Backbeat: Inside Michael Jackson's 'Immortal' Album Via Music Designer Kevin Antunes
Backbeat: Inside Michael Jackson's 'Immortal' Album Via Music Designer Kevin Antunes

It's one thing to listen to music. It's another to feel like you're inside of it. The latter was definitely the case during a 90-minute preview (Nov. 9) of Epic's upcoming Michael Jackson "Immortal" album.

Immortal
Los Angeles Times reporter Gerrick D. Kennedy chats with Diana Baron of Diana Baron Media Relations at the listening session.

Music was bouncing off the walls then around and through the journalists gathered inside a Sony Music screening room in Beverly Hills. Directing the condensed (nine-track) guided tour of the Nov. 21 release was musical designer Kevin Antunes. The self-described "huge" Jackson fan spent a year working with writer/director Jamie King and the late artist's original multi-track master recordings to create the remixes and mash-ups re-imagined for Cirque du Soleil's current "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour" and "Immortal." The latter will be available in a deluxe double-disc edition (27 tracks) and as a single disc (20 tracks).

Check out all of our Backbeats -- our exclusive look at the people behind the music business -- right here.

Immortal
Kevin Antunes, who has worked with Madonna, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake, said there were many other songs like "Dirty Diana," "Off the Wall" and "Rock with You" that he wanted to get to but there wasn't enough time in the show. "We would have had to cut the songs shorter, which would mess up the integrity of the tracks."

Antunes noted there are extra elements on the CD that aren't in the show‹which features a live band accompanying Jackson's vocals -- and vice versa. The album, he said, "keeps the original elements you know about Michael's songs but with a little extra added or a little taken away; intermixing musical riffs and lyrical tidbits from different songs and video elements. Little nuances are there for everybody to discover."

Immortal

Like a riff from "Blame It on the Boogie" integrated into "Dancing Machine." Or hearing the purity of a young-voiced Jackson singing the Jackson 5 hit "I'll Be There" accompanied only by keyboardist Greg Phillinganes. Then there's the newly discovered outtake of a choir Jackson recorded for "They Don't Really Care About Us." After listening to the sonically rich preview -- which also featured "Beat It/State of Shock" and a "This Place Hotel" segment including "Smooth Criminal" and "Dangerous" -- one person commented, "It's like an ecstasy trip through a video game."