Usually when a video is released for an artist posthumously, it goes one of two ways—the video attempts to make up for the artist’s absence by centering around archival clips of theirs, or the video focuses on someone else entirely. Michael Jackson’s new “Hollywood Tonight” clip has its cake and eats it too, following the story of an aspirant dancer in the City of Dreams, who is haunted (benevolently) by the King of Pop at every turn. As she sashays her way from dance auditions to stripper poles, Jackson pops up on passing billboards, wall advertisements, and even on the Walk of Fame, inspiring our heroine to greater heights.
The whole thing’s a little Flashdance, your prototypical Steel Town Girl on a Saturday Night success story, though the path that Jackson’s protege takes here is a little less clearly rags-to-riches. The beginning part is clear enough—she’s waiting tables to pay the bills, while shuttling from tryout to tryout to try to get her big dancing break. Then she finally gets it—I think?—but the video never follows up with it, instead deciding to climax with her moonwalking across traffic (Dangerous!) to the Pantages Theater, where she leads the crowd gathered outside in a spontaneous MJ-inspired dance number, to great applause. (I’ve never actually seen Flashdance all the way through, but I don’t think it ends with a similar scene paying tribute to Irene Cara.)
Then again, based on the video’s final shot, maybe it was all just a dream. Without MJ around to explain it to us, we may never know for sure.