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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The best and worst album covers of 2022

When reflecting upon 2022, we ought to judge an album by its cover.
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Lexie Perez
Graphic depicting the 10 mentioned album covers. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)

Music can hold special importance to a lot of college students, and album covers often serve as students’ decorations on dorm walls and backgrounds on phone screens. 

I’ve compiled all the best and worst albums of 2022 so you can stay up-to-date in crafting your perfect aesthetic.

Best covers

“SOS” by SZA 

Like the album itself, the cover reflects the isolation of life and love. A reference to Princess Diana’s famous paparazzi picture, the cover captures the loneliness and turmoil of the original image but features SZA looking onward into the light. The cover uses color well and takes a risk by making SZA the smallest part of the picture but still captures the tone of the album.

“Renaissance” by Beyoncé

While I did feel morally obligated to include Beyoncé in this list, “Renaissance” is definitely one of her best album covers. The shimmering horse she is riding on hints at the unique aesthetic of the album perfectly. It’s fun, pays homage to the late ‘70s and demands your attention — just like her latest hit album.

“Dawn FM” by The Weeknd 

This cover made me do a double take, and that’s precisely why it’s so notable. Besides how The Weeknd is almost unrecognizable, his beautifully colored cold, blue face with the slightest hint of orange dawn behind him suggests a worried perception of the future. However, the sleek, pop hits in the album force you to recontextualize the cover’s image of a dejected future into a more hopeful look of a future with dawn on the horizon. The way the cover gains meaning when paired with the contents of the album gives it a top spot.

“It’s Only Me” by Lil Baby

 Although I typically don’t listen to many male rap artists, Lil Baby’s newest release caught my eye. He showed an insightful sense of humor and originality in his latest work while still keeping the egocentric aesthetics of mainstream rap covers. On the cover, there are four Lil Babys memorialized on a mountainside which distracts from the “real” Lil Baby who is faced inward and small. This visual cleverly suggests the artist’s awareness and shirking of his celebrity status. Lil Baby’s quirk and self-awareness put his cover above the pack.

“Gemini Rights” by Steve Lacy 

I initially rated the cover for “Gemini Rights” poorly, but after listening to the album, I drastically changed my mind. The overlaid portraits of Lacy on the cover are a bit clunky, but it manages to overcome its flaws with a cool, alternative style that fits right in with the style of a Gen Z artist. The two Lacys play with the duality of Geminis referred to in the album’s title and suggest the emotional rollercoaster that the album entails.

Worst titles

“Traumazine” by Megan Thee Stallion

This cover is undoubtedly Megan’s worst. She sheds the Tina Snow and Hot Girl image for a more “honest” portrait of her emotional and personal struggles. However, the cover’s three Megans imposed onto one another with different expressions gives the energy of an angsty teenager. On top of its painfully obvious and simplistic visual metaphor, Megan is not the best actress and ends up holding back the point of the image by conveying a more superficial portrait of distress and resolve than intended.

“Love Sux” by Avril Lavigne 

Sometimes people age and trends die, and that’s okay. This is the case with Avril Lavigne’s latest album. The cover is emblematic of her desperate adoption of pop-punk aesthetics and utterly empty music characteristic of Machine Gun Kelly and Yungblud. What makes the cover bizarre is to see Lavigne parrot the bastardized styles she helped pioneer. 

“Love, Damini” by Burna Boy 

It’s not that bad, but I am bored. Burna Boy has served better looks in his music videos. His pouty expression amid a ruined party works but not enough to make the cover all that captivating. The “African Giant” feels small on this cover, reflecting a more emotional album but lacking the spectacle of his previous covers.

“Her Loss” by Drake and 21 Savage

In all honesty, I hate the title more than I hate the cover. But, the work reflects a larger issue of the male gaze among the crop of lover-boy musicians and the pace of mainstream music. The picture is not particularly horrible nor is it objectifying, but it says nothing about the album or her. Instead, it is simply a conventionally attractive woman used to hold the viewers’ attention long enough to sell a product. It’s lazy and feeds into the misogyny and aloofness its title suggests.

“Honestly, Nevermind” by Drake 

On the topic of Drake’s covers coming across as thoughtless, his first album cover of 2022 is lazy, and its message is hard to grasp. The glimmering, iridescent color choice and bold font seem to directly contradict the album’s title. I prefer his “Certified Lover Boy” cover which was at least so stupid that it warranted you to stop for a moment. 

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About the Contributors
Muthoni Kamau, Staff Writer
Muthoni Kamau ('24) is from Dallas, and is majoring in history and minoring in political science and sociology in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, Muthoni enjoys walking around Nashville, finding new albums and reading. They can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez, Graphics Director
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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