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The Top 10 Worst Album Covers Of 2009

A good album cover is a visual extension of what both album and artist are about. The best ones are instantly recognizable: four guys in suits crossing a street, the prism and the rainbow on black, the underwater baby chasing the dollar bill. Classic album covers become a part of us, forever ingrained our cultural DNA. The opposite -- the album covers so jumbled that they give us pause -- may not innately have the lasting power, but they shouldn't be passed by without acknowledgment. Thus, this list. Like any year, 2009 had its share of uncomely album covers (and we encourage you to post any we've missed in the comments below), but these are the 10 we think are the worst.






10 The Flaming Lips: Embryonic

The Flaming Lips' 12th album is a mammoth, hour-plus psychedelic freakout and a welcome return to relevance from a band that has spent most of the aughts turning out increasingly rote variations on the same cosmic love song. But riddle me this: What is going on in that picture? A poor girl drowning in a sea of hair? Stranger still is the album's special edition, which comes in a box fully encased in fur.




Watch Me Fall


9 Jay Reatard: Watch Me Fall

By now, most of us are accustomed to the sight of Jay "Reatard" Lindsey in various states of undress. He appeared barely clothed and drenched in fake blood on the cover of 2006's Blood Visions. He lay semi-nude in a tub full of 45s for Matador Singles '08. He's got his clothes back on for Watch Me Fall, but somehow this one's the creepiest. That pale skin, the spooky trees and smoke in the background, that crotchety, Slanketed glare. No wonder the band quit.




Sonic Boom


8 Kiss: Sonic Boom

Calling Kiss the worst of anything in 2009 is a little unfair. Simmons and company haven't produced much of value in most of our lifetimes, Kiss-themed coffins notwithstanding. The glory days of hard-rocking, blood-vomiting vampire kabuki shtick are over. This year they've come out of retirement for the umpteenth time to prey on the finances and dignity of baby boomers worldwide. And the cover of Sonic Boom, is plain terrible, even for them. It's worse than Love Gun. Worse than Rock and Roll Over.




Fork in the Road


7 Neil Young: Fork in the Road

Most of Neil Young's peers have fallen by the wayside, succumbing to drug overdoses, legal woes, and self-parody. But Young just keeps chugging along, releasing records just as steadily at 63 as he did when he was 23. Fork in the Road is a concept album about his electric Lincoln Continental. A documentary on the car and its technological innovations is in the works. Which sounds entirely watchable. But here's hoping whoever OK'd that half-assed, pixelated camera-phone cover is out on the bread line right now.




The Redemption


6 Brooke Hogan: The Redemption

Brooke Hogan's 2006 debut, Undiscovered, sold 100,000 copies off the strength of her family's reality show. This year's The Redemption has sold a tenth of that. Maybe it's her lack of musical talent. Maybe it's the stable of no-name hacks responsible for the production. Maybe it's that ghastly cover, which apparently takes its inspiration from those tawdry, bootlegged Tupac and Biggie memorial T-shirts. Who knew angels wore rhinestone braziers and no panties?




Survival Skills


5 KRS One & Buckshot: Survival Skills

OK, we get it: The album is called Survival Skills. Here's a picture of KRS and Buckshot scaling some misty, craggy mountain and almost falling off. It isn't the terrible perspective on the fake mountain range that ruins this cover. It isn't the layer upon layer of amateurish cloud effects that mar the picture. It's the faces. Kris, you're the only thing keeping your friend from falling to his death. Buck, you're falling off a mountain, man! Why does it look as if you guys are faintly smiling?



Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City


4 Ghostface Killah: Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City

When word hit that Wu-Tang veteran Ghostface Killah was making an R&B album, there was talk of the jig being up for him. When he announced that the title of the thing was Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City, our worst fears were that much closer to being realized. Then the album art dropped. It's hard to even unpack all the fail at work here. You've got scantily clad women tackily superimposed onto the field of roses, a green moat in front of the Emerald City, that weird floating eyeball above Ghostface's name. Where to begin?




Memento Mori


3 Flyleaf: Memento Mori

If any of you had designs on checking out Memento Mori, the new album from Christian nu-metal act Flyleaf, the band has made it much easier for you to put it back on the shelf. Just take a good gander before you do. That way you don't miss that crusty old man with the bad makeup job in the foreground or lead singer Lacey Mosley standing in the middle of My Chemical Romance's Black Parade. Are those little people? How'd they get black trumpets? So many questions.




Walking on a Dream


2 Empire of the Sun: Walking on a Dream

"Walking on a Dream" is pretty rad. The rest of the album? Not so much. The cover? This is Sgt. Pepper's meets Penn and Teller meets Return of the Jedi meets Liberace meets Ringling Bros. meets Blade Runner, and the pastiche sets a new standard for awful. There are elephants and tigers running on water! A tower on a volcano! Three comets! Two gaudily sequined jackets! This is the place where bad movie posters go to die.






1 Chris Brown: Graffiti

Chris Brown had a bad year. His domestic-violence incident and the resultant boycotting of his work ruined what could have been a promising singing career. But Brown subscribes to the R. Kelly school of thought: When the world is against you, just make hits. They'll come around. And so we have Graffiti, his comeback album, whose artwork is a perfect eyesore. How can so much awful fit into one picture? The '80s sci-fi vibe is bad enough. Add the superfluous guitar and sunglasses, and trouble is brewing. Toss in the shimmering planet in the background, and you've got a mess on your hands. The cornball spray can and album title combination are cheesy, too. It's all of that plus the random gang of cartoon baddies in the corner that makes Graffiti the worst album cover of 2009. Chris, fire your publicist, fire your staff, fire everyone.



We don't want to hoard all the fun for ourselves. Which cover do you think is ugliest this year?  Let us know what we've missed in the comments below.

- The Top 10 Feuds Of 2009 The 10 Most Disappointing Albums Of 2009
Best Albums of 2009

You missed the point on the Ghostface cover. It's one of the BEST of the year. Pfff.


What was the point?

/site_media/uploads/images/users/pill/mm_broccolijpg.JPG pill

That any cover could be worse than the Brooke Hogan one is a serious accomplishment.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

'Graffiti' really is atrocious. 'Space Jam' meets...R&B jam.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Andrew_Martin/me.jpg Andrew_Martin

I'm going to get the Brooke Hogan cover airbrushed onto the side of my van.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/brandon/216_browser_clut.gif brandon

Nice selections here.

Empire of the sun's artwork, is the reason I still have yet to listen to that band. I totally cant get past their covers.

And you could have made some room for MSTRKRFT - Fist of God

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Al/batmulletjpg.jpg Al

Fist of God was awesome! Why do people hate that cover? It brings me great joy and laughter to look at it.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/LongestWinter/moonjpg.jpg CraigJenkins

I agree with 'brad,' the ghostdini cover is the greatest cover of all time.. video hoes overtly photoshopped on a rose-field leading to Ghost's castle of poetic wizardry = epic.
Also, although I do kind of like the empire album, that cover is definitely my pick for worst of the year...


Ghostdini cover is awesome, the album not so much. I would've switched out Ghostdini for Mstrkrft, other than that, very solid. I hadn't seen that KRS-One cover. Wow.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/MFB/profilepicjpg.jpg MFB

Sell me more on the Ghost cover. I'm still not buying it.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/brandon/216_browser_clut.gif brandon

Fischerspooner - "Entertainment". I swear to God it looks like Adam Lambert in a lampshade....

/site_media/uploads/images/users/bri4579/16153_638137061264_21304830_37488002_4199010_n-1jpg.jpg bri4579

When the Casket Drops by Clipse wins it for me. Just horrible: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Clipse_-_Till_The_Casket_Drops.jpg

/site_media/uploads/images/users/nick/461770063_f6a8d92e3a_s.jpg nick

And, of course, I mean to say Til the Casket Drops.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/nick/461770063_f6a8d92e3a_s.jpg nick

Casket came out sometime after i finished the article. that would probably be number one if i'd seen it in time!

/site_media/uploads/images/users/LongestWinter/moonjpg.jpg CraigJenkins

damn. surprising. i would have voted the flaming lips and empire of the sun into the BEST album covers of the year.


Cool. But why?

/site_media/uploads/images/users/brandon/216_browser_clut.gif brandon

The Embryonic cover is epic. prefixmag needs to lose the 40 year olds writing this s--t.


I think covers like the Lips and Empire of the Sun are love it or hate it deals

/site_media/uploads/images/users/daba/me-bermudajpg.jpg Daba

Would this count as a pre-emptive "Too Soon"? =/

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Ethan/nirvana-corporate-rock-whoresjpg.jpg EStan

re: the Flaming Lips cover. Think of that scene where in "Knocked Up" where the baby was crowning and you'll get it.

also re: Reteard. Looks like he was already on his way out, hmmm?

unclaimed smegma

If you don't see the art appropriation in no.5 you're either stupid or American.


Thats weird, the second album cover of Jay Reatard, he so happend to die the day after this posting. That's TODAY!!! Hmmm...

joe fisher

the flaming lips album looks terrible. it is like a model from 17 magazine in a so called artsy cover shoot to be a suppressed sex symbol for 40 year old men.


You missed Tori Amos' Midwinter Graces album cover.


Were you aware that Jay Reatard died yesterday? You might want to at least say something in your article.


I think the lips cover is actually awesome. It is on par with the rest of their trippy stuff.

Empire of the Sun...come on, that has to be a joke right? I mean it really can't be that any band would do that as anything but tongue in cheek.


On Empire of the Sun "This is Sgt. Pepper's meets Penn and Teller meets Return of the Jedi meets Liberace meets Ringling Bros. meets Blade Runner"

- Yes, and that's why it's effing awesome!


great. you killed jay reatard.


Dude. Jay Reatard died today. Way to make fun of the poor, creepy bastard on his last day living.


Didn't pick up on the Sigfried and Roy reference on the Empire of the Sun cover then, no?


jay reteard died today. harsh


Actually, I think Kiss and Empire's cover are a little ahead of their time. Expect a resurgence of 80's kitsch in mainstream design.


Sorry, when I saw that Empire of the Sun cover, I thought of one word...


Norman Rogers

I consider the Flaming Lips cover a very good piece of very contemporary art.
The Neil Young cover is very fitting with his as-is, not-over-produced style of delivering a song and I think it works.
The rest are crap.


You have to take Jay Reatard off the list... he died today

Random person

in light of recent events, please take down jay from this list.


RE: Jay Reatard: I'm a huge fan. Sorta devastated. But this article was written two months ago, and lest we forget, he was generating a lot of bad press at the time. Should all that stuff be taken down too? He will be missed, but death does not make saints of us. It doesn't change the past.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/LongestWinter/moonjpg.jpg CraigJenkins

dude, leave jay reatard on there. the cover sucks the music rocks.

chris heavyshield

The person who made this article is a a dam retard, saying the rest of Empire of the suns album is all s**t, are you serious or just you only like the most commercial song on a album then dismiss the rest? Really grow a penis then some listening ears and go over the album again


Eh, the Flyleaf album doesn't look that great at first, but there's a lot of symbolism behind it that makes up for the somewhat off-putting first impression. Most people don't watch the interviews and stuff with the band, though, so they don't know what it means. But I do admit, the first time I saw it, I didn't care for it very much.

I agree with the rest of the list, for sure.


It would be in good taste to at least amend the article to mention his death since the article was published on 01/12/10.


the neil young cover looks like a web cam pic. its very crappy, lol.


idiots. the jay reatard cover rocks. it's a parody of an actual still photo from the Stanley Kubrick movie the Shining. Jay watched the movie a lot. Are you happy now? His face is beautiful.


It doesn't matter that jay's gone now, it only makes the album cover more strange and creepy. As far as eye-pleasing goes, it just doesn't work that well. Same goes for clipse. And I think that ghostdini, empire, and embryonic all work pretty well. Was anyone else a little put off by the bat for lashes cover? It was sort of okay, but her first album cover was so awesome.


MSTRKRFT is by far the worse cover of '09, maybe of all time.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Banger/images-6jpg.jpg B/|nGerKat

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