Album: Blood on the Dance Floor
Cover Art Direction: Nancy Donald
Cover Design: Will Wilson
Design Style: David Coleman & Frank Harkins
Photography: Bill Nation
Released while trotting the globe on his HIStory World Tour, Michael Jackson's Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix was an album comprised of eight remixes from his previous studio album and five new tracks. Michael was heavily involved with the writing, composition, and production of the new material, while the remixes were mostly handled by other artists. The new material dealt with themes that he hadn’t explored before on previous albums like drug addiction, infidelity, and paranoia. Like its predecessor, however, the album featured Michael playing on several instruments himself and would go on to become the best selling remix album of all time.
The title track was originally created by Michael and Teddy Riley during the Dangerous sessions in 1991. The track continued to be fine-tuned over the years until it was deemed ready for release in the spring of 1997. The song is about a predatory woman named Susie who seduces Michael before plotting to stab him in the back with a knife. The composition explores a variety of genres ranging from dance and funk to New Jack Swing. Both the song and the album were dedicated to his long-time friend, Elton John.
For the second time, the concept art from the title track’s short film was used as the basis for the album cover (the first being Bad). During filming of the short, Michael had become a new father and his spirits were higher than ever. He decided to once again take a creative approach to his new album cover by commissioning a well-respected artist to handle the job.
To make the cover painting, Michael called on photographer Bill Nation who had photographed Michael on multiple occasions in the past. The painting was then made based on the combination of two poses Bill had taken of Michael. The first was from the 1988 short film for “Come Together.” The second was a shot from the 1997 leg of the HIStory World Tour as Michael performed his national anthem, “They Don’t Care About Us.” The task was then entrusted to Will Wilson, an American artist from Baltimore, Maryland. Known for his true to life works of art, Wilson painted Michael in a classic pose with his right leg raised, arms outstretched, fists clenched, and silver wristbands adorning both arms. Wilson’s technique was impeccable, with a beautiful rendering of New York City in the background. At a glance, it appears to show a particular area of lower Manhattan. Some of the buildings are in fact recognizable as part of the World Financial Center complex. This was Wilson’s nod to the city he was living in at the time, which no doubt inspired him greatly.
The floor, reminiscent of classic American jazz halls, appears to reflect the buildings submerged underneath as they subtly emerge from the underground. It was also partly inspired by the floor tiles in the “Ghosts” short film, written by Michael and Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston. The clouds in the background cleverly highlight Michael’s figure, which is clearly the main object of the piece. Everything else in the painting was created as a complement.
The piece has a strange way of blending fantasy and reality while evoking idea of repression and escape. He has bracelets on both wrists that look like chains, but they aren’t able to hold him down – his hands are clenched in fists, and he’s dancing up above the city skyline. He’s also huge, like the statue in HIStory – much bigger than the skyscrapers he’s dancing above. And then there are those incredible clouds. We don’t just see a sliver of clouds, like on the Off the Wall cover. Now clouds are dominating the scene, and they’re in the shape of city buildings, a mix of nature and imagination. A city of clouds forming above the city below. An intriguing image.
The entire scene is framed in black, and on its upper frame rests the title of the album Blood on the Dance Floor. In a typeface similar to “Brushscript BT,” it is vaguely reminiscent of the typographic font used for the Thriller short film. The subtitle “HIStory in the Mix” uses an Arial typeface. One particular creative license taken with the artwork is Michael’s hair, which appears to be half-tied in the painting, but tightly braided in the short film. The final masterpiece was a 15” x 15" oil on linen painting that continues to serve as a gateway to the best-selling remix album of all time.
Blood is on the Knife
The album was promoted with two singles, “Blood on the Dance Floor” and “HIStory/Ghosts,” as well as their accompanying short films. The lead single peaked at number one in several countries around the world.