Putting a child on your album cover is a no-lose proposition for rock bands. "We are sensitive souls who feel the universal pain that runs through all things," it screams! "Doesn't this child contrast with our rough-edged image in a way that's ironic?" it asks? "We try not to think about how much closer in age our groupies are to this child than to us," it adds, while staring off at nothing in particular.
Led Zeppelin put an additional mist of creepiness on their already creepy Stonehenge vibe by setting a horde of albino children loose on a formation of stone toilets:
Unlike Stonehenge, our descendants won't give one-third of a rat's ass about what this meant.
U2 got things started with a cute 6-year-old boy on the cover of their first album. To stress the point, they named the album Boy:
Bono wanted to call it Boy Face Hands to cover all the bases, but this was back when the rest of the band had veto power.
The trend both peaked and got a new ironic twist with Nirvana's Nevermind, which juxtaposed a baby with a clear symbol of the destructive adult world:
It was a brilliant album cover because of how unabashedly symbolic it was, and because fishing for babies in swimming pools is one of those things we've all done before, but are usually too ashamed to admit. OK, so it was regarded as a brilliant album cover mostly because of the greatness of the music inside. In all likelihood, it probably didn't matter what political cartoon the band decided to photograph for their cover, a fact that was immediately and completely lost on the designers of every alternative rock album cover from that day forward. Suddenly, innocent children in ironically adult circumstances were showing up on albums accompanied by guns and gas masks:
Cracked.com only supports giving children firearms in dire emergencies or when it would be super funny.
Because how else are you going to capture the essence of the band that sings that "Laid" song from American Pie besides giving a baby a gun?
Those covers are subtle when compared to the "ironic children" album covers of Korn, whose debut album showed a young girl on a swing and a threatening adult shadow, sending America a powerful message about the underreported problem of child abduction by crab-people:
The look worked out well for them, judging from their subsequent albums, which gradually built up the idea of "innocent children surrounded by threatening-looking things":
From one-trick pony to multiple-restraining-order pony.
Their peak was probably "animal-masked adult figures ripping the head off a sad boy's teddy bear":
It was all enough to make you miss the days when rock bands like U2 knew that the only badass thing you needed to contrast with the kid was your name, and the badass baby making music inside. Of course, by the time they released their first greatest hits album in 1998, U2 was no longer the most subtle band in the world:
You can almost hear Bono yelling "The children are too young to be soldiers!" in the background.
The image of Jesus Christ being crucified has stirred the souls of millions and inspired some of the most revered artists of all time to create masterpieces. It's also become shorthand among musicians as a way to signify that they are described as controversial somewhere on their Wikipedia page. If there's been even indirect criticism of your lyrics, according to the recording industry, you have earned the right to photographically nail yourself to a cross. This allows you to simultaneously frustrate your uptight critics while proving correct any whose main complaint is that you're a self-important jerkoff.
Not that you have to be an iconoclast like Ozzy or Marilyn Manson. Being in vaguely the same genre of rock music as them is good enough.
Perhaps "good" isn't the proper word to use there.
Or maybe you're just worried that naming your band Death SS isn't shocking enough on its own, and your lead singer already has a beard, soooo ...
Or you're a Spanish heavy metal band whose concept album about Jesus returning to the Spanish neighborhood Chamberi needs a cover, and you lack any sense of subtlety:
Or a complete grasp of Photoshop.
Perhaps the only artist who earned his persecution claim was Tupac, who had the common decency to release his nailed-to-a-cross album cover well after he was murdered and before he became the most widely rumored resurrectee since Elvis himself. Of course, all gravitas lent by the circumstances surrounding the album were somewhat undermined by the placement of the Parental Advisory warning over his crotch area, as if to suggest that his balls were hanging below the sash he was crucified in:
And while a disclaimer on Tupac's cover clearly states that it is not meant to be an expression of disrespect for Jesus Christ, we can't help but wonder if Jesus held the in-poorer-taste copycat album covers against him:
This might piss him off more than the whole crucifixion.