Michael Jackson Image at Billboard: How They Did It
“It’s a whole new technology that we’re not really revealing the details of which, because Michael never revealed the details of his magic,” Jackson estate spokeswoman Diana Baron told PEOPLE.
It was more of “a virtual Michael Jackson,” says Baron, that performed the previously unreleased track, “Slave to the Rhythm.”
Flanked by real-life dancers, the footage of the entertainer, who died in 2009 at age 50, was not taken from a previous performance and was created specifically for the awards show.
Although it was teased to audiences days before the awards, the idea of creating a Michael Jackson illusion for the show goes back much further, to October 2012.
Through the next year, the Jackson estate developed the act and was still making changes to it on the morning of the performance.
“Michael always wanted to do these kinds of things,” Baron said. “Really, it starts with Michael Jackson more than anything.”
Family member Jackie Jackson was blown away by the final product and said his late brother would have given his approval.
“When [the illusion of Michael Jackson] started dancing, unbelievable,” Jackie told PEOPLE after the performance. “It took me back. If Michael was here, he would say, ‘Thumbs up!’ ”