The release of the "controversial" cover art for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' forthcoming album, Mosquito, has managed to stir up quite a bit of buzz. (Leave me alone. I like puns.)
If you've somehow managed to escape the album-cover hype, I'll let you in on a little secret: you're not missing much in the way of controversy.
The offending image is simple: it's a naked, goo-covered baby in the clutches of a huge purple mosquito. It reeks of forcing the Garbage Pail Kids to sanitize their souls with a bath in the Pixar studios. My inner child weeps for them.
The cover is the brainchild of L.A.-based animator Beomsik Shimbe Shim, who readily admits that he hoped the illustration of "dirty, different, uncomfortable ideas" would garner a controversial response.
Well, a response he did receive. Fans have called Shim's cover everything from a "joke" to "front-runner for worst album cover of the year," so he has certainly stirred up some pretty virulent reactions.
But here's the problem. The responses aren't calling the art controversial, as Shim had hoped for. They're calling it flat-out bad.
Art isn't controversial because it sucks. Art is deemed controversial because it is challenging or daring to our preconceived notions. It pushes our boundaries past the point of uncomfortable, into a realm where we're forced to think about deep shit.
This cover is doing nothing of the sort. (Although I won't lie; it is forcing me to question is my obsession with Dunkin' Duncan and Scalped Ralph, because the whitewashed CGI version I see splashed across my screen isn't nearly as cool as my trading cards.)
The thing is, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover art is way too familiar to be controversial. There's nothing "different" about this album cover; but there is a laundry list a mile long of album covers featuring weird babies, or creepy bugs, or questionable goo, but I won't kill you with specifics.
What I WILL do is give you a list of a few more of the pseudo-controversial album covers that have surfaced over the years.
And no, none have weird bugs on them.
The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers Manufactured with an actual zipper down the denim crotch of a Warhol image, the album found itself forbidden from family-oriented record shops. The legend is wrong, though -- it's not Mick's goods pictured. It's one of Andy Warhol's associates, although it's unclear who.
Black Sabbath, Born Again Born Again's cover featured a red pop-art devil baby against a purple background. That's literally it, but it is now widely considered one of the worst covers of all time. Bad, perhaps, but not controversial.
Poison, Open Up and Say...Ahhh The 1988 cover had to be censored before placed on store shelves thanks to the backlash over model Bambi's being featured with an elongated demon tongue. Thanks to an overall societal desensitization to weird shit, the 2006 remastered CD now features the original art.
The Strokes, Is This It The leather-clad hand across a woman's nude bum was banned from the U.S., but has been lauded as one of the best album covers of all time. Go figure.
Jane's Addiction, Ritual de lo Habitual Deemed pornographic, the original cover featured three nude figures on a painting by singer Perry Farrell, but the group was forced into a "clean cover" featuring the band's name, album title, and text from the First Amendment. One record-store owner was arrested over the display of a poster of the album cover in his window. The band was ultimately allowed to release both versions.
The Beatles, Yesterday and Today Boredom and resentment at doing yet another photo shoot prompted the Beatles to sit for a conceptual art piece dressed as butchers draped with meat and body parts from plastic dolls. A few original covers were shipped, but an immediate backlash pushed them to pull the cover and release it with a sanitized version pasted over the original cover, which is today worth a fortune.
Nirvana, Nevermind Asked by their record company to censor the naked baby splashed across the cover, Nirvana offered to place a sticker across the child that read, "If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile." The record company opted to release the uncensored version.
The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet The yellow, graffiti-covered bathroom splashed across the cover forced a delay of the album's release in both the U.S. and England. The Stones replaced it with a white RSVP cover, but in 1984 a remastered Banquet restored the original banned art.