So you’ve got some new friends over to your place, and you’re showing them around. You casually drop comments like “Oh, you know, there’s the bookshelf, those are my records…The kitchen is over here.” Sure, you’re as smooth and cool as cucumber water, but secretly you hope that at some point they’ll take a peek at that record collection. It’s only natural.
We all have an innate desire to tell our story. The albums we buy help us tell that story — not only through the content, but the covers themselves. Like dummies, we stash them away, only to be seen by those curious enough to snoop through our stuff. Your favorite musicians have curated and commissioned works of art that represent what they’re about so that we, in turn, can let them represent us. Along with music videos, album covers are our main visual link to the things we listen to, and as such bear a heavy responsibility to aesthetically appeal to the right people.
With all that being said, let’s take a look at some art pieces and find out what they would say about a person.
COURTNEY BARNETT (top)
Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett, sticking to the loose, DIY feel of her songs, drew this cover herself. Her perspective is all skewed, she colors way outside the lines, and intentionally stylized the words in all-lowercase letters, as if she couldn’t be bothered to hit the Shift key (even though it’s handwritten). All in all, it looks as if it was sketched out in a matter of minutes, on the bus, on the way to turn in the completed album.
What This Album Cover Says About You: You approach music and art through the lens of “Hell, I could do that,” and you may just be right.
The Beatles (The White Album)
Sure, sure, it’s supposed to be some kind of empty canvas to project your own interpretation onto, but what does it mean? Who knows? It’s not up to us to understand the Beatles — our only role is to stare slackjawed into the light and glory that are these four boys from Liverpool.
What This Album Cover Says About You: Whatever you want it to say, man. The true art is the spaces in between.
Detached, cold, angular. Here, David Bowie gazes stoically into the sharp-contrast black and white distance. He has been caught in some sort of ceremonial pose and has no opinion on what he sees. Whatever it is, his mismatched pupils reveal it must have some otherworldly light source. Might explain the pose. The cold cover doesn’t do justice to the warmth of Bowie’s voice within — or does it? Actually, the lighting on the back wall suggests an internal glow, particularly bright in the area nearest his mouth.
What This Album Cover Says About You: At one point you got really into Netflix-ing silent German films from the Weimar era.
Let’s Get It On
This guy looks like he’s having a Gaye old time. Too filled with excitement to stand still for a photo shoot, Marvin Gaye jumps up and down while the photographer tries to catch him at his least blurry. But there’s no containing the ecstatic pleasure of Let’s Get It On. At that point, all you can really do is make a cool circle-based font and print the thing.
What This Album Cover Says About You: You’re ready to get it on, and by golly are you happy about it.
The Dark Side of the Moon
Congratulations, you are a bona fide record collector now. Anyone with any amount of records, be it ten or 1,000, has this on his or her shelf. That’s not without good reason — this is a cool-looking cover of a universally praised album. Invoking science, space, geometry and free love with simply a prism refracting light is an impressive feat. Plus it’s mostly black, which means it’s absolutely perfect for T-shirts.
What This Album Cover Says About You: You’ve been to a record store at least one time.
PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION
Purple Rain (soundtrack)
Prince seems to magically travel with a cloud of fog at all times, in order to maximize the impact of any and all lighting effects. Here he rests for just a moment, having just come from doing something incredible, and on his way to do likewise. Luckily the photographer was able to capture this casual moment, in which Prince looks tougher and cooler than anyone in this much purple and surrounded by flowers has any right to be. What this album cover says about Prince is that he was undoubtedly the coolest cat who ever lived.
What This Album Cover Says About You: You have the good taste required to recognize the above.
SIMON AND GARFUNKEL
Bridge Over Troubled Water
This is a portrait of a man who is ready to move on from his group. While Art Garfunkel was off appearing in movies, Paul Simon stayed home and created a swan-song masterpiece to the beloved, slowly disintegrating folk duo. I don’t know how it was back then, but the look of grainy 1960s photos has always summoned bittersweet feelings of nostalgia. Here Simon places himself directly in front of his cohort, off to follow his heart into one of the greatest post-breakup solo careers I can think of. Somehow seems unlikely that Garfunkel would sign off on this cover that silences his voice. I guess maybe that’s the point: He didn’t.
What This Album Cover Says About You: You were complicit in the marginalization of Art Garfunkel’s career. Go you.
More Songs About Buildings and Food
You put on a record. Its jittery rhythms and Polaroid-collage cover combine to reflect your fractured psyche. You’re disillusioned with politics, religion and love songs. You want to rebel but find yourself stuck in the machine. You read the title: More Songs About Buildings and Food. That’s a cute title; you chuckle. It’s also accurate. This is a momentarily pleasing realization in the crushing drudgery of day-to-day life.
What This Album Cover Says About You: Things could be better, but what’s the point?
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Weezer (The Blue Album)
Remember that part in Richard Linklater’s Slacker when four dudes (a pre-fame Weezer) were hanging out at a coffee shop debating whether Super Mario 3 or Super Mario World was better? Well, that wasn’t in the movie, but it’s believable that it could be. Lined up mugshot-style against a plain blue background, these guys strike the exact 50-50 balance between cool and dork that the early-'90s slacker mentality was so iconic for.
What This Album Cover Says About You: I own a pair of plastic frame glasses and have strong opinions about the X-Men.
808s & Heartbreak
After a highly publicized breakup and the death of his beloved mother, Kanye West’s crumpled balloon heart was empty. This album is him trying to fill it with vintage drum machines and heavy Auto-Tune effects. Your attention is drawn to his bright red pain in the center of the frame, but the rest of the color palette is muted pastels; a detached and indifferent world unable to help in this time of need.
What This Album Cover Says About You: This pastel world can offer no solace to the depths of your emotional pain.