New wave album covers were not just pieces of art that adorned vinyls or CDs. They were calling cards, gateways, and communication tools that did more than just protect the music within. These covers were vital to the music genre’s identity, speaking to the zeitgeist and pushing the aesthetic boundaries beyond the mainstream.
From Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual” to Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures,” new wave album art left an indelible mark on the era. The covers were bright, bold, and often surreal, speaking to the genre’s penchant for pushing the boundaries of the accepted norm.
One of the most eye-catching new wave album covers is Devo’s “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!” The artwork proudly displays the band’s iconic energy domes on top of mechanical heads, a perfect representation of the band’s quirky, robotic persona. The image is a bold statement of the band’s identity and ethos.
Another classic new wave album cover, New Order’s “Power, Corruption & Lies,” was designed by band member Peter Saville. The cover features an abstract painting by Henri Fantin-Latour, which corresponds to the color code of the band’s name and the album title. The design was revolutionary, with no information on the cover, only a cryptic code that required decoding to reveal the album and band name.
New wave album covers often intertwined with various multimedia platforms, including MTV, music videos, and merchandise. The Duran Duran album cover for “Rio” featured their iconic logo against a backdrop of a yacht, embodying their luxurious and glamorous persona. The cover was magnified in music videos, posters, and magazines, establishing the band as icons of ’80s decadence.
New wave album covers often utilized geometric shapes, neon colors, and unique fonts to stand out from other album covers during the era. The album cover of “New Wave” by various artists is a standout example, using blocks of colors and fonts that mirror the style and tone of the songs collected on the album.
Album covers played a critical role in the visual identity of new wave music. From the exaggerated hairdos and makeup to the bold, confident color palettes and shapes, these covers embodied the youthful energy and attitude of the genre. They were visual entrances into the soundscapes, and often helped create the overall futuristic and optimistic atmosphere of new wave music.
New wave album covers broke ground in the music industry, offering a visual identity that fused music, art and fashion in a powerful way. They were often pieces of art, with sophistication and uniqueness that added new dimensions to the album’s overall experience. From the bold and colorful to the enigmatic and surreal, these covers continue to resonate with fans decades after their creation.
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