Hollywood has it right, the music industry has it wrong. When the movie industry pauses during awards shows to honor the deceased they unroll a spool of greatest hits highlights. You get to relive actors’ most memorable lines and performances; the screen lingering over some choice scenes, characters or films closely tied to legacy. It’s as if the performers are briefly given life again — the screen fills up and lets us relive their most iconic moments. It’s a conjuring of sentiment, memory and reverence that makes it feel more like a séance; Chris Rock gathers us together, the room goes dark, and for five minutes Leonard Nimoy is with us again, wizened eyebrows and all.
But if Hollywood is a séance, the music industry is an exhumation. The music industry prefers to unearth the body of work of its deceased and give them a sometimes macabre, typically grotesque, tribute performance. It’s an awkward reanimation of the artist that usually pales in comparison of the original. And with the music awards season fully underway we got our first sight of the Prince of the Undead courtesy of Madonna’s 2016 Billboard Awards performance on Sunday. Her tribute performance was largely pilloried across the spectrum. Though softly aided by Philly’s own Questlove — who introduced her performance and reportedly helped engineer it — in a series of tweets, the internet had already spoken: the performance was horrible. Not even industry-safe props like Stevie Wonder could stave off the poor reception the performance received. Read more »