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An Ode to Album Cover Art

20 March 2018

Originally just a protective cover for the fragile CD or viny, the album cover soon became an opportunity for artistic expression to allow the music a visual representation. By offering a little teaser of what’s to come and conveying the essence of the album in a visual manner, album cover art has the power to transform our listening experience into an immersive one.

The 60’s saw album cover art really take off with musicians commissioning visual artists. Music audiences could take home an Andy Warhol through The Velvet Underground or a Jean-Michel Basquiat via The Offs. The record sleeve became equally iconic as the music they contained.

The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico by Andy Warhol

The Offs, First Record by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Early on, the association between street artists and musicians was organic. In the 80’s, graffiti was synonymous with hip-hop, both being subcultures born on the streets and inspiring each other. Later, rock and punk music would inspired a new generation of street artists.

Now, album art by street artists prevails and also celebrated through various genres: from pop to rap to metal to jazz to disco and EDM. We’ve seen some iconic collaborations: Banksy and Blur, Keith Haring and David Bowie, or Shepard Fairey and The Smashing Pumpkins’.

Blur, Think Tank by Banksy

David Bowie, Without You by Keith Haring

The Smashing Pumpkins, Zeitgeist by Shepard Fairey

In today’s Spotify, Apple Music and other fast-streaming tools, album cover art unfortunately often go unnoticed and many are losing an important part of the creative process: the visuals.

Although, this hasn’t prevented the creations of some amazing and, sometimes, surprising collaborations.

Blink-182, California by D*Face

Christina Aguilera, BI-ON-IC by D*Face

Kaytranada, 99,9% by Ricardo Cavolo

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made by Ricardo Cavolo

Chris Brown, F.A.M.E by Ron English

The Voidz, Virtue by Felipe Pantone

The visuals directing our auditory imagination have even brought curators to produce exhibitions dedicated to the subject and art aficionados to collect these album covers.

We’re not telling you to judge an album by its cover, but… oh, wait, maybe we are. Some of these deserve the title of ‘masterpiece’, don’t you think?

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