As the music releases increase each year, so are the cover artworks. We are so busy focusing on the music that we sometimes overlooked the stories behind the design that represents the body of work.
With how vast technology and social media has become available to us, talents can come from the most unexpected place – from Tyler, The Creator reaching out to you for a portrait to artists like Jesse Kanda learning things to create a Bjork album cover.
Let’s take a moment to dive into the stories behind the creative process that goes into these magnificent albums from this past decade.
2009: Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Based on the works by Japanese psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka, American experimental pop band Animal Collective adapted this concept for their eight studio album. Merriweather Post Pavilion is presented with an optical illusion created by Robert Carmichael of SEEN studio with a repeating pattern that resembles leaves in moving motion that may come off as an animation. It’s a beautiful, dizzying illusion for music fans.
2010: Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
For Erykah Badu’s sixth release, she enlisted award-winning artist Emek from Oregon for an ethereal album cover that is just as provocative as her performances on stage. The singer wanted to bring back art into album artwork that is more than just a photograph. Emek took the political themes that Badu has on the album and put it on her hair that symbolises the issues that were weighing on her mind, on top of the music, trees and hope.
2011: Cut Copy – Zonoscope
Created by the late Japanese photo montage artist Tsunehisa Kimura, the cover for four-piece pop band Cut Copy’s album depicts New York City being washed away in a waterfall that resembles the feeling of the Zonoscope album that is both familiar and dreamlike. Lead singer Dan Whitford spent a lot of time and energy in order to secure the montage piece for Zonoscope. The design went on to win an Artisan Award at the ARIA Music Awards 2011 for Best Cover Art.
2012: Grimes – Visions
Multi-talented Canadian artist Claire Boucher, or famously known as Grimes is a fascinating personality in music, but it is also her visuals that stand out the most. For her third album Visions, Grimes got designer Mark Khair to amplify the cover design with a jewel-covered skull that is surrounded by iconography illustrations like candy hearts, bow ribbon, pyramid and more. It is a great representation of what Grimes’ Visions album represent that is both textured and stylised.
2013: Kanye West – Yeezus
This iconic no-cover Yeezus album cover by Kanye West plays with a minimalism that the physical CD was sold in a clear jewel box and the iconic red tape, as well as sample credits. Art direction by Joe Perez, this is a representation of West’s refusal to create detailed arts for his albums but instead giving us a bare design that changes our whole conversation about him. The look of the physical CD became the cover art for Yeezus and is reminiscent of Mos Def’s True Magic album released in 2006 which was missing the booklet, cover art, lyrics or credits.
2014: FKA Twigs – LP1
Imagery produced by Jesse Kanda and design by Phil Lee, FKA Twigs’ debut album titled LP1 is pure art. Even through her past work, this London-based singer is known for incredible and sometimes mind-boggling music videos that this cover is of no surprise. Besides the striking and bold cover image of FKA Twigs looking doll-like, the images inside are just as artistic and disturbing to look at – the perfect Photoshop manipulation that LP1 deserves.
2015: Logic – The Incredible True Story
Logic called this album a “motion picture sci-fi epic” and it is depicted on the album cover well that aptly suits the title of the release as well. Created by painter Sam Spratt, Logic approached him after his work for Janelle Monae’s The Electric Lady. For this cover, Spratt uses fictional and real characters through a spaceship symmetry composition that he was inspired by Wes Anderson films. The painting reflects The Incredible True Story’s fiction and reality that Logic has created with the narrations on the album inspired by sci-fi.
2016: Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
The actor/singer/rapper said he was inspired by American band Funkadelic’s scream that was both sexual and scary for the cover of Childish Gambino P-Funk album Awaken, My Love! It features model Giannina Oteto that could depict many types of emotions with her eyes rolled back and mouth partly opened, as well as wearing a beaded headdress by Laura Wass of WXYZ Jewelry. This powerful album art also appeared as an easter egg in Donald Glover’s television series Atlanta, in the episode titled ‘Juneteeth’.
2017: Bjork – Utopia
Utopia is Bjork’s longest studio album ever, which mixes both elements of avant-garde and folktronica. This is a collaborative album cover design by Bjork, Jesse Kanda, James Merry and Hungry. The singer wanted a floral shape on her face, in which Merry went to buy silicone and casts to create the forehead piece by learning it from videos from YouTube, then add it with makeup by Hungry before Kanda proceeds to treat it dramatically into this unforgettable final product.
2018: Travis Scott – Astroworld
Travis Scott’s Astroworld album is produced by iconic photographer David LaChapelle that is a scene that pays homage to the amusement park in Houston, Texas known as the Six Flags Astroworld that was demolished in 2005, in which the rapper brought back to life for a day. Scott wants to create the cover art that is synonymous with the theme of the album, which is going back to the amusement park that he used to know and bringing back the fun that he used to know. The oversized and gold head-entrance imagery has become a very prominent figure in pop culture.
2019: Tyler, the Creator – IGOR
The artist behind this bold cover art of Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR album is Lewis Rossignol who has tourette’s syndrome and art helps him to relax. Rossignol was discovered by the rapper and producer through Instagram and the rest is history. From a FaceTime call to create some portraits of him, to have his work appear on the cover was a complete surprise to the artist, as he only found out approximately two days before it was released. Rossignol’s consistency to draw at least three pictures a day with a lot of hashtags over the past few years have definitely been very fruitful.
Cover Image: Travis Scott - STARGAZING (Official Audio) / YouTube