9 Great Album Covers, Chosen by Singer and Songwriter ZADA

The War On Drugs, Billie Holiday, J. Cole and more

I'm always excited to have the opportunity to share some of my favorite artists—whether that be in music, painting, cover art or fashion! Whatever the medium, there's a constant flow of inspiration and admiration from other creatives alike that propels me in my music career. Sometimes, my favorite exercise to get my pencil moving is to watch a film or to look at my favorite painters. For instance, Frida Kahlo's "My Dress Hangs There, 1933"—I studied the piece while writing my song Nomad. I now get to present my top nine picks for album art, in no particular order!

Novo Amor
Cannot Be, Whatsoever (2020)

There are so many exciting elements and worlds within this cover. I could spend an hour falling into this image. You know it's a fantastic cover when you can take a deep dive while listening to the record, and it all makes sense—in fact, it heightens the experience. It's the perfect blend of space and illustration, a poem, and the best part… I find something new about it every time I listen to this record.

Femme It Forward
Who Knew (2021)

I came across this album cover in 2021, and I think I was stunned—my eyes first went to the jubilant expression of the little girl with the fro, then to the raised black Barbie. As I looked closer, I saw a collection of frames showcasing our time's fiercely creative and beautiful artists. I've never seen so much symmetry—from the songs, the colors, the visuals, and, of course, the cover art. In witnessing this masterpiece, my mind flashed back to when I was a little girl with my own fro looking for black representation and a community of sisters that would share a similar yearning. I'm crazy about it now, but I definitely would have fainted from the cover alone as a little one!

Rodriguez "Sixth Prince"
Coming From Reality (1971)

Aw, the one and only "Sugar Man!" Rest in peace, we lost a great one in August. While it took so long for his story to be noticed, he will be remembered by a loving community. There are a few versions of this cover, but my favorite is from 1971, widely played by South Africa. The combination of the artist's pose and attitude, the setting, and the lone child shoe. I love it and I'm still learning about what it all means, but I'm completely captivated.

Backstreets (2019)

Oh my, I don't even know where to start with this cover. Even though it's in B&W, I'm utterly invested in the story being told and the laid-back quality represented. From the cowboy boots, the dress and the guitar…. yet you add the truck and the fact that she's sitting on the hood, and voilà, devastatingly cool! As a viewer, I felt like digging up my boots and riding gear and disappearing into the woods for a writing session.

The War On Drugs
A Deeper Understanding (2017)

With a lot of musicians—if you catch them unaware, devoted to their craft, in the depths of their own making—they turn around with a combination of expressions conveying "how much did you hear?" "I'm kinda in the middle of something.” Or "did you wanna take a listen?" And I love how I feel as if I've walked into the War On Drugs' room. I'm specifically drawn to what is spotlighted throughout this album cover: the glint from the guitar's body, the piano and the vividness of a dream. What gets me every time is Adam Granduciel's Mona Lisa-esque expression.

Billie Holiday
All Or Nothing At All (1958)

As for music, Billie Holiday's voice was my first love. As a 10-year-old, I swooned, and this album cover was everything to my little heart. Hearing April In Paris and gazing at this masterpiece was a merry-go-round I never wanted off of. I see this cover, and I'm taken back to my record player, sitting cross-legged on the floor, listening to my grandparents tell me stories from their childhood with Holiday as their soundtrack.

J. Cole
2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

Thank goodness for 2014, the year I stumbled across J. Cole. I haven't looked back since! I grew up listening to this album, staring at the cover, the shoes, the youthfulness yet pensiveness, the way you almost see clear skies, and the viewer's POV. I remember wanting to sit on my roof with my legs hanging and watch summer crest over the hills.

Remi Wolf
Juno (2021)

There's nothing more fun and satisfying than a Remi Wolf record, and Juno is my favorite cover of hers. As a viewer, I understand her character and the sound of her record by looking at the album art. There's so much presence and personality layered in this image that I can't help but want to know more about Wolf. The shot pulls you in through a kaleidoscope of imagery—but of course, we can't forget the dog and its many expressions.

Atlantic Times (2023)

This cover was created in collaboration with Bonnie Nichoalds and Cade Nelson. I loved getting to work with everyone on set for this photoshoot, and had so much fun creating it. I remember sharing the photos with Cade, and he passed around a few roughly sketched ideas referencing Bonnie's photo. We discussed whether to illustrate, and finally landed on layering the photo with my love of water. I had told Cade that I wanted something summery and fun, and I'm very proud of what we did!

Art of the Album is a regular feature looking at the craft of album-cover design. If you'd like to write for the series, or learn more about our Clio Music program, please get in touch.

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ZADA is an Ethiopia-born, Whistler, British Columbia-based artist that creates music inspired by connection. Drawing from experiences personal and universal, she sows from a world of different perspectives to put emotion to paper and shares a signature vocal style resonant with feeling.

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