On the cover of the newest issue of Lemon magazine, Michael Jackson's cold, unseeing eyes stare out from his decapitated head. His cheeks and brows are peeled back, a bloodless autopsy scene that reveals the sleeping circuitry coiled underneath his metal face. Once, that head starred in the finale of the 1988 anthology film Moonwalker, where the flesh-and-blood Michael Jackson defeated his tormentors (and saved some adorable street urchins) by transforming into a flying robot; more recently, the mechanical prop was put on the auction block. Now, it again has a starring role — but not one its creator ever intended.
The strange brainchild of advertising veterans Colin Metcalf and the Boston-based Kevin Grady, Lemon is a mag on a mission to unite vintage pop phenomena with "21st-century hyper-culture." With previous installments tackling such themes as '60s espionage pulp, A Clockwork Orange, and Ziggy Stardust, every issue is a Fabergé egg of freakishly exquisite design. This time, they've resurrected the dead.
Issue #5, "King of Pop," pays homage to the memory of Michael Jackson with mind-boggling flair. With the mag coming out in a year that marks the 30th anniversary of Thriller (originally dropped on November 30, 1982), they tracked down Ola Ray, who played MJ's love interest in the "Thriller" video, to re-create the pop milestone with a Brooklyn fashion shoot starring "a cast of zombies in bespoke wardrobes." Plus, there are cameos by La Roux, Chromeo, and several Jackson impersonators (showing the faux Gloved Ones doing mundane chores in full regalia). Oh, and in case you thought we were being hyperbolic about that resurrection bit, avail yourself of Lemon's Q&A with psychic medium Elizabeth Baron, who answered questions on MJ's behalf.
Three years in the making, #5 is perhaps Lemon's most ambitious work to date. So what's next? "It's always very difficult to imagine doing the next issue when the pain of the most recent issue is so fresh in our minds," says Grady. "The personality-based themes in our past issues — Stanley Kubrick, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson — have worked well, but I'm wondering if it's time to change things up again. It's also a little difficult to think of someone with the same pop-cultural gravitas of those three names. Lady Gaga doesn't cut it."
From "This Is It": Tim Young poses for photographer Kara Kochalko (costume design: Veronica Padilla).
From "Men in the Mirror": Photo by Peter Funch.
Ola Ray poses for a "Thriller"-inspired shoot, photographed by Baldomero Fernandez.
Pick up a copy of Lemon at a well-stocked magazine rack near you, or visitworldoflemon.com.