Release date: Dec. 10, 2010
Cover art: Kadir Nelson
Art direction: Christina Rodriguez, Sheri Lee
Labels: Epic, MJJ
The first release of new Michael Jackson music after his death in 2009, Michael features a brilliant, multifaceted painting by renowned author, illustrator, and painter Kadir Nelson. Nelson, who has painted the likes of Marvin Gaye and later the album cover for Drake's Nothing Was the Same, here created something that at first glance looks like a collage of highlights from Jackson's career. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear this is an intricate painting meant to represent the ups, downs, and struggles of one of the greatest pop artists in history (of which there were many). We get Michael and all his most important moments: Michael preening for Off The Wall, the tabloid cover from a Weekly World issue, and the cherubs crowning him—one black, one white. Bubbles fills the bottom left of the picture, a reference to Jackson's pet chimp—the nods to MJ's life are numerous.
It's as much a puzzle for fans to unravel as it is a retrospective of one incredible man's incredible life. Nelson's ability to surmise and synergize Jackson's struggles is phenomenal. At one point this artwork was erected in Middlesex, England as a 29,000-square-foot mural, making it the largest poster in the history of the world. Jackson was always larger than life. —Dale Eisinger