Singers M.I.A. and Janelle Monae took the stage together Thursday night despite being on separate coasts.
Through the magic of holograms, M.I.A. performed in New York with a 3D projection of Monae, while Monae sang on the West Coast with a projection of M.I.A.’s likeness. The feat took place during a launch party for the new Audi A3.
Their duet required more advanced 3-D projection and video mapping technology than Tupac’s hologram debut at the annual Coachella music festival in 2012. M.I.A. and Monae performed together in person to help create the holograms, but each saw the results for the first time onstage.
“I wish I were in the audience because I’m sure it looked cooler from the audience, but it felt great,” Monae said after closing her 40-minute set at Quixote Studios by singing with a hologram. “I felt M.I.A.’s spirit up there.”
A life-size hologram of the British rapper joined Monae onstage with an original addition to her song “Q.U.E.E.N.” Wearing a spangled top and pants reminiscent of C-3PO, M.I.A. appeared to dance and sing, her image at times bathed in colored lights. Monae’s hologram sang a verse of M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” with her at New York’s SIR Stage 37.
Neither artist got to see what their own hologram looked like (“I’m going to go online and see if I could see it,” Monae confessed), but both said they’d try the technology again.
“I think if you can have artists be a hologram and you can access it, and you have them life-size, in your house, it could be kind of cool,” M.I.A. said by phone. “It’s definitely cool for us and it’s cool for me. I could be in 10 places at once.”
The technology has been prohibitively expensive and cumbersome to use on tour, she said: “I hope they get it together to the point that it’s accessible.”
If so, Monae has some ideas about how to apply it.
“I’d be honored to experiment more with holograms and maybe make a whole band — but I love my band, I wouldn’t want them to be holograms,” she said. “I would do some experimenting with different versions of myself, playing different instruments.”
Not that either artist has the time to go hologram crazy. Both are touring in support of albums released last fall: M.I.A.’s “Matangi” and Monae’s “Electric Lady.” Monae also contributes the theme song to the upcoming animated film “Rio 2,” and covered David Bowie’s “Heroes” for a Pepsi global ad campaign. M.I.A. is busy with her fashion collection for Versace and her ongoing snarl with the National Football League, which is seeking $16 million from the singer on claims that she ruined the league’s reputation when she stuck out her middle finger during a halftime performance with Madonna two years ago.
M.I.A. has been vocal about the NFL issue on Twitter but when this reporter asked where things stand, a publicist interjected, saying, “That is one topic we cannot cover during this interview, unfortunately.”