Even in the ‘40s, artists had started to realise the importance of cover art on their music albums. So, in the beginning, they replaced the plain album covers with colored ones. Fast forward to today, we can all agree that cover art is a very important marketing tool for musicians to “brand” their music & the image they want to put out in the world. In this list, there are 8 examples of album cover art that, in my opinion, were a great success and managed to stay in peoples’ minds, each one for a different reason and in their own special way. From historic moments in pop culture to today’s Millennial/Gen Z’s favorites.
“Awaken, My Love!” – Childish Gambino, 2016
Ibra Ake -photographer, art director- captured model Giannina Oteto wearing this beaded headdress designed by Laura Wass of WXYZ Jewelry. The blue neon aesthetic combined with this bone-like master headpiece compliments Oteto’s hauntingly beautiful features, making this album cover truly one of a kind. We couldn’t expect anything less from Donald Glover, one of the most promising musicians of our age.
“Homogenic” – Bjork, 1997
Photographed by Nick Knight and dressed by Alexander McQueen, this came to be one of Bjork’s bjorkiest album covers. She specifically wanted to look as “someone who is put into an impossible situation, so impossible that she has to become a warrior. A warrior who has to fight not with weapons, but with love.” This cover captures greatly the essence of Bjork as an artist and her third studio album, with songs in tribute to her native country Iceland.
“Hounds of Love” – Kate Bush, 1985
This album made Kate Bush a worldwide known artist, the single “Running Up That Hill” one of her greatest hits, hitting a sell of a million copies. We can consider this album’s cover to be almost “homemade” as the photography for the sleeve was by Kate’s brother, John Carder Bush and she’s posing with her friend’s two Weimaraners, “Bonnie” and “Clyde.” After trying for a few days, the dogs finally settled down (one of them actually falling asleep into Kate’s arm) resulting in this iconic front cover. As the record is separated into two parts, Kate decided on a totally different back cover for the second part that she called “Ninth Wave”. To capture the essence of the second part, Kate is photographed wearing a Victorian nightgown and a life vest, floating in dark waters to get the feeling of a shipwreck in the night sea. And the resulting picture speaks for itself. In conclusion, we are presented with a unique cover art for a one of a kind artist.
“Aladdin Sane” – David Bowie, 1973
Fun fact: the title of the album is a pun for “A Lad Insane”, which is what Bowie was considering to name this album originally. The cover, which features Bowie with his famous red hair and a lightning bolt -red and blue- across his face, with a teardrop running down his collarbone, was shot in January 1973 by Brian Duffy in his north London studio. The make-up designer for the shoot was artist Pierre Laroche, who remained Bowie’s make-up artist for his tour in that same year. This image had a huge appeal as the same lightning bolt became his homonymous symbol in the years to come. It is said that perhaps this is the most celebrated image of Bowie’s long career.
“Nevermind” – Nirvana, 1991
The concept for this cover came to Kurt Cobain after watching a TV program about underwater births. And then, one of the most famous album covers in popular music was created. A baby boy swimming underwater, trying to reach a U.S. dollar bill on a fishhook in front of him, photographed by Kirk Weddle. As for the back cover, the band decided to use a photo of a monkey combined with a collage that Kurt himself had created. This collage features raw beef advertisements, images from Dante’s Inferno and pictures of diseased vaginas from Cobain’s collection of medical photos. Both covers’ choices are bold, just like the band’s spirit.
“Abbey Road” – The Beatles, 1969
The fact that this was the first album of The Beatles where they didn’t put the band’s name on the album cover says it all: at the time, they were the most famous band in the world! Iain Macmillan was the photographer in charge that morning, standing on a ladder, only having 10 minutes to get the perfect shot, as a policeman was holding up traffic on Abbey Road, for the band members to walk the zebra crossing. Named after the location of EMI Studios in London, this album cover has since become a pop culture icon and one of the most famous music albums of all time.
“Magdalene” – FKA Twigs, 2019
The visual artist and photographer Matthew Stone, whose work often deconstructs the human form through a combination of painting and digital manipulation, is behind the artwork of FKA’s sophomore album ‘Magdalene’. The distorted yet organic qualities, along with the contrast of strength and vulnerability, can also be found within the tracks themselves. She is painted with masculine features, such as broad shoulders, to display her strength, but the glossy eyes and the raw look indicates her vulnerability. The overall image is a hybrid of twigs herself and a reimagining of the biblical figure that is Mary Magdalene. A cover that is eye-catching to say the least and one of the most musically interesting albums of the past two years.
“Electra Heart” – Marina & The Diamonds (Marina Diamandis), 2012
Marina undertook the persona of “Electra Heart” -the title character- to represent female archetypes in popular American culture (House Wife, Beauty Queen, Homewrecker and Idle Teen). She was inspired by the Tumblr generation, and how photos appear on Tumblr and people become almost like mini-stars of the internet, and you don’t know who the hell they are – they’re just anonymous faces. Marina’s Tumblr was created in December 2010 under ‘marinaandthefeminists’ and she started to take photos, and make an effort to look completely different in each one, in different hotels and apartments all across America when she was travelling. She quickly became an internet sensation, with the iconic look of “wearing her heart on the cheek” and being imitated by hundreds of users on Tumblr who started painting the heart on their cheeks with black eyeliner. The visuals were inspired by Cindy Sherman and the album is more of an all-encompassing multimedia project than a mere 12 track pop record.
(The order of the albums is random.)
Text by Vasilina Alamani
[DRECK Magazine does not hold the copyrights to any of the images. All rights to the respective owners]