On Thursday (December 9), the late, great Michael Jackson returned to the music-video world with "Hold My Hand," a clip from the upcoming Michael album, which pairs his vocals with production work from some of today's top producers.
And much like that album, the "Hold My Hand" video is very much a retrospective affair, loaded with triumphant MJ performance footage and uplifting imagery (smiling children, sunrises, bright blue skies), not to mention a whole lot of Akon. And while fans can debate whether the clip is a worthy addition to the King of Pop's massive music-video legacy, it certainly carries on the tradition of the posthumous video, a rather ignominious — and incredibly profitable — wing of the music-industry machine.
Yes, ever since Elvis Presley shuffled off this mortal coil, record labels have been churning out videos by deceased stars, for reasons that run the gamut from tribute to pure profit. Out of necessity (since the star is no longer with us), these videos are usually by-the-numbers affairs, full of stock footage and performance clips, the occasional use of animation and, of course, the odd celebrity cameo. More often than not, fans love them — which is why we keep seeing them. And since "Hold My Hand" has just been unveiled, we decided to take a look back at some of the most notable examples of stars who may no longer be with us, but continue to make music videos. Here's our Posthumous Playlist.
Shedied tragically in a 2001 plane crash, but her videos kept showing up on MTV. "I Care 4 U" was a collection of clips from the Japanese anime "Macross Pluss II," which feature her as a ghostly figure. "Miss You" was a tribute vid, starting with a heartfelt monologue by DMX and featuring cameos by the likes of Missy Elliott, Lil' Kim and Toni Braxton. "Don't Know What to Tell Ya" is a combination of footage from her old videos and newly animated bits, which reimagine Aaliyah as a superhero in a skintight getup.
He died in 1977 but found chart success once again in 2002, when a remixed version of his song "A Little Less Conversation" was featured in a Nike World Cup commercial. A video, featuring performance footage of the King playing on a TV monitor (and a bunch of hyperactive dancers and models re-enacting his famous "Jailhouse Rock" video) was quickly assembled to capitalize. It was appropriately massive.
Murdered outside his New York City home in 1980, Lennon's (then) just-released Double Fantasy quickly rose to #1 on the album charts and even won the Grammy for Album of the Year. The follow-up, Milk and Honey, was also a hit and featured the single "Nobody Told Me," which came with a posthumous video, complete with photos of Lennon as a child, his iconic wire-frame specs and even some of his illustrations.
After the death of Kurt Cobain, there was no shortage of Nirvana sundry released, though the video for "You Know You're Right" — one of the last songs he recorded with the band — is the true standout, full of performance clips and backstage footage that capture the grunge icon at his most powerful, moody and, strangely enough, happy.
The Notorious B.I.G.
He was killed in 1997, but his talent — and the prodigious amount of pre-recorded material he left behind — survives to this day. There truly is no shortage of posthumous Biggie videos, though the most notable are probably the flossy, glossy "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems," Spike Jonze's riotous "Sky's the Limit" (which stars nothing but children) and "Notorious Thugz," a team up with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony that features his ghost rapping inside a studio.
Frontman Bradley Nowell died just before the release of the trio's breakout self-titled album, and so — mostly out of necessity — Nowell (and his beloved dog, Lou) continued to turn up in the band's videos, including "What I Got," "Santeria" and "Wrong Way."
Just before the release of their 2002 album 3D, founding member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was killed in a car accident in Honduras. The group's two remaining members pressed on, releasing a series of videos that paid tribute to their late friend. In the video for "Girl Talk," they wear outfits emblazoned with her name, and she shows up in animated form too. "Turntable" is a more traditional posthumous clip, made up of performance footage of the trio taken from their live shows and videos.
Unlike most late stars, Tupac left behind so much material that he never really left. The vaults were mined for more than a decade following his 1996 death, to the point where some believe he may actually still be with us. Not surprisingly, there are no shortage of posthumous music videos out there, including "I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto," which picks up after he was shot (and was filmed from his "point of view"); "Changes," a solemn tribute clip made up of news footage, scenes from his videos and movies and still photos; and "Until the End of Time," a more sparse affair, featuring clips of him onstage and in the studio.
What is your favorite posthumous clip? Let us know in the comments.