When art and commerce converge, as they do in the music biz, there are sometimes disagreements about what makes for acceptable expression. Whether these controversies play in the court of law, as happened in 1993 with 2 Live Crew’s “explicit” rap lyrics, or simply in the court of public opinion, it’s fun to watch from the wings. And to listen! Here’s our list of the ten most Controversial Album Covers of All Time.
10. Vampire Weekend – Contra
Using someone’s face on an album cover without her permission isn’t always the best move. Result: $2 million lawsuit.
9. Ice-T – Gangsta Rap
Released in 2006 this cover depicts Ice-T and his wife, Coco, naked on a bed. “It’s part John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It was art when they did it,” Ice-T recalled.
8. David Bowie – Diamond Dogs
On the unedited version of this album cover, painted by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert, you see more than just Bowie as half-man, half-dog. We’re talking about the full Monte.
7. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
On his 2010 opus Yeezy actually tried to create a cover that would be banned. The original shows a demonic Kanye lying, bottle of booze in hand, on a bed with a naked, female “phoenix.” Kanye succeeded with his goal.
6. Nirvana – Nevermind
Indeed, one of the best-selling albums of all time inspired controversy with it’s cover. In case you were born on Pluto it shows a full-frontal pic of an infant boy floating in a swimming pool. Nirvana re-released the album with a sticker over the child’s penis that read, “If you’re offended by this you must be a closet pedophile.” Genius move.
5. The Strokes – Is This It
Apparently some people found this cover too sexually explicit. Prudish, no?
4. Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking
It’s a simple concept really. The album title mentions “thumbing a ride” so why not ask a naked lady in red heels and backpack to put her thumb in the air? Even in the roaring 80’s it was risqué.
3. Korn – KoRn
Just study the image for a bit and you’ll understand.
2. Death Grips – No Love Deep Web
You may not want to Google this cover. It shows the erect penis of a band, ahem, member with the album’s title written on it with black marker. The stunt got them dropped from their label.
1. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
No it’s not Mick Jagger’s crotch on this cover created by Andy Warhol. In fact, it’s one of Warhol’s so-called “superstars,” actor Joe Dallesandro. With its sterling songs this album is, without a doubt, our number one Controversial Album Cover of All Time.