January 16, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 59  

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Viva superficiality: CDs judged by their covers

It’s about time, isn’t it?

Last year, your heroic A&E editors dismissed objective criticism, chucked out detailed descriptions of music and all comparisons to other artists were flushed down the critical toilet.

Instead, the latest discs that appeared on their desks were rated based on first impressions — that all-important CD cover that visually speaks from under its jewel-case window.

Well, it’s a sunny day again, and “judging a CD by its cover” is back for another round of intense scrutiny. A&E editors Lori Mastronardi, Megan O’Toole and Brian Wong have prepped their CD-reviewing skills to complete this important task.

Musicians may claim that image is nothing and that they should be judged by only their music, but a disc’s packaging is also a piece of work that can often say a lot — or nothing at all.

And now, the scientific assessment begins...

Lori: We have five supposed experts dedicated to improving seemingly important things in life like fashion and culture, and this is the best they could come up with? Sure, the Fab Five look rather sharp, but also pretty boring in that cookie cutter, simple black style. Where’s the colour? The vibrant splash of creativity? That lone, cheap red plastic-looking briefcase just isn’t doing it for me.

Megan: OK, hold up... the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy guys have a CD out? Since when? And what could possibly be on it? Well, I’m sure that’s not important, as the album is obviously being marketed purely on it’s campy novelty value. At least the guys are cute — too bad they’re not my “type.”

Brian: This artwork is simple and clean, drawing attention to the Fab Five in their fabulous suits. Yet with the mass of black attire, I can see how some might misconstrue this image as being the dark, five-headed, ten-legged, big gay monster coming to destroy the purity of the world.

Lori: Get born? Why? So you can look as depressed as these guys? And why are such seemingly artistic boys wearing such restrictive, polished, shiny shoes? Despite their clear lack of comfort, the cover’s contrast of photo images and simple, free-flowing design does manage to spark some curiosity.

Megan: Woah, this looks like a bad throwback to the ’70s — you know, the days of sex, love, rock ’n’ roll and lots & lots of hallucinogenic substances. Put that together with the fact that these guys look like a dirty version of The Beatles, and you at least know one thing about the CD: it’s sure to lack originality, much like the cover.

Brian: This is fantastic (and somewhat similar to the Queer Eye CD cover). I am loving the mix of photography and hand-drawn line illustration — why don’t more people do this? It’s a lot cooler than some airbrushed studio headshot. The only thing I dislike is the “Get Born” sign that looks like some cheap head-dress. Still, I’d be interested in hearing the record.

Lori: The mix of metal, pasty skin and moist red lips just doesn’t appeal to me. I’m also not all about the fragmented body pieces, especially when including an unappealing pair of lips. Was this really the best set they could find? Lips are supposed to be regarded as sexual, not cold and creepy.

Megan: Hey, why couldn’t they put Anthony Kiedis on the cover? I wonder how the decision process went for this one: “Hey fellow Chili Willies, instead of putting a hot rocker guy with obvious market appeal on our album cover, lets put a pair of red-lipsticked lips on a scary-looking scale thing.”

Brian: My general dislike for this band aside, I enjoy the “Huh? What the — ?” reaction this cover garners. Like their “Can’t Not” video, the Chilis’ use of disparate images make them seem intent on associating themselves with object art. I’m not sure it means anything, but who cares? It’s still intriguing enough to warrant more than a glance. I’d rather look at this than listen to their music.

Lori: Sarah looks rather serene. Maybe it’s because she’s touching herself? Where is that other hand travelling to, anyway? Why is she closing her eyes? She was on a five-year hiatus, did that not provide her with ample opportunity to rest? However, Sarah does look pretty damn satisfied... maybe more girls should take note to attain that enviable glow — ahem, I mean, Afterglow.

Megan: Poor Sarah McLachlan. Even when she’s airbrushed, glossed over and turned into a black-and-white imitation of her former self, she still has a weird alien quality reminiscent of MJ or Céline. Judging from this cover (and her past history of soft-rock crap), I’ll guess this album sucks.

Brian: Stare at her nostrils for a long time. Eventually, she starts morphing into a pig — a pretty, ethereal pig. It then begins to make sense with the apocalypse/wasteland/sty-chic sweater. I also like how her head is tilted back in ecstasy as she touches herself — how soft-core, soft-rock.



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