Our Top 10 Prince Album Covers list will look at the legendary singer’s album covers. Prince was one of the most talented singer/musicians of all time. There aren’t too many artists like him. He may have been imitated, but never duplicated. His music was innovative just like his album covers. Prince’s music told a story just like his album covers. He didn’t go for the ordinary album cover. His album covers made you think. The artwork on the albums was out of the box. He didn’t just pose for a picture. He created a cover that had people talking about it. Each album cover is different from the next. If you look through his collection of albums, you will see that none of them were like each other.
Prince’s music evolved throughout the years so it made sense that he chose to express that change through his album covers. Some of the album covers showcase his love of music by having instruments on the cover. He also has controversial album covers expressing his problems with his record label as well as what was going on in the world. Looking at Prince’s album covers is like looking at artwork. You will be amazed at the colors displayed on the album covers. The album covers are as creative as his music.
Prince has a large category of music, so we had to look through a lot of albums in order to choose the best ones for our Top 10 Prince Album Covers list. When his musical style changed, the album covers changed to accommodate the change. We picked the best album covers that showcased his best work throughout the years. Each album cover represents what he was going through at the time of the album. We will look at different eras of his career. Our Top 10 Prince Album Covers list will be a variety of albums throughout Prince’s career.
# 10 – For You
The first album on our Top 10 Prince Album Covers list is For You. This is Prince’s debut album. We felt that this was the best way to start this list. This is a creative cover that focuses on the look on Prince’s face instead of his fashion. He has a look on his face as if his eyes are piercing through your soul. He is also looking sideways at the listeners. There is a halo through his right eye. He looks as if he is standing in a dark room with a little bit of light behind him.
Prince looks stoic on the album. He felt that this project didn’t showcase his true talent. His disdain for the album shows on his face on the album cover. If you pay attention to his face, he looks serious in the picture. Prince decided how he wanted the album cover to look. He told photographer Joe Giannetti to shoot his head while he was in a dark room. Prince may not have approved, but the album cover came out beautifully. It is understated which was all it needed. For You was released in April 1978. The album peaked at number 21 on the r&b charts and 138 on Billboard 200. The album features the singles “Soft and Wet” and “Just as Long as We’re Together.”
# 9 – Controversy
The next album on our Top 10 Prince Album Covers list is Controversy. This is Prince’s fourth album. Prince’s subject style began to evolve at this point in his career. He strayed away from seductive content to more political and social awareness. Prince wanted to reflect on that change with the album cover. The album cover is cerebral. Unlike our previous entry, you can see more of Prince’s face on the album cover. He appears to be more comfortable showing his face. His face is in the light instead of the dark. He appears to be looking at you while you are looking at the cover. There are pictures of newspaper articles behind him. The articles represent the type of songs he was singing about on the album.
Prince fashion style also evolved on this album cover. He is shown wearing brighter colors. You can’t see the complete outfit, but you can see a vibrant purple jacket. He is wearing a black vest and tie. He also has on a white shirt. Prince wanted to talk about what was going on in society at the time of this album so the headlines in the background make sense. Photographer Allen Beaulieu made an excellent choice shooting newspapers in the background of his shot. It made the cover stand out. The brightness of the pictures will make you drawn to the headlines as well as Prince’s face. Controversy was released in October 1981. The album peaked at number 21 on Billboard 200 and number 3 on the r&b charts. The album features the singles “Controversy,” “Sexuality,” “Let’s Work” and “Do Me, Baby.” This album sold over one million copies.
# 8 – Sign ‘O’ The Times
This is Prince’s ninth album. Prince was dealing with issues from his label. People were writing him off because they thought his best days were behind him. They thought he peaked when Purple Rain came out and believed he couldn’t do any better than that album. Prince wanted to show the world that he wasn’t finished musically. He wanted an album cover that showed that he was in on the joke. He wanted to do a tongue-in-cheek album cover. The album cover has a very busy picture. There is a lot going on that meets the eye. There are different signs in the background. There are instruments displayed in the background that are surrounded by garbage. If you look at the bottom of the cover, you will notice one of his guitars is on the ground. You can also see a shot of a car being smashed by instruments.
The garbage on the cover is symbolic of the naysayers thinking his career was in the trash. Prince has a blurry image to the right of the cover. He looks as if he doesn’t care about the stuff going on behind him. It is symbolic that Prince didn’t care about the past or what other people thought of his music. Prince wanted to be in on the joke, so he wanted photographer Jeff Katz to capture that feeling. Sign ‘O’ The Times was released in March 1987. It peaked at number six on Billboard 200 and number four on the r&b charts. It features the singles “Sign o’ the Times,” “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” “U Got the Look” and “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.” The album sold over one million copies. This is proof that Prince still had what it took to have a hit album.
# 7 – The Black Album
This is Prince’s 16th album. Prince was furious with his record label. He felt like he was being stifled musically. He believed he wasn’t allowed to express himself the way he was able to in the past. He wanted to do something different with this album. Prince wanted to shed the pop image the world had of him. He wanted to show off his funk side. The legendary singer wanted to do things on his own terms. He decided to go a different route for this album cover. The legendary artist decided to have a completely black album cover. He didn’t have any artwork featured on the cover.
Prince didn’t include a title or his name on the cover. He wanted the album to be entirely black. He wanted the message to speak for itself. The album cover is a reaction to the critics who weren’t happy with his work. They thought he was becoming too pop friendly. Prince was trying to appeal to an urban audience with this album. It is an unusual cover because nothing is featured on it. Most artists like to have pictures or writing on their covers. They also want the audience to know what singles are on the album. Prince made a bold statement with this choice because it doesn’t advertise him or his work. The Black Album was released in November 1994. It peaked at number 18 on the r&b charts and number 47 on Billboard 200. It features the singles “Boy George,” “Dead on It” and “When 2 R in Love.”
# 6 – Emancipation
Emancipation is Prince’s 19th album. Prince was no longer going by the name Prince. He wanted to be addressed as symbol. People weren’t able to pronounce the name, so they called him symbol. He was free from his contract with Warner Bros. Records. He signed with a new label and the cover of the album reflected his freedom from Warner Bros. Records. The album cover has a breathtaking look of the sun rising in the background. The color of the album is a peaceful looking gold color. It describes a new beginning. There are chains on the cover to symbolize someone being stuck in them. You can see a pair of hands balled into fists as they break free of the chains.
The hands represent someone being free from slavery. In Prince’s case, slavery was his label. Anyone who is familiar with Prince’s music knows that he felt like a prisoner at his label. Photographer Jeff Katz did an amazing job capturing Prince’s freedom. The album cover gives you the feeling of a person who is freeing themselves from captivity. The symbol on the cover represents Prince’s new name. Prince’s face isn’t on the album cover. You can only see a picture of his hands. Emancipation was released in November 1996. It peaked at number six on the r&b charts and number 11 on Billboard 200. It features the singles “Betcha by Golly Wow,” “The Holy River/Somebody’s Somebody” and “Face Down.” The album sold over 650,000 copies.
# 5 – The Rainbow Children
The next album on our Top 10 Prince Album Covers list is The Rainbow Children. He is back to going by his stage name for this album. Prince’s style is different on this album. This is a concept album with religious themes. He talks about religion as well as creating a movement. At this point in his career, he doesn’t use explicit language. He became a Jehovah’s Witness so he wanted to change his writing style. Prince chose illustration for this album cover. The album cover features vibrant and colorful pictures. The album cover is jaw dropping. The cover is a depiction of five women who are in a band. Each woman is playing an instrument. Prince wanted to honor these women because he had women as back up singers for him.
The glossy cover is an homage to African American women. The women come from different walks of life. The women vary in different ages. He could have easily had a scantily clad woman on the cover, but he didn’t go that route. He wanted to celebrate the lives of different types of women. You can get lost looking at this beautiful artwork. The Rainbow Children was released in November 2001. The album peaked at 109 on Billboard 200 and number four on the independent charts. It features the singles “The Work, pt. 1,” “Mellow” and “Wedding Feasts.”
# 4 – Diamonds and Pearls
Diamonds and Pearls is Prince’s 13th album. Prince changed his style of music once again. He wanted to do more hip hop music for this project. This is Prince’s first album with the New Power Generation. The New Power Generation was his new backing band. He was no longer working with the Revolution. This was a new change for Prince and his new band. Prince wanted the album cover to incorporate the change in musical style. The cover has a blue hue to it. It almost looks black and white. It features Prince with two women. The picture was seductive without being distasteful.
One of the women is holding Prince lovingly while the other one lingers in the background. They are surrounded by pearl beads. Prince doesn’t lose his smoldering look. You can get lost looking into his eyes. Photographer Joel Larson did an incredible job capturing this seductive moment. The picture will make you wonder what is going on in Prince’s mind as he poses with the ladies. It was a creative choice to use the blue hue instead of a colored picture. The hue gives you more to talk about. Diamonds and Pearls was released in October 1991. The album peaked at number one on the r&b charts and number three on Billboard 200. It features the singles “Gett Off,” “Cream,” “Insatiable,” “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” and “Thunder.” The album sold over two million copies.
# 3 – Around the World in a Day
Around the World in a Day is Prince’s seventh album. This is the second album featuring the Revolution. This is a psychedelic album. Prince wanted to do something different from Purple Rain. He wanted the album cover to be something people haven’t seen before. He wanted it to look like a painting. Prince felt like he was popping up everywhere. He felt like people didn’t want to keep seeing him on the cover. He believed people didn’t want another picture of him. He wanted a collage of different faces on the cover. There is a variety of things going on in the picture. You can see someone eating ice cream. There are people holding instruments. Someone is holding a hot air balloon in the picture. You can also see a shot of a ladder. There are religious people in the background. There are several exciting colors in the picture.
This album cover looks like something that would represent his style of music. It is also something you can see hanging in a museum. You can easily forget that it is an album cover because it looks like a painting. Illustrator Doug Henders did a wonderful job with the cover. Around the World in a Day was released in April 1985. It peaked at number one on Billboard 200 and number four on the r&b charts. It features the singles “Raspberry Beret,” “Paisley Park,” “Pop Life” and “America.” The album sold over two million copies.
# 2 – 1999
1999 is Prince’s fifth album. This is Prince’s first psychedelic album cover. This is an 80s psychedelic cover. At the time there were 60s and 70s psychedelic pictures. This one represents the 80s. Prince isn’t featured on the cover. It features illustrations instead of a picture of Prince. If you look at the numbers, you can see his eyes are in the picture. Each symbol on the cover has pictures on it. There are hidden messages within the characters on the cover. You can see a jacket in the letter “N.” You can see a smile within the characters. There is a peace sign. You can see “Revolution” spelled backwards. The album cover is very colorful and creative. People thought Prince drew the cover himself. He wanted to showcase everything that was going on in his mind during the recording of the album.
The purple background stands out. The color would become his signature color. The picture gives fans a chance to speculate the meaning behind the album cover. It was an odd choice that Prince chose not to grace the cover of the album. Most artists pose on the cover unless they are trying to hide something. Prince chose not to focus on his features and let the music speak for itself. 1999 was released in October 1982. It peaked at number four on the r&b charts and number nine on Billboard 200. This is the album that helped Prince crossover. It features the singles “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Delirious,” “Automatic” and “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.” The album sold over four million copies.
# 1 – Purple Rain
The last album cover on our Top 10 Prince’s Album Covers list is Purple Rain. This album is considered one of the best albums of all time. It is the soundtrack to the movie. Prince starred in the movie. Prince was making a bold statement with the album cover. He was letting the world know that he was going to do what he wanted. He was not concerned with how other people feel about it. This album showcased the change in his music. Prince wanted to show the listeners what they were going to experience while listening to the album. He is dressed in a purple suit while sitting on a purple motorcycle. This ensemble became one of his signature looks. He is staring at you as if he is ready to take over the world.
Prince is in an alley surrounded by fog. Apollonia is standing on a flight of stairs by the window. She is looking at him as if she is trying to understand him. The rest of the cover has a dark background surrounded by white borders with flowers. It is a perfect contrast between light and dark colors. It is also a perfect depiction of his character in the movie. The photographers captured the essence of the movie as well as the soundtrack with this photo. Purple Rain was released in June 1984. It peaked at number two on Billboard 200. It features the singles “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U” and “Take Me with U.” The album sold over 20 million copies.
Top 10 Prince Album Covers article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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