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Kadir Nelson’s cover art for new Michael Jackson album

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The new, posthumous Michael Jackson album -- titled ‘Michael’ -- officially hits stores Tuesday, just in time for the holiday season. The buzz around the album has been steadily building for weeks. In particular, the cover art has been virtually unavoidable in the days leading up to the album’s debut. (Here is The Times’ review.)

Created by Kadir Nelson, the cover art for ‘Michael’ depicts various incarnations of the late pop star from different phases and projects of his career. The main image that takes up most of the cover is a depiction of a gloved Jackson wearing Medici-esque royal garb with a crown floating above his head.

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MTV recently spoke with Nelson about creating the cover art. In the interview, Nelson revealed that the collaboration began in 2003 when Jackson saw a pair of paintings that the artist had made chronicling Marvin Gaye’s life, and wanted a portrait of himself.

The project languished for years, but after Jackson’s death, Nelson was contacted in 2009 by John McClain, co-executor of the the singer’s estate, who revived the commission. The final portrait, on which the album cover is based, stands more than 9 feet wide by 4.5 feet tall, Nelson told MTV.

Nelson’s cover art features renderings of Jackson from such memorable projects as ‘Thriller,’ ‘Captain EO’ and ‘We Are the World.’ The San Diego-based artist has worked as an illustrator for numerous publications and books, and has exhibited his work around the world.

-- David Ng

Upper photo: Kadir Nelson’s cover art for ‘Michael.’ Credit: Epic

Lower photo: Michael Jackson at a 1996 concert. Credit: Simon Kwong / Reuters

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