art is shrinking, from the LPs we once fondled to the tiny digital covers we
now squint to comprehend. But they'll never be too small to bring out the worst
in musicians and their art directors, as cover art always has. Nothing in 2012
could quite compare with the horror that was Lady Gaga's Born This Way album artwork in '11. But a lot of artists made their
best/worst attempts to uglify their covers, from Ke$ha to Carrie Underwood to
the Killers. Here are a dozen of the year's weirdest or most wretched album
sleeves. -- Chris Willman
12. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, This Christmas - As if they deliberately intended to destroy any fond memory we had of Grease, Danny and Sandy made their long-awaited reunion on a wan album of overproduced holiday chestnuts, heralded by a cover designed to make grown men believe not in Santa but the bogeyman. Olivia looks fine, really, but after we've seen what most people would suspect is Travolta's real hairline in Savages, why he thinks he looks cool as a Christmas Chia Pet defies imagination. More hot chocolate, kids?
11. Ke$ha, Warrior - No one will accuse Ke$ha of blowing her budget on album art, as we're pretty sure the version of Photoshop that was used to put this garish montage together isn't even compatible with Windows 8. Extra points for an artist logo that even the producers of Rock Of Ages might have rejected as too garish to be believable for a hair-metal band.
10. Carrie Underwood, Blown Away - Carrie's Leg refused to be upstaged by Angelina's Leg in 2012. The singular gam peeked out at a series of awards-show performances but made its most prominent uni-thigh appearance on the cover of Blown Away, which featured much of the rest of Underwood in a melodramatic, airbrushed setting that suggested an imminent rescue from the storm by Fabio.
9. Ministry, Relapse - It's hard to go completely wrong with vomit on an album cover, yet Ministry had to go ahead and gild the lily with a corpulent corpse on the cover of their latest. But with the spilled pill bottles and empty bottles that surround the deceased addict in this cover art, we're sure Ministry meant to send the kids a powerful message… which would be, "don't buy this album."
8. The Killers, Battle Born - A horse and a really cool vintage muscle car play chicken in the Southwestern desert! Who will win? Metaphorically, we're not sure. But literally, we're pretty certain the horse will lose. As did anyone who placed their commercial bets on the Killers in 2012.
7. David Byrne and St. Vincent, Love This Giant - There is an argument for taking the boomerang-shaped jawbreaker out of your mouth before the photographer says cheese. Or, she could have at least offered one to Byrne to make the photo symmetrical… although the giant cleft in the Talking Head's chin does almost provide a sense of freakish balance.
6. Blake Shelton, Cheers, It's Christmas - Blake, you're a funny, handsome, talented man, and everyone loves you. But were you born in a barn, man? Don't just sit there posing when there's snow coming through the door and piling up on the living room floor! Stop preening like a J. Crew model and get a dadblasted shovel before the tree shorts out, dude.
5. Swans, The Seer - You felt bad when they had to shoot Old Yeller, but if they hadn't, this would have been the result. If, you know, Old Yeller had been a Yorkie. If only space and family values allowed us to show you the back cover, which is a closeup of the dog's hind quarters. At least lead singer Michael Gira's teeth weren't grafted onto that particular illo.
4. Lupe Fiasco, Food and Liquor 2 - All-black is the new black! Or is it? Listen, Lupe, we're going to pretend that both Spinal Tap and Prince did not have this idea before you, so… No, we're not, actually. We are not going to pretend that.
3. Blood On The Dance Floor, Evolution - One small step for EDM, one small step backward for EDM, at least imagery-wise. Listen, Blood On The Dance Floor, there's a reason that Dead Or Alive's Pete Burns had all that plastic surgery, and it's so he wouldn't look remotely like this anymore.
2. Game, Jesus Piece (Deluxe Edition) - Combine Christ with cannabis and gang symbols, and what could possibly go wrong? Predictably, Fox News and other conservative outlets took the bait, but Game partly relented anyway, putting the original cover art only on the deluxe version, where you got more alleged blasphemy for the money.
1. Two Door Cinema Club, Beacon - This looks like an attempt to pull off the kind of photorealistic but surreal imagery the Hipgnosis designers specialized in with Pink Floyd covers. Or maybe in Ireland they just use artificial bums as ceiling fans.