Blur's 'Magic Whip' and 7 Other Album Covers with Neon: Paul McCartney, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and More
Blur thrilled alt-rock fans everywhere when the Britpop icons announced its first new album in nearly a dozen years, titled Magic Whip. The first suggestion that the band had a new record in the tank was a mysterious print ad that ran in The Sun newspaper this morning, which implied in English that a massive band would be announcing its first album in more than a decade, while neon Mandarin text read "Blur Magic Whip" to anyone who could decipher it. The image ended up being the album art for Magic Whip, featuring a large neon ice cream cone.
Neon signs are a great form for album covers so Music Times has gathered seven recent releases that feature them. We're not talking about albums that merely feature neon lights—sorry Riff Raff, Jay Sean—but art that at least looks like the performer had a custom installation made for the piece. We'll go from most basic to least:
Monomania by Deerhunter (2013)
The album art for Deerhunter's Monomania was a shift in direction for the band, which tended to feature dichromatic photographs. The cover for the band's best album thus far may have been much simpler than its past releases but it probably cost considerably more. It features the word "monomania" crafted into s singular, cursive neon sign, apparently hanging in an otherwise dark room.
Santi by The Academy Is... (2007)
What do you put on the cover of an album titled Santi? Considering it was named after a high-school bully, we're not sure. Many mistakenly believe The Academy Is's second LP is a self-titled because its front merely features the band's name in red neon against a black background. Although there's not much to the art, the color scheme works and the length of the words making up the band's name makes for a nice balance of line length when stacked on top of each other (thanks to the ellipses at the end of "is").
Britney Jean by Britney Spears (2013)
We see so much more potential for Britney Spears' Britney Jean cover. Although we imagine the neon title, surrounded by a pink neon heart, was entirely computer generated, we still would have loved to see it larger, even by itself, against a brick wall or something. Spears has never not been on her covers (unless you count the first chapter in the B In The Mix remix series) but we feel that her name is recognizable enough at this point that she could have skipped the cover of Britney Jean, where she overshadows the diminutive neon embellishment at the bottom of the image.
Bangerz by Miley Cyrus (2013)
Obviously neon was a hot item on album covers during 2013. Miley Cyrus's sales smash Bangerz may feature a more simple design than the rest of the entries on this list—just a pink neon sign reading the title's name—but we give her more credit for working the discussion piece into a larger theme. Although Bangerz doesn't throwback at all in its pop approach, the album cover is straight homage to the Miami Vice school of '80s graphic design: The pastels fading form purple to tan in the background, the palm fronds in the background, the vocalist's black minidress, the cubism and the vivid pink neon of course. Still torn on the content itself but still love the visual aesthetics.
New by Paul McCartney (2013)
Another addition to the list from 2013, although one completely different from the rest of that year's entries. McCartney, arguably the largest living musician, doesn't feel the need to see his name or even his title up in lights anymore, so New featured a minimalistic art installation instead. Some reader might feel outraged that we considered this collection of nine neon tubes as "more complex" than the above entries, but considering that it was arranged by visual artist Ben Ib (and inspired by neon extraordinaire Dan Flavin), we're going to count this as more than just a bunch of tube lights. The album came with two distinct color schemes displaying the same image: One in pink and yellow, and another in purple and pink.
Lasers by Lupe Fiasco (2011)
Lupe Fiasco is a performer whose work as an emcee always courts disagreement among the critics, but there can be little doubt that the album cover for his 2011 record Lasers was a brilliant piece, for its use of neon and otherwise. Everything works in sync: The name of the album is done in as plain a typeface as possible, all capital letters. The white light is just barely evident enough to stand out against the white wall behind it. One thing however: It doesn't say "Lasers" at all; it says "Losers." The "o" has been spray-painted over with a red anarchy symbol, converting the title and drawing to the vibrant "A," which stands out strategically against the rest of the album. We also appreciate the decision not to cover up or organize the black power cords providing the juice to the sign.
Neon Bible by Arcade Fire (2007)
Arguing over Arcade Fire's best album is sure to keep bar conversations going for hours, but the best Arcade Fire album cover is without contest: 2007's Neon Bible features incredible music but deserves awards for its artwork as well. It's an example of a band going for broke, commissioning the six-foot piece for its cover (although the band did eventually get to use it on tour as well). The actual version of the set-piece features effects that cause the pages of the book to light up as if being flipped by a reader. The image on the cover of the album captures it mid-flicker but it was at its best in a live setting.