Never mind, that meeting got cancelled and I forgot! So here’s a few more.
Lovesexy by Prince. It’s bold, it’s daring, it’s high art. Shot by French fashion photographer Jean Baptiste Mondino, who is also known for directing several iconic music videos like “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley and “Justify My Love” by Madonna.
Some American chain stores refused to stock the album openly on shelves, believing it to be obscene. Which is hilarious to me. Fun related fact, Prince is the entire reason the “Parental Advisory” sticker exists on albums, due to politicians getting offended at the reference to female masturbation on his song “Darling Nikki” from the Purple Rain album.
In Utero by Nirvana. Some albums have covers that just match the music perfectly and for me this is one of them. It’s visceral, it’s raw, it’s dissonant, something about it affects me mentally when I see it, making me feel a little off-kilter, and the music does the same, but in an amazing way. The album cover to “Nevermind” is probably considered more iconic, but that album cover doesn’t make me feel anything, it’s quite dry and satirical. This one really gets to me.
The 7 Day Theory by 2Pac (as Makaveli)
This came out right after Tupac was murdered and was the last thing he was working on before he was killed. It’s a brilliant album, and the artwork I think represents the tragedy of what his life had become at that point, and I suspect he knew he didn’t have long left. He, inadvertently or otherwise, had become the pivotal figure in a lot of problems in the music industry, in pop culture, and in the subcultures of hip-hop and the LA music scene. On top of that, he was traumatised by having been jailed under false pretences and shot 5 times. It’s almost impossible to understand what that trauma combined with being one of the biggest stars in the world was like. It was all going to catch up with him, he knew it was coming, and that’s reflected both in this album and it’s artwork.
Finally, one more MJ one.
Michael Jackson - HIStory - Past, Present & Future.
I vividly remember this album coming out, I remember that they floated the statue of him down the Thames, the album was everywhere. I also got to see him live on the HIStory Tour, which is a pivotal moment in my life.
But in regards to the album cover, it’s really misunderstood. Some people viewed it as egotistical, the statue of himself. It’s actually a testament to the legacy of great art and how global figures are remembered. Far from egotistical, it’s actually incredibly self-aware, almost biting in it’s message.
Not long ago, a good friend of mine hipped me to what was very likely the inspiration for it, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise given that MJ was incredibly well-read with a deep knowledge of global history (no pun intended).
It’s this Soviet poster from the early 20th century.
The text translates to “Lenin Lived, Lenin Lives, Lenin Will Live”.
A clear parallel with the full album title “HIStory - Past, Present and Future”.
Without getting into too much of a rant, this is what I feel is missing from the major pop stars of today. I can’t imagine the popular artists of today being so educated on topics like high art and fashion (a la the Prince cover) or Soviet history (the MJ cover) to reference them in their art. And these two were the biggest artists on the planet!!