For many performing artists, the passion in the music they craft to be heard by the ear is massively eclipsed by the impact they wish it to have upon imagination of the mind. Transporting the listener via sonic escapism, losing oneself in the music, story and themes is all a part of a comprehensive artistic vision. The more unique the vision, the more indelible the experience. These experiences help attract and unite fans under a common theme. And nothing proves a greater gateway and guide to these experiences than the album cover.
I recall in high school being exposed to the GZA's Liquid Swords project simply by catching a glimpse of the cover. The Denys Cowan's DC Comics-inspired artwork depicted a violent chess board suspended in space, with the chess pieces represented as urban-garbed, modern-day martial arts warriors viciously attacking each other. It was visceral, fantastic, and like nothing I had seen before. Upon listening, I was instantly transported to an audio landscape that matched the sentiment of the cover art perfectly: a further introduction to the Wu-Tang ethos and mythology. I was hooked.
But sometimes, the purpose of an album cover is to also incite controversy as much as it is to hook new fans. Kanye West's artwork for his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album was commissioned by contemporary American artist George Condo to elicit highbrow art attention, and to ruffle some feathers. The artwork originally depicted an interpretation of a nude Kanye, beer in hand, straddled on a red couch by a topless, armless winged angel. While this cover was banned in the United States, and more 'commercially acceptable' variant covers were released, the message was still clear: the music you are about to experience is brash, unapologetic, artistic and challenging to everything that has been accepted as the norm. And again, many fans became hooked and entranced by the entire experience.
So whether the art that wraps and presents these artistic works of sound to the world are statements of theories, statements of escapism, or merely bold statements, the marriage of arresting visuals and groundbreaking music will forever impact listeners with unforgettable experiences they will pass along and share for generations to come.
And that, dear reader, is art.