Chalk it up as one of the biggest spoilers in music history: After teasing everyone with news that none other than the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, would provide some form of "world premiere experience" at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, the show's producers found their bubble unceremoniously popped. An unexpected lawsuit revealed that the "experience" would be, as some predicted, a hologram of the singer "live" onstage, performing music from his posthumous recent release XSCAPE.
Well, so much for the suspense. And, not that fans were expecting an actual resurrection of the superstar, or anything (however, in this day and age of increasingly bar-set-higher awards shows, who knows?). Still, the crowd Sunday night was notably silent when the hologram-ed Jackson was revealed, in energetic fine form performing XSCAPE's "Slave to the Rhythm" and delivering some of (the real) Jackson's best-known and loved dance moves, including a moonwalk.
Whether the lukewarm response was due to the absence of surprise, disapproval at yet another attempt to cash in on a beloved late star's legacy, or just plain lack of appreciation is unclear, but one thing is for sure: The show-stopper fell flat. The crowd clearly "remembered the time," to paraphrase Jackson's 1992 hit, but just weren't moved.
Viewers at home responded on social media with a slate of mixed response, ranging from somewhat humorous awe (guess a few people were surprised, after all!) to predictably tasteless jokes. Those who commented with serious disapproval seemed to fall mostly in the "let the dead rest in peace" category:
That Michael Jackson performance was so incredibly depressing— jamie verda (@jamieverda) May 19, 2014
I understand Michael Jackson is King of Pop, but we should remember the good times he had rather than re-make them.— Madeline (@MadelineFalls) May 19, 2014
However, some fans did seem genuinely excited and/or moved by the tribute:
I wish Michael Jackson was still alive he's freaking amazing— winchester (@pimpingnarry) May 19, 2014
Can't explain the amazing feeling I had watching #BBMAs Michael Jackson. I'm speechless! It was like he was back.— Stacey (@staceym311) May 19, 2014
The Jackson hologram is, of course, not the first time a late superstar has been honored in such a manner. In 2012, a hologram of rapper Tupac Shakur made waves at the Coachella Music Festival, drawing a similar mixed response from fans and critics alike. The 2014 Billboard Music Awards were aired live from Las Vegas on Sunday, May 18 at MGM's Grand Garden Arena.