Forgive me for having a total music geek moment, but recently I’ve got to thinking about album art and how much it actually shapes what I listen to. What caused this train of thought to arrive at my brain station? Probably my favourite artist currently making music, and the proposed cover for his new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Regrettably bloated title aside, this is an album that’s already getting people talking, due to the mere fact that it’s a Kanye West album, the 30+minute music video making the rounds and this – an album cover depicting the man himself totally nude with an equally naked angel spread on top of him. Whilst you can see it’s only a painting, it’s drawn ridicule from all quarters of the pop and hip-hop worlds.
As usual, a massively popular artist is subject to standards not expected of certain critical darlings – why nudity here is ridiculous yet a naked baby swimming is considered tasteful is confusing to say the least. In any case, I didn’t like it not because I thought the idea was ridiculous, I just didn’t like the way it looked. A better alternative would have been the cover for the ‘Power’ single – fittingly painted in a style that seems to have been popular with a host of 70’s prog rock bands. My favourite album cover (yes, it’s sad I even care) is also a painting – a simple portrait of David Bowie from the 1977 album Low. A far more serene image than that of his most iconic cover (Aladdin Sane), it’s an image fitting the otherworldly soundscapes that populate the latter half of the record. I can’t really describe what’s so good about it, but what I do like is album covers that display the artist themselves. It’s not a prerequisite but there’s something about an artist taking their own image and using it in a creative way that is just cool. Another example of this is the effortless cool exuded by Bruce Springsteen on the cover of Born To Run, or even the playful/claustrophobic mix communicated on the cover of Boy In Da Corner. In an age where physical album sales are increasingly waning, it would be a shame to see great images such as these become extinct.