This Album Art Flashback is a look back to an album recorded last New Years Eve. Barenaked Ladies performed live in Detroit and did a rather unique version of Auld Lang Syne. I’ve posted the video and the album art. Happy New Year! I’ll be taking tomorrow off from blogging. Have fun and be safe.
December 2009 Archives
I stumbled on this video of the photo shoot for Adam Lambert’s album cover today. It shows Lambert camping it up for the camera and trying out different looks. It is an interesting behind-the-scenes of how an album cover is photographed.
The cover of For Your Entertainment caused quite a stir when it was revealed in October. Tha album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 and is currently at #29.
Like many others, I was disappointed with the album cover. It really can’t be taken seriously. Yet, it isn’t over-the-top enough to be considered camp.
The end of the year has a very skimpy number of new releases. I have preselected what I feel are the best of the bunch based on sales rank and for noteworthy album art. Please vote for the album cover that you feel is the best for this week.
|Codeine Velvet Club - Codeine Velvet Club||Cold War Kids - Behave Yourself EP|
|Dan Black - UN||Eminem - Relapse: Refill|
|The Flaming Lips - Dark Side of the Moon||Green Day - The Green Day Collection|
Social Distortion - White Light, White Heat, White Trash (1996)
Posted by: Scott
Yesterday, I posted an article about a remake of Cyndi Lauper’s 1984 hit Girls Just Want To Have Fun by a new artist. Shortly after I published the article, I received some nasty comments in response to my opinion of the new song, Girl I’m Tryin by J Brazil.
This sparked a series of comments between a few AAX blog regulars and one commenter who suggested that I quit blogging. This made me consider exactly what made me dislike the remake of Girls Just Want To Have Fun, besides the Autotune vocals.
Cyndi Lauper is one of the most amazing vocal performers ever. When her debut album She’s So Unusual came out, she became an overnight sensation. She appeared on the cover of magazines (right) and her music videos were played in heavy rotation on MTV. Not only was Cyndi Lauper unusual, she had obvious talent.
Originally written and recorded by Robert Hazard from a male point of view, Lauper’s version of Girls Just Want To Have Fun was more than a pop song, it became a feminist anthem. It has been covered by over 30 artists over the years, most of whom have given Lauper the respect she deserves.
The J Brazil version of the song returns to the male point of view. It takes a song that has been adopted by women as an anthem of empowerment and changes it to a male chauvanist rant. To make matters worse, the new song has an immature, mocking tone that just doesn’t work for me. There is no doubt that thee are young men who will identify with this new version of the song. However, there is no question which version is superior.
I have recreated the cover of the single for Girls Just Want To Have Fun using several examples found online. There are quite a few different covers for this single. The composite includes most of the common graphic elements.
My favorite song by British pop duo Eurythmics is Thorn In My Side. Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart released the single in August 1986. It is the second track on the album Revenge (right). The single reached number five on the U.K. charts and made it to 68 in the U.S.
The cover of Revenge has always bothered me because Annie Lennox’s eyes were made to look like those of a cat. Lennox has absolutely beautiful eyes and I think it was almost a crime to have altered them. They also made them them blue, when they are in reality the most amazing shade of pale green.
The cover for the single features an artistic double exposure portrait of Lennox. I have recreated it by making a composite of several examples found online.
The motion picture Precious is one of the most critically acclaimed of the year. It also has an amazing soundtrack featuring Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, the legendary Mahalia Jackson, and nine other notable artists.
The cover art for the soundtrack is a square version of the movie poster. It features a photograph of the title character with the wings of a butterfly superimposed on her back. It differs significantly from the original movie poster that I recall seeing when the film was being promoted prior to release (right).
The original art is a very strong graphic that resembles the work of the great Saul Bass. I do not know why they changed it to the cliché image with butterfly wings that is currently being used. The design of the previous poster was far superior and I think it would have made a better album cover as well.
Butterflies are a very overused graphic element — especially on album covers. I wish that art directors would simply avoid them unless the project actually has something to do with butterflies. The crown floating over Precious’ head is just the icing on the cake. All this cover needs is a flaming skull and a soaring eagle. The lowercase typography for the title is also a tad bit weak.
I don’t know how I missed these CD/t-shirt combo packs that went on sale last month. They include a remastered album on CD and a t-shirt with The Beatles album art. It appears that several albums are being sold including Magical Mystery Tour, Help! and A Hard Days Night.
If you received Amazon.com gift certificates for Christmas, this could be a good way to spend them. Personally, I think the Magical Mystery Tour t-shirt is the best of the bunch. I would also like to see Sgt. Pepper’s added to the line up.
Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual (right) was one of the biggest albums of 1984. It had five Top 40 singles and the album cover sparked a new fashion trend — the Cyndi Lauper look. Lauper won a Grammy for best new artist and she has since become a pop music icon. The album cover was photographed by Annie Leibovitz and won the Grammy for Best Album Package for art director Janet Perr.
Twenty-five years later, New York City singer and songwriter J Brazil has released a remake of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun called Girl I’m Tryin. The art direction for the cover of the single and the music video convey a fun, pop music feel that is vaguely reminiscent of the original. J Brazil makes a fashion statement of his own with brightly colored eyeglasses and a cute little bow tie. He is an attractive young man with the prerequisite over-gelled hair and a hip hop swagger.
Unfortunately, the song is a typical 2009 Autotune train wreck. Choosing to do a remake of a Cyndi Lauper song was probably a big mistake. Listening to the Autotune vocals, all I can do is think about Lauper’s amazing voice. I literally launched iTunes to listen to the original and wash the J Brazil version out of my ears. The lesson here is that a remake has to at least come close to the original and Cyndi Lauper is a very tough act to follow — even 25 years later.
BWO - Pandemonium: The Singles Collection (2008)
Posted by: zeefritz
American Idol finalist Danny Gokey revealed the cover art for his forthcoming album My Best Days yesterday. The cover features a portrait of Gokey wearing a trench coat with the collar turned up and a very ugly blurred background.
This is certainly not an attractive album cover. It even has a Photoshop lens flare applied to the album title. One of the things that always puzzles me is when people pose for album covers wearing glasses. I know that many people rely on their glasses to see. But, they can be removed. Gokey posed for publicity photos for American Idol without his glasses (right) and I think he looks much better without them. The Buddy Holly look just doesn’t work for me. Just imagine the portrait of Gokey without the glasses — and the ugly background.
In 2007, archeologists working at a site near Mantova, Italy unearthed a unique pair of skeletons (right). The skeletons appear to have been buried in a lover’s embrace. A photo of the skeleton’s was sent out on newswires, creating somewhat of a sensation.
The archaeologist who led the dig was quoted by the AP as saying, “”As far as we know, it’s unique. Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging.”
Last year, American hard rock band Tesla released an album called Forever More. The cover features an illustration of the famous skeletons. I was unaware of this particular album cover until an AAX blog reader pointed it out a couple of days ago.
Before learning about the Tesla album cover, I thought that the recent greatest hits compilation from Fall Out Boy had been the first to use the skeleton lovers. The Fall Out Boy cover has a different twist. It features the skeletons on the floor of what looks like a young person’s bedroom. However, I am sure that those who were familiar with the Tesla cover got that déjà vu feeling when they saw Fall Out Boy’s Greatest Hits.
Tesla - Forever More (2008)
Posted by: Nickelfront
Fall Out Boy - Greatest Hits (2009)
Posted by: zeefritz
According to our AlbumArtExchange poll, the best album cover for the week of December 15, 2009 is Pet Shop Boy’s Christmas EP. Alicia Keys’ The Element of Freedom came in second and Mudvayne’s self-titled album and the Avatar soundtrack tied for a distant third.
UPDATE: I have decided that there aren’t enough new releases this week to justify a poll. I will skip this week and include this week’s new releases with those for the week of December 29, 2009.
Like tens of thousands of others, I have suffered the tragedy of losing a loved one to an accident caused by a drunk driver. For those of us who have experienced such a loss, the holidays can be a time of both joy and sorrow. So, when I recently read about about a unique holiday CD series created to benefit Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) I was anxious to check it out.
When musician Tracy Kimbrell lost his father to a DUI accident, he decided to use his musical talents to create a the Winter Dream holiday music series as a way to help others. The first album was released in 2007. It is a collection of classic holiday carols and the first of a series of seven CDs that will be produced over the next few years. Part of the procedes for each album sold will be donated to MADD.
This year, Kimbrell released the second CD, Winter Dreams II. Both albums are currently available through CD Baby.
One of the things that I think is unique about the series is that the album covers have been designed to form pieces of a larger work of art. The covers for Winter Dream, Winter Dream II, and the subsequent CDs that will be released are details of a painting by artist Suzy Williams-Bradley. The artwork is gorgeous and I must admit that I am more than curious to see what the entire painting looks like. I believe this is the first time that I have seen this concept used for an album cover. It is certain to entice people to purchase the entire series.
As a special bonus, those who purchase the Winter Dreams II CD will also receive a month of free guitar lessons from Tracy Kimbrell’s online music school, Musia Institute.
The album art for French electronic musician Vitalic’s new album is not only stunning, it was made by recreating an experiment on fluid dynamics by 19th century scientist Etienne-Jules Marey. How is that for a unique concept?
A music video for the track See the Sea (Red) from Vitalic’s Flashmob album demontrates how the experiment works. It is a very cool video and the album cover that resulted from the experiment is one of the best I’ve seen all year. I think it compares to the optical illusion on Merriweather Post Pavilion’s Animal Collective for sheer scientific geekiness.
When I was 12, I saw a cartoon on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour that had a lasting impact on my life. The cartoon featured a song performed by Cher called One Tin Soldier and was presented as a Christmas message from the popular celebrity couple. Many of you who were children in 1972 may also remember that the cartoon by British animator John David Wilson. I recall that it was made available as a short film and played in classrooms.
One Tin Soldier was written as an ant-war protest song by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. In 1969, the song was recorded as the title track of an album by a Canadian pop group called Original Caste (right). It reached #34 on the Billboard chart on February 7, 1970. The song became a popular piece to teach school kids in those days before Fox News would claim teaching a song about peace is socialist propaganda.
In 1971, the song was recorded by Chicago pop group Coven and used as the theme song for the movie Billy Jack. It was retitled One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack). The song appeared on the group’s self-titled album and reached #26 on the Billboard chart on October 30, 1971. Coven never charted again and as a result One Tin Soldier often appears on “one hit wonder” lists. However, the song has been on the charts twice as the one hit for two different groups. I am not sure how many times that has happened.
Famous Album Covers is a unique collaborative blog that features short stories about fictional album covers by fictional bands. Here is my latest contibution to the collection. The photograph used on the album cover was taken last year by my friend Cliff Stewart at the annual Candy Cane Lane display in Pacific Grove, California.
Merry Elvmas is a classic Elvis Christmas album with classic Christmas songs done as only Elvis could do them redone by Famous Album Cover artists (mostly). Yes, you will thrill to hear Christmas tunes done by Elvis redone by Famous Album Cover artists. Just consider it the musical equivalent of Jim Carrey portraying Andy Kaufman. It’s all about sytle.
Santa Claus Is Back In Town - Edvard Just Knows
White Christmas - The XRays
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) - String Theory
I’ll Be Home For Christmas - Before We Get Too Waco
Blue Christmas - The Blue Eels
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) - Crik
O Little Town Of Bethlehem - Oliver and the Otters
Medley - Benita Becquer and the Fashionettes
(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me) - Bigfoot Meets Industrial Orange
I Believe - Runaway Train Engineers
Take My Hand, Precious Lord - Tin Drum
It Is No Secret (What God Can Do) - Vapor Mints
The story for the album was written by Famous Album Cover’s Jeff Crouch. For those of you who may be interested, the blog accepts submissions. The contact email address can be found at the Famous Album Covers blog.
The first single from American pop singer Ke$ha’s forthcoming Animal (right) album is called Tik Tok. The single was released last month and a few blogs jumped on the meme that she is the new Lady Gaga. Personally, I don’t see any casue for comparison.
Early this month, I wrote about the album cover for Animal. It doesn’t come close to the quality of design we’ve seen with Lady Gaga’s cover art. The glitter effect used for the typography strikes me as being cheap and artsy craftsy.
A similar design technique has been used for the single. In addition, the photograph used for the cover has had a black “dirt wash” applied to it that makes it look as if it has been dragged on asphalt.
The result is a cover that looks far too gimmicky. The designer even added some paint spatter effects for a trifecta of bad design. I know they are tempting, but all of those Photoshop filters must be used sparingly.
When I visited the U.K. iTunes store on Tuesday, I was surprised to see the 1992 self-titled album by Southern California alternative rock band Rage Against the Machine in the number one spot. It has taken me a few days to get around to finding out why this is the case. I’ve found that it is all due to a Facebook group that is promoting sales of the track Killing In The Name in order to make it the number one Christmas tune in the U.K.
The group’s goal is to steal the top spot from Simon Cowell and X Factor winner Geordie Joe. The Facebook group has over 900,000 members. So, apparently Cowell has a large number of detractors in his native country. You can visit the Facebook group using the link provided below.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Rage Against the Machine album, the cover was and still is quite controversial. It features a photograph by Associated Press correspondent Malcolm Browne of Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, who set himself on fire and burned to death in Saigon in 1963. Thích Quảng Đức was protesting the oppression the Buddhist religion by the Vietnamese.
In 1992, many critics felt that the use of the photograph on an album cover trivialized the monk’s death. Sadly, it appears that the song chosen to upset Cowell and Joe was picked because the album cover and the song itself are so morbid. Thích Quảng Đức’s death is has now become part of a joke, thanks in part to Rage Against the Machine featuring the photograph on their album cover 17 years ago.
British electronic band Hot Chip is scheduled to release their fourth studio album in February 2010. One Life Stand is already available for preorder via Amazon.com. A promo video for the title track was released this week.
The cover art below may not be the final version. However, it is much better than the strange image currently being used on the band’s website (right). The image being used for online stores features a stone head suspended above a pair of crystal icebergs or something. I don’t know if it is supposed to represent Poseidon. The track listing doesn’t have any titles that appear to link to this concept. It is an interesting image that is designed to look like a lithograph. I like this technique quite a bit. A Photoshop filter sold by Mister Retro called Permanent Press makes it quite easy to achieve this look. I wondered how long it would be until I saw something similar used on an album cover.
A Christmas album being sold exlusively by the USPS has sold over 700,000 since it went on sale in November. Letters to Santa (right) is available as a point of purchase item at select Post Office counters across the country and online at the USPS website.
The album features songs by Michael Buble, Nat King Cole, Diana Krall, The Muppets, and many other popular artists. It also has two previously unreleased tracks, Merry Christmas Darling by Natalie Cole and I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Monica Mancini and Dave Koz.
The album was produced by Concord Records. It is priced at a very reasonable $9.99. The cover art featuires a traditional illustration of Santa checking his list ( and checking it twice).
In recognition of the 60th anniversary of jazz label Prestige Records, Concord Music Group has added a slideshow of classic Prestige Records album covers to their official Facebook page. The slideshow features 100 album covers from the Prestige catalog.
In 1984, French graphic designer John-Paul Gothe designed a cover for pop singer Cristina’s Sleep It Off. The album was produced by Don Was and was not a commercial success.
The cover for Sleep It Off features a photo collage that elongate’s the singer’s neck. It is done in a very unique style, using horizontal strips of the photograph that appear to have been haphazzardly taped together. The result is an image that would be unique had Gothe not recycled the concept for a much more successful album a year later.
Undoubtedly, many who are familar with Grace Jones’ Slave to the Rhythm have a déjà vu moment when they see the cover art for Sleep It Off. It is common for people to assume that it is a copy of the Grace Jones album.
Grace Jones - Slave to the Rhythm (1985)
Pratt’s wife Heidi Montag recorded an album last year and has released several singles including her most recent called Superficial (right). The couple recently appeared on a reality TV show called I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! I assume that served as the inspiration for the title of the song.
The cover art for the single features Pratt standing behind the Hollywood Hills with a handful of cash and a rather sleezy grin on his face. It has all the markings of a novelty song. I’m willing to bet that Autotune will figure heavily into the recording. I’m going to tentatively file this one away with William Hung and Crazy Frog. But, you never know. Maybe Spencer will surprize us.
This is the time of year when website and blogs start publishing their “worst of” lists. This year is notable because it marks the end of a decade. I have already read a few lists that name the worst album covers of the decade. A couple of list include Walking On A Dream by Empire of the Sun (right) and other likely candidates such as Brooke Hogan’s The Redemption.
The one thing that I always notice about these list is that they often include far too many recent covers. It seems that people have a very short memory when it comes to album art. This often results in the worst album covers being forgotten in favor of ones that were released in the last year or two of the decade.
I am not going to create a list of the worst album covers for the decade. There are simply too many to list. It would be very difficult to narrow it down to just 10. However, I am quite certain about which album cover should be named the worst of the decade.
The worst album cover of 2000 to 2009 is the original cover created for Party Music by The Coup. The album cover features members of the band blowing up the World Trade Center buildings. The album was set to be released shortly after September 11, 2001 and had to be delayed while a new cover was created. Unfortunately, promotional albums had already been distributed with the original cover.
In my opinion, nothing compares to this album when it comes to qualifying as the worst of the decade. The Empire of the Sun album cover may be corny and clumsily executed and the Brooke Hogan cover may be the result of a huge ego, but at least neither cover rises to the level of infamous bad taste and incredibly poor timing exhibited by The Coup’s Party Music.
The theme song for the new blockbuster film Avatar was released yesterday. I See You is available on the soundtrack album, which both Amazon.com and iTunes are not selling as an individual download. You have to buy the entire album to get it.
That strong arm approach to selling an album may work when the track that people want is exceptional. However, I See You is a slow ballad that has just a hint of My Heart Will Go On, the them from Cameron’s hit movie Titanic. It just doesn’t get there.
If they eventually come to their senses and sell I See You as a single, I suggest that the cover feature an Avatar version of Leona Lewis. It would be great to see her depicted as a blue-skinned alien.
The AlbumArtExchange is looking for high quality scans of cassettes and cassingles for the gallery. If you’ve got a box of dusty tapes in your closet, get them out a scan them for the collection. These covers are disappearing into landfills faster than the Betamax. Get them uploaded while they still exist.
Close ups of the human eye are a common theme used on album covers. However, when I saw the cover of Adelphia by A Skylit Drive in the AlbumArtExchange gallery a few days ago, the similarity to another recent cover gave me that déjà vu feeling.
The cover art for Puddle of Mudd’s Volume 4: Songs in the Key of Love and Hate has more in common with the A Skylit Drive cover than just the eye. The way the eye is rendered, with black smudged makeup and an eerie reflection in the iris is also similar.
It is always interesting to see two albums that came out at about the same time with covers that look so much alike. I think I prefer the Puddle of Mudd cover. It is a bit more interesting because you really can’t make out what is being reflected in the eye.
Below are six albums preselected from this week’s new releases. They have been chosen based on both Amazon.com sales rank and the quality of album cover design. Please vote for the album that you feel has the best cover.
|Mary J. Blige - Stronger withEach Tear||Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom|
|Mudvayne - Mudvayne||Pet Shop Boys - Christmas EP|
|Phil Vassar - Traveling Circus||James Horner - Avatar|
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has released the list of recording artists who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at next year’s ceremony in New York City. The list includes Genesis, ABBA, Jimmy Cliff, The Stooges and The Hollies.
According to our weekly AlbumArtExchange poll, the best album cover for the week of December 8, 2009 is 30 Seconds to Mars’ This Is War. Volume 4: Songs in The Key of Love & Hate by Puddle of Mudd came in second and Alejandro Fernandez’s Dos Mundos and Timbaland’s Shock Value II tiked for a distant third.
Check back later today to vote for the best album cover from among this week’s new releases. There are some interesting album covers from artists like Alicia Keyes, Mary J. Blige, and Pet Shop Boys. There are also a couple of surprises.
Dr. Elmo - Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer (2002)
Posted by: Gulickson
Blondie has made a new Christmas song available as a free download from the band’s website. We Three Kings is a rock version of the traditional carol. It is being offered as a promotion for a new Blondie album that is slated for release in 2010.
I grew up during the punk rock era of the late ’70s and early ’80s. There are still a few classic punk bands recording and doing gigs. Then, there are several bands that seem more like parodies of punk. Gay for Johnny Depp is one of those that seem to be based more on irony and performance art than music of a bygone era.
First, it is kind of difficult to get past the name. “Gay for Johnny Depp” is very similar to the name of a parody punk band that I came up with years ago — Richard’s Gerbil. I’m not quite sure why the name that appears on the album cover is “The Gay for Johnny Depp”, since it appears the band doesn’t use “the” anywhere else. Perhaps is is due to a printing error. In any case, this is one of my pet peeves. Either your band’s name begins with “the” or it doesn’t!
I was able to find a music video for one of the tracks on the album called Hey Fucked Up! (Punk Rock Can’t Exist In Countries With Good Social Services). It only added to the WTF?! reaction I had to this band.
Pet Shop Boys have released a new music video to promote the release of their forthcoming Christmas EP. The video is for All Over The World features a live performance of the song. The EP is scheduled to be released on December 17.
As I’ve written previously, the cover for the EP is not exactly what one would expect associate with Christmas. The cover was designed by the Farrow agency. The design is similar to the cover they did for Party (right), a limited release compilation album.
Although I like the design, I tend to connect party balloons with birthdays and other celebrations. The balloons work quite well for the Party album. I’m not so sure about the Christmas EP. Perhaps I would feel differently if I didn’t know that the album cover was done first.
Female choral group Aliqua have released an album of Christmas songs called All I Want. The album cover caught my eye while I was browsing for holiday music online. You can probably see why it got my attention.
The cover features the members of the group as store mannequins all dressed up for a Christmas window display. What a great concept! I especially love the little girl pressing her hand against the window.
Here is a short clip of street artist Mr. Brainwash discussing the album covers that he created for Madonna’s recent retrospective collection Celebration. I wrote previously that the cover for the standard version of the album fails due to the cliché Andy Warhol-style blue eyeshadow and red lipstick that the artist applied to her face.
Mr. Brainwash also says that he feels his album cover is better than the 1962 Andy Warhol portrait (right) that inspired it. Obviously, Mr. Brainwash doesn’t understand that Warhol applied the garrish makeup and yellow color to Marilyn’s face as a form of social commentary. It was an insult to her beautiful face to cover it with harsh colors, masking the real person beneath the artificial image.
After Monroe’s suicide in August 1962, Warhol used a 1953 publicity shot of the actress by photographer Gene Korman to create his silkscreen portrait of her. It was a shocking image at the time. No one had ever seen the face of Marilyn Monroe reduced to pop art in this way. Warhol’s portrait was timely and extremely morbid.
For Mr. Brainwash to copy this important work of art and claim that his imitation is better than the original is ridiculous. It shows a lack of understandering of the artist he is imitating. Perhaps if he’d created his album cover shortly after Madonna’s death it would have a similar impact and an irony worth consideration. However, it would still be an imitation of Andy Warhol.
The AlbumArtExchange gallery toped 65,000 quality covers today. The 65,000th cover was posted by AAX user shawnbsb. The cover is for Winter Songs by Ronan Keating.Thanks to all of the dedicated AAX users who have contributed their scanned and edited covers to the collection.
PinBoys are a Danish rock band who have toured with Fall Out Boy and released their second album, Simple Art (right), earlier this year. The band has a very American sound. When I heard Hey Man, the second single from the album, I thought I was listening to No Doubt. The female vocalist sounds very much like Gwen Stefani.
The music video for Hey Man was recently posted on YouTube. I think it does a very good job of showcasing the band. Both the album cover and the cover for the Hey Man single feature a photograph of the four band members, which I believe is always a good choice for bands who are just starting out.
The logo design for the band’s name is kind of cool. I like the way it has been used on both covers. These designs certainly won’t blow anyone away. But, they they do serve as good marketing visuals for this talented young band. I would rather see a decent photo of the band than a dead raccoon.
On November 24, George Michael, Boy George and Culture Club, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, Kool and the Gang, Sting, Bono and Adam Clayton of U2, Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware of Heaven 17, Phil Collins, Paul Weller of Style Council, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt of Status Quo, Jody Watley, Bananarama, Marilyn and members of Geldof’s band the Boomtown Rats recorded the song. Ure produced the single and it was released as a five days later under the collective name Band Aid.
The sleeve for the single was designed by Sir Peter Blake, who is most famous for designing the covder of The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is a collage that features traditional Christmas art surrounding the shocking image of starving children.
What is reported to be the cover art for Usher’s forthcoming album Raymond v Raymond was revealed on several blogs and websites today. The album is scheduled to be released on March 1, 2010 and the image has not yet been added to online retailer listings.
The images looks like final cover art. It features a professional portrait of the artist and the typography is nicely executed. It is probably safe to say that this is the real cover.
Below are six album covers preselected from among this week’s new releases. The albums were chosen based on Amazon.com sales rank and for their notable cover art. Please vote for the album that you believe has the better cover.
30 Seconds to Mars - This Is War
Alejandro Fernandez -Dos Mundos
Chris Brown - Graffiti
Puddle of Mudd - Volume 4
Snoop Dogg - Malice N Wonderland
Timbaland - Shock Value II
The poll results will be posted next Tuesday. Please check back to see how your favorite album is doing. The results are updated automatically.
One of the best CD packaging concepts of the decade has to be 30 Seconds to Mars’ use of 2,000 fan-submitted photographs for the cover of their new album This Is War. The band simply asked fans to submit their photos online and created 2,000 different covers featuring the faces with a white band containing the title and band name across the eyes.
The results of the “Faces of Mars” marketing campaign is quite remarkable. I don’t know how many of the covers will end up being uploaded to the AlbumArtExchange gallery. The band has set up a Faces of Mars Facebook page where people can upload scans and put a name to faces.
According to our AlbumArtExchange poll, the best album cover for the week of December 1, 2009 is Enya’s The Very Best of Enya. The cover won hands down with 50% of the vote. Coming in second was Allison Iraheta’s Just Like You. Stir The Blood by The Bravery was third.
The poll for this week’s new releases will be posted later today. Check back and vote for your favorite. There will be a couple of surprises this week.
The reason why I began my search for the worst album covers ever created is that many of the previous lists published online have included album covers that are far from the worst. Many lists include classic album covers like Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica (right) and Frank Zappa’s Weasel Ripped My Flesh. While these covers may be avant garde, they are certainly not as bad as they come.
However, one album cover that is included on almost every list of “worst ever” covers belongs without question. R&B singer Millie Jackson’s 1989 album Back to the S__t! features Jackson sitting on a toilet with her panties around her ankles and a straining expression on her face.
This album cover is so crass, it can’t even be viewed as being campy or ironic. It fails on every possible level. With tracks titled Love Stinks and Muffle That Fart, one would mistakenly assume this was a comedy album.
There have been a few other album covers featuring people sitting on Toilets. This year, The Bloody Beetroots used an illustration of a masked character sitting on the toilet while reading a newspaper. Because it is an illusttation rather than an actual photograph of the artist, I do not think it is as bad as the Millie Jackson cover. Imagine an album cover with Rihanna or Beyonce sitting on the pot.
The cover for Soldier of Love, a new single by Sade, was revealed via news release today. The song is the title track from the artist’s forthcoming album (right). The album is scheduled to be released on February 9, 2010. The single does not yet have a release date.
I was very impressed with the cover art for the album when it was released a few weeks ago. The cover for the single is just as stunning. It features a beautiful portrait of Sade wearing a huge amount of silver jewelry. It conveys an exotic and primitive image that works quite well with the concept used on the album cover.
I have to write that the covers for both the album and the single are certain to be my favorites of 2010. I will try to find out who the art director for this project is and report back with an update later.
Check out the latest addition to the AlbumArtExchange blog’s déjà vu category. It is very unlikely that the cover for the new x-rated Janet Jackson single Lesbian 2009 was not inspired by the 2006 compilation album Candy Lounge: The Bedroom Tapes.
Both covers feature the lips of women with a pink candy coating. The colors used for the typography are also very similar.
Janet Jackson - Lesbian 2009 (2009)
Various Artists - Candy Lounge: The Bedroom Tapes (2006)
Today is Pearl Harbor Day, which commemorates the surprise attack on the United States by Japan on December 7, 1941. I recently discovered a collection of sound bites from radio broadcasts of the era on eMusic. It is one of many radio broadcasts released for digital download by the Stardust / The Orchard label.
The cover art for these recordings is not quite first rate. Most of them look as if an amateur patched them together in Photoshop from old photographs and inexpensive fonts. However, it is nice that they weren’t released without any art at all.
Gerry And The Pacemakers - How Do You Like It? (1963)
In September, rock band 30 Seconds to Mars asked fans to upload photos of themselves to be used on the cover of their new album This Is War. The first 2,000 images submitted to the “Face of Mars” online promotion were used as individual album covers sold in retail stores.
The image used for digital sales is the face of a tiger (right). However, 2,000 lucky fans will be immortalized on album covers that have been shipped all over the world. One of those fans is actually the member of another popular band. Lead vocalist Gabe Saporta of Cobra Starship submitted his photo and was chosen to appear on the cover.
Today, the Saporta cover was posted online in fan forums and I uploaded it to the AAX gallery. I am sure that we will see many of the 2,000 covers added over the next few weeks. That is a lot of covers for just one album. So far, Saporta is the only famous face known to be among them.
The fourth annual Christmas single from The Killers is called ¡Happy Birthday Guadalupe! The procedes from the single goes to the (RED) global AIDS fund. A music video for the single debuted on December 1, World AIDS Day.
The cover for the single has an element in common with the forthcoming Pet Shop Boys Christmas EP. It features balloons. There is an obvious connection between balloons and birthdays. Yet, using balloons on a Christmas-themed cover seems like an odd choice to me. It just doesn't make me think of Christmas.
The cover for ¡Happy Birthday Guadalupe!shows three white balloons in a Mexican scrub desert (which features in the music video). Mexican Christmas decorations are so bright and colorful. It makes me wonder why the chose such dark imagery for the video and cover art. Anyone who has been to a Mexican cemetery at Christmas can tell you that even graves are often decorated with beads and toys. This effort seems like what a white American would imagine Christmas in Mexico to be like. It really misses the mark.
Various Artists - Gift Wrapped: 20 Songs That Keep On Giving! (2009)
Major Lazer is a collaboration between electronic music producers Diplo and Switch. Their most recent single from their debut album Guns Don’t Kill People Lazers Do! (right) is called Keep It Goin’ Louder.
The music video for Keep It Goin’ Louder has to be seen to be believed. It is probably one of the most bizarre videos I have seen in years. I don’t even know where to begin to describe it. You’ll just have to watch it for yourself.
Like the album, the single uses a cartoon illustration of the fictional character Major Lazer. Major Lazer is holding a smoking gun and appears to have just blown away a boom box. The design is colorful, eyecatching and definitley unique.
U.K. electronic music duo Basement Jaxx are on a roll, producing one of the coolest series of covers I’ve seen in a long time. The series began with the release of the single Raindrops, which features a strange bird-like creature wearing a feathered headress on the cover. The second single, Feelings Gone, features a creature with an elephant’s face, feathers, and high tech eyewear.
The album Scars (right) was released in September, continuing the animal theme with an owl-faced creature wearing a battle helmet. All three covers are very interesting, with the collage-like characters shown with different landscapes in the backgrounds.
The next single is scheduled to be released on December 14. The cover for My Turn also has an animal creature on the cover. This time, it is a panda and the background is a desert.
In addition to the new single, an EP is also scheduled for release in early 2010. Zephyr has cover art that is similar to that of the Scars series, except that the animal character has been replaced by a strange red fabric shape and black floating blobs. The image is worthy of being called modern art.
Danish pop group Aqua has just released a new special edition of their Greatest Hits album (right) in Denmark. The album is a CD and DVD combination that includes a live performance and additional tracks, including a new holiday song called Spin Me A Christmas.
While the Greatest Hits album is currently available outside of Denmark, there is no word on when the special edition will be released worldwide. The music video for Spin Me A Christmas was released on YouTube this week. It is a fun, catchy pop song that is certain to be a hit with fans.
Most Americans know Aqua for their 1997 hit Barbie Girl. However, they have sold over 33 million album and are recognized as one of the most successful Danish bands in recording history. Spin Me A Christmas is Aqua’s 16th single.
The album art for the Greatest Hits special edition is identical to that of the standard version except that the picture frame has been changed from gold to silver. Also, a sticker has been placed on the cover that describes the additional content.
The cover for pop singer and songwriter Ke$ha’s forthcoming album was revealed on pop culture blog Just Jared today. Animal is scheduled to be released on January 5, 2010.
The cover uses glitter in a manner similar to that seen on Santogold’s self titled album (right) and L.E.S. Artistes single from last year. I find this technique to be a little bit too artsy craftsy. I don’t want to see this done for too many more album covers. It worked on the Santogold album due to the shock of gold glitter vomit. I would like to advise art directors and graphic designers to explore other aisles in Michaels or Aaron Brothers for a new medium. Perhaps those colored pipe cleaners would help create something new and different.
The nominees for the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards were announced yesterday. The three categories that are of most interest to album art aficionados are those for Best Recording Package, Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package, and Album of the Year.
Here are the nominees for Best Recording Package and Album of the Year for recordings released during the eligibility year October 1, 2008 through August 31, 2009:
Best Recording Package
Spinal Tap - Back From The Dead
Brian Porizek, Art Director
David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Stefan Sagmeister, Art Director
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Neko Case & Judge, Art Directors
Splitting Adam - Splitting Adam
Jeff Harrison, Art Director
Various Artists - Tathagata
Szu Wei Cheng & Hui Chen Huang, Art Directors
The Spinal Tap CD packaging features an “action figure stage show” that can be assembled from an insert in the jewel case. I wrote about it a few months ago. I am not surprised it was nominated. The David Byrne and Brian Eno CD also has a very cool design. From photos that I have seen, the Tathagata CD features what appears to be handmade paper.
My favorite for the win in this category is Splitting Adam’s self titled album. It features an amazing 3D hologram as demonstrated in the video below.
Album of the Year
Beyoncé - I Am… Sasha Fierce
The Black Eyed Peas - The E.N.D.
Lady Gaga - The Fame
Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King
Taylor Swift - Fearless
Of course, album art won’t be a consideration in selection of the Album of the Year. However, the winner and the nominees will influence the design of album covers for years to come. Art directors tend to look at successful and critically acclaimed albums for inspiration. I really do not have a favorite among the nominated albums as far as album art goes. They are all fairly average.
Last year, George Michael released a new Christmas song called December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas) as a digital download from his website. It was the first Christmas song recorded by the pop singer since Last Christmas, which was released in 1984 (right).
On December 17, December Song will be released on an EP along with three additional tracks. Also included will be a new holiday recording called Jingle and two live tracks.
The cover art for the EP features an illustration of an unusual Christmas scene. A small boy stares from the cover in bewilderment beneath a Christmas tree that appears to be constructed from television sets. It is a strange holiday image. I have posted a sample of the song below.
For those of you who have wondered how far the Autotune fad is going to go, check out the recent single from electro hip hop producer and DJ AmpLive. Gary Is A Robot has some of the most extreme Autotune vocals imaginable and just could be an indication that the trend is about to come to an end.
Both a single and a remix EP (right) of Gary Is A Robot are available as digital downloads. A music video was released in October. The video is very clever, featuring a lifesized hip hop robot.
Unfortunately, there are no robots on the covers of the single and remix EP. In fact, the cover art is very low budget. I would love to see it redone with photos of the robot from the video. I mean, if you’re going to make a song about a robot…
The Kingston Trio - The Last Month of the Year (1960)
Here is the weekly poll for best album cover. The covers below were preselected from this week’s new released based on Amazon.com sales rank and quality of design. Please vote for the album cover that you believe is the best for this week.
Allison Iraheta - Just Like You
The Bravery - Stir The Blood
Enya - The Very Best of Enya
Il Divo - An Evening with Il Divo
Priscilla Renea - Jukebox
R. Kelly - Untitled
Since today is World AIDS Day, the 1990 compilation album Red Hot + Blue: A Trubute To Cole Porter is a fitting choice for an Album Art Flashback. The album was produced by Steve Lillywhite and Afrika Bambaataa for the Red Hot Organization as the first major AIDS benefit by the music industry. The album included 20 songs by major recording artists including U2, Erasure, Jody Watley, Annie Lennox, and Jimmy Somerville.
Music videos with educational information about AIDS were created for the songs and played on ABC as a television special. Many of the videos became popular hits on MTV. The album has sold over a million copies worldwide.
The album cover features a collage that includes a photograph of Cole Porter covered with images of a red heart, a green plus sign, a blazing fire, and a blue cloud. The CD booklet contain two informational articles called What AIDS Is + Isn’t and What We Can Do About It.
According to our AlbumArtExchange blog poll, the best album cover for the week of November 24, 2009 is Adam Lambert’s For Your Entertainment. The controversial album cover won with 42% of the vote. Rihanna’s Rated R and Shikira’s She Wolf tied for second and Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster was third.Our poll for the best album cover among this week’s new releases will be posted later today. Come back to see if your favorite cover was selected. There are some interesting covers among this week’s new albums.