The song was written by Michael Jackson during the time of the Invincible album. Michael pulled the track out of the archives in 2007 to work on the song with producer Theron “Neff-U” Feemster. Jackson first put down a sketch of the lyrics in 1999, then he began working out the music with longtime friend and collaborator, Brad Buxer, who co-wrote the song. Over the next ten years, Jackson returned to the track numerous times. Jackson and Brad Buxer continued tinkering with it in Las Vegas in 2007. In October 2008, when Jackson lived in Los Angeles, he asked recording engineer Michael Prince to put the latest mix of the song on CD so he could listen to it and see what might be improved, but he never got around to working on it again. Teddy Riley co-produced the song along with Theron “Neff-U” Feemster following Jackson’s death. Riley also wrote a new bridge, performed by Taryll Jackson, that included different lyrics than those left by Jackson.
On December 3, 2010, before the album Michael’s release, talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres premiered the song “Hollywood Tonight” on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The song was released to radio stations as a single first in Italy on February 11, 2011. And it was listed on BBC Radio 2’s playlist A from February 12, 2011. In Poland, the song was released on February 14, 2011. In a later announcement from Jackson’ official website, “Behind the Mask” will be released as the radio single in countries including the United States, Canada, Japan and France. “Hollywood Tonight” will be the single released to radio in the rest of the world. But actually, the song was released in U.S. urban and urban AC radio stations on April 5, 2011.