In his song "Jesus Walks," Kanye West sang, "God, show me the way" -- but critics wonder what showed him the way toward the latest cover of "Rolling Stone" magazine, on which he poses as Jesus Christ.
"Bad PR showed him the way to this cover," comedian Mo Rocca joked on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition." "Yet, here I am talking about it on network TV."
Rolling Stone said the West cover was meant to be artistic and wasn't meant to offend any group.
Memorable Magazine Covers
But West has drawn fire. Even so, he is not the first celebrity to pose in a way that makes people's jaws drop.
Few can forget the 1991 Vanity Fair cover with a pregnant Demi Moore.
"In comparison with a lot of her film acting, it's a lot more lifelike, a lot less stiff," Rocca said.
More recently, country act The Dixie Chicks posed nude on a 2003 cover of Entertainment Weekly in a protest against criticism they received for bashing President Bush.
In another classic cover, John Lennon and Yoko Ono posed nude for Rolling Stone.
The story behind a cover picture also can be used to sell magazines. When the cast of "Desperate Housewives" shot a cover for the May 2005 issue of Vanity Fair cover, there was a cat fight among the actresses about who would pose where. In that case, the spin machine took hold and pushed the buzz about what happened behind the scenes.
Going Too Far?
Magazines are only one tool celebrities have used to court controversy recently, of course, and West may be a case in point. At a Katrina relief benefit last year, he drew fire for saying, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
But magazine covers have to grab the readers at the newsstand, perhaps accounting for their rich history of pushing the envelope. But is there such a thing as going to far?
"If you get too arrogant, sometimes people gun for you … and that's not good for business," said Steven Rubenstein of Rubenstein Public Relations. "That said, if you are never edgy and keep it milquetoast, people aren't going to keep looking at you."
So where's the balance? Rocca described the formula for the perfect cover shot.
"The perfect magazine cover," he said, is "one part religion, one part politics, two parts naked.
"No," he corrected himself, "three parts naked."