We saw this cover and we almost couldn't help ourselves. At first it seemed weird that the cover of the first new posthumous album of unreleased material by Michael Jackson would be a collage of images taken from his old songs and albums. But then we got caught up in trying to figure out what every little thing on the cover was. Why are there policemen over there? Is that Bob Dylan? What's the deal with the UFO?
As Kanye West might say, it's not an album cover, it's a painting. And it actually is. The image on the cover of Michael is by an artist named Kadir Nelson, and it manages to incorporate an astonishing number of highlights from the golden age of Jackson's career, starting with 1979's Off the Wall and running through Dangerous in 1991.
Take a close look at the cover and join us after the jump for a guided tour of Michael's hall of mysteries.
The 16 Michaels
- Off the Wall Michael
- "Thriller" Michael with zombies
- Dancing "Thriller" Zombie Michael
- "Billie Jean" Michael
- "Beat It" Michael
- "Whole New Generation" Pepsi Commercial Michael (image 1)
- "We Are The World" Michael
- Robot Michael from the end of Moonwalker
- Captain Eo Michael (credit for this catch belongs to NPR Music's Amy Schriefer) (image 2)
- Dangerous Michael
- Rocket roller coaster-driving "Leave Me Alone" Michael
- "Leave Me Alone" Sideshow Dancing Michael with Elephant Man's bones (image 3)
- Bad Michael (image 3)
- "Smooth Criminal" Michael (image 3)
- Silhouetted "The Way You Make Me Feel" Michael (image 3)
- "Michael" Michael
Images from Videos or Songs
From "We Are The World"
- Cyndi Lauper
- Bob Dylan
- Bruce Springsteen (image 1)
From "Leave Me Alone"
- Weekly World Something Or Other tabloid cover (image 1)
- Claymation rabbit on a motorcycle, possibly the single strangest image on the cover. (hold on, we'll get to the naked interracial coronation cherubs in a minute.) (image 3)
From "Remember The Time"
- Explosion of light/sand near upper right corner (at least, we think that's where this is from).
From "Man In The Mirror"
- Behind "Smooth Criminal" Michael, a mirror with a reflection of "Smooth Criminal" Michael (images 3 and 4)
Metaphors or Expressionistic Images Signifying Important Moments Or Events In the Life of Michael
- The central image of Jackson is being crowned by two cherubs, one black, one white. A particular song comes to mind. (images 5 and 6)
- The crown being placed on the central Michael figure suggests Jackson's "King of Pop" nickname.
- Bubbles fill the bottom left of the image. This seems like a nod to Jackson's pet chimp, but confusingly, some of them the bubbles seem to be filled with other significant items of Jacksoniana, such as these sunglasses, fingertips of a white glove, and a "Smooth Criminal" hat.
- In the upper left quadrant, an MTV Moon Man crowns "Michael" Michael's right temple. Probably a reference to Jackson's groundbreaking videos rather than his mistaken belief, in 2002, that MTV had decided to present him with an award for "Artist of the Millennium." (image 5)
A Few Items We Identified But Whose Importance We Could Not Place
- In the upper left corner, a UFO. Definitely not the sleek space ship from the "Scream" video, but we're not sure of its provenance. (image 5)
- What looks like candy at the bottom of the "Leave Me Alone" roller coaster.
- Tiger, Elephant, Lion, Bear and Butterfly — perhaps these are animals kept at Jackson's Neverland Ranch? If so, the connection is rather opaque. (image 4)
- Above Bad Michael, a pair of dogs. We thought these might be the "Just stop doggin' me around" dogs from the "Leave Me Alone" video, but they're not wearing suits. (image 2)
- A couple of police officers, above the image from the cover of Dangerous.
- The bank of cameras in the upper right quadrant. Presumably signifying Jackson's rocky relationship with the press, but we couldn't come up with anything specific here. (image 6)
- A goldfish in a bubble. (image 3)
Two Items Which We Could Not Identify At All
- In the upper left corner, behind Off The Wall Michael, you'll see half of a ghostly face. No idea who this is, unless it's a character from Jackson's grotesquely overblown longform video for Ghosts, from 1996. Mysteriously, the figure appears in one — but not both — of the cover images on this page.
- In the lower right quadrant, hidden inside one of the bubbles, is a small golden object that's just too small to identify, but we're sure it's vitally important. (images 3 and 4)
We're sure there's more. What did we miss? What's not on the cover that should be?