The massive success of Adele’s 25 has prompted the music industry to speculate that maybe the record album as an art form is back. Well, record albums aren’t back — Adele is. Meantime, the album remains stuck in a long, sad period of decline. But the demise of the album hasn’t stopped artists from continuing to grace us with memorable album cover art, and 2015 was no exception, as my new SlideShare presentation illustrates vividly.
Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear
The year was notable for the appearance of some over-the-top, in-your-face covers from mainstream artists, with some classically elegant and visual mind benders tossed in. It’s as if musicians everywhere got together and decided, “Screw it — if albums are going away, let’s make the last gasp a memorable one.”
Bjork recast herself as some sort of mutant alien on Vulcarina, and Grimes dropped one of the ugliest album covers I’ve ever seen with Art Angels, demonstrating that memorable is not necessarily the same as beautiful. And I’m still trying to figure out the weird plastic thing creature on the cover of Arc’s Mutant.
But not all covers needed to be outrageous to be memorable. The album cover art for Fetty Wap’s self-titled album was honest and real, and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was socially provocative and thoughtful. Meantime, Colleen Green’s smart-alecky smirk on the cover of I Want to Grow Up was what rock and roll attitude is all about, while Leon Bridges’s Coming Home and Adele’s 25 were throwbacks with their classic designs.
Fetty Wap, Fetty Wap
Albums may never return to their glory days of the 1970, but album cover art remains an important way for musicians to connect with fans and represent their art. As I’ve mentioned before, their function has changed — from gracing the cover of a single work to acting as a visual totem published across many touch points, ranging from an artist’s Facebook page to their merchandise.
In fact, album cover art is perfectly suited for today’s visual era. Album covers tell visual stories that express the music of the album, capture the personality of the artist, and engage your interest — just as great marketing should do.
Albums as we know them are dying. Long live record album art.