Coachella 2012. Suddenly, Tupac was “alive” again. He greeted the crowd. He performed with Snoop Dogg. It’s like we took a time machine back to the nineties.

But is this really appropriate nearly 16 years after his death? Sure, its cool, but I just want to know if this idea was born out of a desire to see Tupac on stage again or if someone just wanted to flex their technological muscles. If you haven’t seen the video yet, view it below and you decide.

Left Eye

And the Tupac Shakur reincarnation has had fall out. Since we now have the technology to conjure up the dead at will, let’s take them on tour! Days after Tupac’s blockbuster performance, TLC announced plans to launch a new reunion tour … with Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopez as a hologram (Source).

Really? A tour with a hologram? I’m a TLC fan from way back when half of their wardrobe was condoms, but if I miss their work and I want to see Left-Eye again, I go to YouTube and pull up one of their old videos. How would this be honoring her legacy?

Michael Jackson

By Vectorportal (Lady-Gaga-vector) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most astounding legacies that is being seriously leveraged is that of the King of Pop. There was This Is It, the movie that was being filmed when he passed away. There have been a number of compilation albums released. The remaining members of the Jackson 5 received a reality TV show on A&E (A&E’s The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty), which chronicles their efforts to put together 40-Year anniversary concert for the Jackson 5. There are plans to release a posthumous album with Michael’s unreleased material (Source). And his sister La Toya, who repeatedly invoked his name during her stint on Celebrity Apprentice, now has her own reality TV show on Oprah’s OWN network (OWN’s Life With La Toya). Cirque Du Soleil even has Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour (Buy tickets here).

Can we all just be real with ourselves and see this for what it is? This is NOT Thriller night. He will not rise from the grave. And if he actually did, we would all be scared as hell.

At what point does this cross the line? And at what point do the fans feel used for their admiration?



And the newest deceased cash cow is Aaliyah. Just like other stars, she has die-hard fans that have held on to her since her sudden death. After finishing filming for her video “Rock The Boat”, she and eight others died in a plane crash, so we have a seriously definitive “last performance” from her.


After her death, some of her previously unreleased work was collected on the album I Care 4 U. The proceeds of the album were donated to the Aaliyah Memorial Fund.


And that was supposed to be it. She was loved. She was respected. And the world would let her rest in peace. Enter Aubrey Drake Graham, or Drake for short. Another HUGE Aaliyah fan who cites her as his biggest musical influence, Drake took it upon himself to spearhead a new posthumous album of her work, of which he will be a co-executive producer. The first single “Enough Said”, is streamed below.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/55289795″ iframe=”true” /]

The only problem that I am seeing with this is that it both feel and SOUNDS like material that was not prepped or finalized for release. Why do we need to scrounge around and dig up every last second of her recorded voice and place it on a track? And the bigger question is: Would Aaliyah herself want this released?

Whitney Houston

By Youngking11 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The only instance where I believe someone’s legacy has been managed appropriately is with Whitney Houston. And at the time of her death, Whitney was primed to continue a successful career despite her frequent troubles with drugs. She had finally completed work on the movie Sparkle, which incidentally was supposed to originally star Aaliyah. And still, the movie promoters didn’t see her sudden loss as a chance to achieve record-breaking ticket sales. They took the high road, not billing the movie as “Whitney’s swan-song performance”, but promoting it with Whitney as just another member of the ensemble, just as prominent as she would have been if she were still alive.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/47249991″ iframe=”true” /]

A greatest hits album is being released on 11/12 titled I Will Always Love You – The Best of Whitney Houston (Pre-order here), so obviously the verdict is still out on how her legacy will be handled going forward. But so far, her death has not been turned into a money grab.

Now that we have walked down memory lane together, let’s all hold hands. Close your eyes. Now take in a deep breath … and slowly release. Let these people go. Their legacies have already been established, and there is nothing that they can physically do to extend them. As a fan, I for one will not support the efforts of those left behind that are doing their best to profit off of them.

Will you be supporting these albums and tours? Why or why not?

What say you Water Cooler Community?

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.