Nobody buys albums based on the cover alone. At least nobody we've ever met. But like all forms of mostly pointless commercial art, album covers are subject to ridiculous fads. Selling music and creating musical trends require talent, something that the people who get paid to make decisions have very little of. What they do have is the ability to convince themselves that their choice of cover photo is what made Thriller a hit. And so, with an industry full of people getting paid loads of money to make decisions that don't matter, people are going to play it safe. Which is where you get trends like ...
#10. The Jack Daniel's Label
For some reason, Jack Daniel's whiskey has broken ground that few other brands have: Its logo has become a popular base for album cover designs. You don't see many covers based on the Taco Bell logo, and yet Jack Daniel's is used constantly as a signifier for warmed-over country and Southern rock bands who have run out of road signs to take pictures of:
You see a lot of bands using it because the actual logo contains a bunch of information about the whiskey itself, like what type it is and where it's made. Using the modified logo for a cover means that you can tell consumers a lot about the album that would come off as weird and boring if you put it in a sensible bullet list. You'll notice that a lot of bands keep the phrase "old time," which is impossible to take negatively, and then replace the whiskey description with the genre and country of origin. This is particularly important when bands have to point out that they are not country or Southern rock:
This logo style also means that JD labeling works well for greatest hits albums, because you can put a bunch of necessary information on it and play off that it's "vintage" and "aged," just like whiskey:
At least one band has tried to jazz up the JD cover by putting a lingerie-clad woman over half of it. But then they apparently decided that covering up that much of the label might cause confusion, so to make up for it, they had the lady holding a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey herself:
And they didn't even put an infinite telescoping world of recurrent little ladies on the bottle's label. For shame, Court Jester.
#9. My Left Hand Is Stuck to the Side or Top of My Head
This is not to be confused with covers in which the artist's right hand is stuck to the back of his or her head:
#8. Legs Crossed in the (Same Goddamn) Wicker Chair
One day, when scientists grow tired of studying boring stuff like cancer and black holes, they're going to put their efforts toward something worthwhile. Like figuring out what exactly made the image of a musician lounging in a wicker chair such a popular one for '70s album covers.
Not just any wicker chair. It had to have a comically large back:
That had to be round ...
And God have mercy on your soul if you weren't crossing your legs, no matter how completely unsmooth you looked doing it:
This man has never crossed his legs before.
However, you had to be really chill before the gods of the '70s rewarded you with a potted plant to put next to your chair:
Fuck it, if you're Al Green, you get two.
You might have thought that all these wicker chairs were broken down and burned for fuel during the energy crisis, but enough survived to be used on at least one recent album cover. Fortunately, taking a cue from modern moviemaking, this artist has jazzed it up with a wacky camera angle:
#7. Female Singers With Shiny Face Accessories
Since 2008 or so, Lady Gaga has been appearing on album covers with shiny shit on or around her face. Sometimes the goal seems to be to make her look like she's from the future:
Other times, to make her look like she's wearing a shiny historical artifact on her head like a fancy hat:
Lady Gaga mistakes a novelty aluminum hula skirt and a feathered Victorian codpiece for hats.
But one thing was clear to record executives: Humanity had abandoned all previous criteria for determining musical quality, and from this point forward would be making music-buying decisions based on the amount of shiny shit surrounding the artist's face on their album covers.
Jennifer Lopez went the futuristic route, and also way the hell overboard, on the cover of her album LOVE? In addition to wearing black versions of L. Gaga's face crystals on her boobs, J. Lo fell into the gap between "fashion forward" and "wildly impractical pain in the ass that will never catch on" by predicting a future where women wear all of their jewelry at the same time, and flash photography is lit by blinding nuclear detonations.
"Detroit died for a good cause."
Christina Aguilera and Janelle Monae evoked a different sort of futuristic, shiny-faced apocalypse, appearing as cyborgs on their covers:
Meanwhile, in the field of shiny face antiques, Selena Gomez showed up with what appears to be a necklace draped over her head:
In the past, everything was hats.
And in fact there has been an entire trend of face necklaces, which seems to be some manner of political statement about women and oppression and face jewelry.
"The chinstraps symbolize the wage gap."
Janelle Monae, who has already appeared in this section as the robot who isn't Christina Aguilera, decided to unite both trends with one ridiculous hat that evoked an ancient Egyptian goddess while also suggesting a futuristic colony of head lice:
It's especially embarrassing since all available evidence seems to suggest that Lady Gaga is fucking with us all:
We can't tell if she's trying really hard or totally half-assing it.