There an old saying that goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is true. More can be said using one photo than could be captured in, well, a thousand words. Pictures, art inclusive, are incredibly detailed storytellers They can convey loss, happiness, redemption, joy, and a host of other emotions. This is a lot of thought should go into album covers.
Album covers, or album art, are the pieces that adorn the face of an album. Previously, during the vinyl era, the albums came in vinyl discs and the cardboard covering the vinyl would have the album art printed on the front side, while the tracklist was usually displayed on the back. While this practice has by-and-large continued in the modern day, the rise and popularity of streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music means that fewer people are buying physical CDs or vinyl (unless you’re a vinyl collector). What this means is that people rarely notice the album art of the music they listen to, besides to confirm that it’s part of the same album
But besides letting you know that the songs are part of the same project, most album covers do, or at least should, accomplish another purpose. They tell the story of the album in a visual form. Looking at the album cover should give your listener an idea of what music it represents. Eminem has been very good at representing his music with the album art; from The Marshall Mathers LP showing him in front of his childhood home (showcasing the influence of his upbringing on the album), to The Marshall Mathers LP2 showing the same house but more deserted and without him perhaps symbolizing an older Eminem finally being able to detach himself from his old musical motivations.
In the same vein, some artists make an extra effort to tell a story through their album art. Jon Bellion two studio albums so far (The Human Condition and Glory Sound Prep) have had art created for individual tracks. Not only are they visually spectacular, but they also try to describe what goes on in every song, how he feels and how we should be feeling when we hear the song.
I know that all I said won’t immediately turn you into a student of album art, but I hope it has at least convinced you to take a longer look at the art before you put your phone back in your pocket and enjoy your playlist.