For a guy who passed away nearly five years ago, Michael Jackson sure seems busy lately. His second posthumous album, Xscape, just hit stores (and is refreshingly not embarrassing), and Sunday night he appeared — via the miracle of modern hologram technology — on the Billboard Music Awards to perform “Slave to the Rhythm.”
Ludacris, Kesha, and Brad Paisley handled the introduction (well, after plugging their upcoming show Rising Star), noting that the performance was “something you have never seen before.” And boy howdy, was Ludacris correct.
It opened with a team of dancers dressed up like members of a SWAT team, which is consistent with a lot of the military-inspired garb that Jackson wore in the middle of his solo career. (Actually, the whole thing had a Dangerous-era feel to it, which makes sense, as “Slave to the Rhythm” was originally conceived during the Bad sessions and then revisited while Jackson was crafting Dangerous.)
When the curtain was raised and the screen was revealed, the electronically-generated Jackson was sitting in a throne (apropos for the King of Pop), singing along to “Slave to the Rhythm,” one of the standout tracks from Xscape.
Eventually he got up and moved around — not necessarily dancing but providing enough MJ-esque hand and face movement to create a reasonable simulacra.
It made for some weird TV to be sure, though the effect in the building must have been overwhelming — the Billboard Music Awards cameras cut to quite a few people in tears. And it got the approval of Michael’s brother Jackie. “I’ve been hearing about the hologram, and people were talking about it, but to see it with my own eyes was incredible, amazing,” he told People. “When he got up and started walking around, when he started dancing, unbelievable. It took me back. If Michael were here he would say thumbs up!”