The London Olympics came to a close Sunday night and, as promised, the final ceremony was composed of an epic montage of British music acts representing their country. The 2012 committee trotted out a crazy-eclectic lineup, epitomized by the fact that boy band of the moment One Direction gave way to rock legends The Who and Queen, with Freddie Mercury represented via video screen. (John Lennon showed up prerecorded as well). Also on hand: George Michael, Russell Brand, Monty Python's Eric Idle, Annie Lennox, Tinie Tempah, Fatboy Slim, Taio Cruz, Jessie J, Liam Gallagher, the reunified Spice Girls, and the mayor of London and Prime Minister of the U.K. awkwardly dancing to the reunified Spice Girls. Below is a quick YouTube highlight reel. Enjoy quickly!
Just like with the Opening Ceremony — which rode a wave of geese and sheep and horses and cows and chickens and ducks to critical acclaim — the exact details of the Olympics Closing Ceremony are being kept under wraps. But some idea of what we'll be seeing on Sunday night has now been unveiled. And it sounds like what the Closing Ceremony will lack in farm animals, it'll make up for in famous musicians from throughout British history.
We were lied to! Just a few weeks back, Queen guitarist Brian May told Billboard he’d never perform with a hologram of Freddie Mercury, saying “It just doesn't sit too well with me. I don't want to appear with a hologram of my dear friend. It's the real one or no hologram for me ... Were somebody (else) to use a hologram of Freddie, I would have no objection.” Now it’s clear that May was just mincing his words. Yes, he won’t perform with a hologram of Freddie, but “somebody else” certainly will:
Dr. Dre might have said he’s not taking Hologram Tupac on the road, but we all knew that wouldn’t be the end of the conversation. The Pandora’s Box has been opened; whatever horrors lie inside have forever been unleashed onto the world. TLC were actually the first to jump on the bandwagon: their upcoming tour will feature the apparition of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, whether we like it or not. And this approach for hologram usage –- reuniting a band with its deceased member –- would appear to be the logical first step for this brave new world of ghost concerts. First a bunch of acts that have lost a member get back together, so that we know definitively the unholy abomination that stands before us has at least been approved by people that were, at least at one point, close to the artist being resurrected. Second, faceless corporations get into the act and begin buying up posthumous live rights, and then manipulating the mass-less limbs of the digitized forms of our long-gone solo heroes – the Elvises, the Frank Sinatras, the Michael Jacksons -- like so many maniacal puppeteers. So: Is everyone cool with that?
I guess I can understand the thinking — Gaga wants to go in a rock direction, Brian May needs suggestions on how to update his Poodle/Yahoo Serious look. Gaga is “weird” and sings with attitude. Freddie Mercury was “weird” and sang with attitude. Gaga pawns herself off as a gay rights pioneer (seriously, what is she pioneering there?). Freddie Mercury was an actual gay rights pioneer. Gaga has a pointy face. Freddie Mercury had a pointy face. If we’re playing some word-matching game (and does anyone really question whether or not the music industry works at a much deeper level than this?), there are enough words about Lady Gaga that match up with words about Freddie Mercury to make an argument made for this being a good idea.
Nostalgia synergy is a tricky endeavor. The current act (Gaga) has to somehow update the old (Queen) and energize their songs into something new and relevant. This math can work, as it did with Amy Winehouse, and, to a lesser extent, Cat Power’s covers album. But the current act has to be more interesting than the old. When the math doesn’t work, blasphemous diarrhea gets squirted all over the listening public. It’s been fifteen years since the Counting Crows played a similar word game and blindsided Joni Mitchell with their version of “Big Yellow Taxi.” Joni is still wandering some desert in Arizona, searching for broken teeth and what’s left of her dignity. I’m not even going to comment on Beyonce’s version of “At Last,” except to say that if I were to pick a soundtrack for the Rapture, I’d pick Beyonce’s “At Last,” for the moment when the Beast with the 666 tattoo breaks through the earth and starts eating everyone. And, honestly, we'd deserve it for letting that god-awful woman ruin one of the most important songs in the history of American music. At least, we'd deserve it a little.
Gaga-as-Mercury would somehow be worse. I suppose I can see how the first song might sound okay — maybe a slowed-down version of “Killer Queen,” or “We Are the Champions,” but where do you go from there? What happens when the novelty wears off and you realize that what you’re watching is a moderately talented singer, who, without shame or modesty, is butchering all your favorite songs? How long before Gaga goes back to Joe Calderone and the show devolves into a bad Freddie Mercury impression? And once radio starts blasting Gaga's version of Queen songs everywhere,
Queen, if you must re-boot, here are two suggestions. First, if it’s a Freddie Mercury impression you want, just give the job to Adam Lambert. At least that guy can sing.
Second suggestion. Capitalize on your massive popularity in the Philippines and hire Jovit Baldivino, winner of Pilipinas Got Talent.