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Crowd-sourced video for Michael Jackson's 'Behind the Mask' premieres

June 14, 2011 | 12:37 pm

Michael Jackson Behind the Mask video

What’s a record company to do when it’s time for a new music video but the star isn’t around to make one? That’s the dilemma Sony Music and Michael Jackson’s estate have faced with the posthumously released album “Michael.”

So for the new single “Behind the Mask,” rather than attempting to cobble together something from archival footage, the label and Jackson’s estate invited fans around the world to submit their own clips, which have been patched together into a “crowd-sourced” video premiering Tuesday on YouTube and a Facebook page that's been set up.

It’s directed by Dennis Liu, who also worked on the Grammy-nominated crowd-sourced video for Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave” two years ago built on myriad sketches, drawings and paintings of the singer created by fans.

Fans had access to a template video that was posted in March and were asked to shoot video footage of themselves executing a Jackson-like dance step, choreography routine, facial expression or other moves.

They were integrated into a 4½-minute video that incorporates more than 1,600 quick shots selected from among entries submitted from 103 countries. Most are young men and women in their teens and 20s, but there are also snippets from 2- and 3-year-old mini-MJs. Jackson’s reach appears not to be limited to one species, as there’s also a section from fans who shot their pets moving to the music.
 Of course, there’s none of Jackson’s own charisma or electric physicality, which some viewers have already noted in comments posted on YouTube.

“This is not the caliber of concept that we have become accustom[ed] to as Michael Jackson fans,” Whitney Getz wrote. “I’m glad this isn’t being considered a ‘Michael Jackson’ video. Because if it were I’d be very disappointed.”

The video for "Hollywood Tonight," the previous single from the album, was a mini-movie illustrating the song's story of a young woman pursuing her dreams in Hollywood. It's since scored more than 12.5 million views on Vevo and YouTube. 

The broad swath of fans represented in the "Behind the Mask" video largely seem to be interested only in conveying ongoing appreciation for Jackson, many from within the confines of their bedrooms, others from the streets of their neighborhoods.

Liu calls it “the most exciting and most fun project I think I’ve ever been involved in…. [It] was incredibly moving to see so many people from all over the world join as one, their creative voices, dance and musical talents bound together by Michael Jackson’s spirit and incomparable artistry. We received submissions from the Sahara Desert to Venice Beach, from mountaintops to suburban backyards, with some shots featuring well over 100 people apiece. All who participated delivered brilliantly.”


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--Randy Lewis