Last week Michael Jackson’s second posthumous release, Xscape, debuted at the top of the Billboard charts in the U.K., a success that marks one of many since his death in 2009. Over those past five years, Jackson has anchored successful tours and become a Las Vegas act with the help of Cirque du Soleil—and a little help from holograms. Last night marked the first television appearance of the Jackson hologram, as this digital approximation of the King of Pop took the stage at the Billboard Music Awards to perform Xscape’s “Slave To The Rhythm,” a track Jackson initially prepped for 1987’s Bad and finished in 1998, only to have it shelved until last week.
The performance—as is customary with these kind of “back from the grave” appearances—is a little unwieldy. After a painfully awkward introduction (courtesy of the mismatched trio of Ludacris, Kesha, and Brad Paisley), futuristic riot police perform a synchronized dance routine before the curtain raises on the hologram Jackson sitting on a golden throne. Hologram Jackson quickly gets into his usual gesticulations—including a moonwalk—as audience members dance along, shed tears, and offer up a standing ovation.