Tag Archives: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Visually Oriented: The Lost Art of Commissioned Album Artwork

-Emily Fraysse

On November 22, 2010, hip-hop artist Kanye West released his fifth album titled, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a collection of different musical components like baroque and soul with underlying themes of excess, celebrity, ego, race, drinking, drug use, and consumer culture. What gained a lot of attention, however, was the artwork album artwork. Kanye announced on Twitter that not long before it was released, the album had been rejected by major chain stores because of the graphic artwork.

The portrait, by George Condo, shows Kanye being straddled by an armless winged female. Both are nude. Condo’s Picasso-meets-Looney-Tunes style artwork was described by the New York Times as, “tasty, erudite stuff, freaky but classy, a Mixmaster version of old master, with a big glop of Pop tossed in.”

After the album came out, Condo announced that Kanye wanted a cover image that was risky and would be banned. He eventually created eight or nine different paintings for the album including a disfigured portrait of Kanye and a painting of a crown and sword in a grassy landscape. A second cover was made featuring a ballerina, which at the last second Kanye changed it to a photograph of a ballerina instead.

On the completely opposite end of the album-artwork spectrum lies a lonely, weary traveler by the name John Mayer. After disappearing from the public eye for about two years due to the surgical removal of a granuloma near his vocal cords, he returned with a brand new album and a brand new look. The fifth album for the singer/songwriter, Born and Raised, was his shot at redemption. And, he succeeded. On May 22, 2012, he released his folk and county rock album with an exquisitely designed cover. The recording companies Sony Music and Columbia Records had commissioned David A. Smith to design the cover at the beginning of 2012. Although they never met in person, Mayer and Smith talked regularly via Skype and on phone in order to get the exact look that Mayer was looking for. Smith specializes in traditional, ornamental reverse glass signs and decorated silver and gilded mirrors.

The handcrafted piece was first drawn out separately before vectoring and finishing it in Photoshop in only twenty-eight days. Smith documented the process and success of his work on his website and later in a video.

Both of these artists, Kanye West and John Mayer, did something that not many artists do these days: commission artwork. In John Mayer’s commission, people are claiming that he revived a type of lost art that is slowly coming back into popularity. These special commissions can add a certain uniqueness, beauty, and distinction for artists today.

Waiting for the Grammys

-Mike Munoz

When the nominees for the 2012 annual Grammy Awards were released Wednesday night, my mind was bursting with questions. How many Grammys will Adele win? Will we actually get the Van Halen reunion we were promised? How the hell did Bruno Mars get six nominations? Here are some of the nominations that caught my attention Wednesday night.

Disappointing Album of the Year Nominees

Last year’s nominations for Album of the Year proved the Grammys were taking a step in the right direction. Nominees ranged from rapper Eminem to country-pop group Lady Antebellum, and Arcade Fire broke through as the first indie band to win the award. This year’s nominations, however, proved they took five steps back. The category contains only two realistic competitors in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Adele’s 21 (sorry Foo Fighters).  I’m not quite sure how Bruno Mars and Rihanna got thrown into the mix, and I know I’m not the only one asking, where’s Kanye?

Remembering Amy Winehouse

There’s no question that there will be some sort of memorial for soul singer Amy Winehouse, and it will probably come during the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award. Winehouse collaborated with jazz icon Tony Bennett for his album Duets II, where the two sing a rendition of “Body and Soul” that will give you chills. The song is one of Winehouse’s last known recordings before her untimely death and will most likely win the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Too Much Dubstep

I’m just going to flat out say it. I hate dubstep. I hate the noises, I hate the concerts and most importantly of all, I hate Skrillex. This year, Skrillex was nominated for five Grammys, including Best New Artist. If you ask me, that’s five nominations too many. I know dubstep has gained a huge following over the last couple of years. But for those of us who aren’t 13-year-olds wandering through a rave in our underwear, dubstep is just plain annoying. But maybe I’m being too hard on Skrillex. I mean, she seems like a pretty nice person.

Kanye vs Kanye for Best Rap Album

It’s seems pretty obvious that the odds are in Kanye West’s favor to win this year’s Grammy for Best Rap Album. The only question is, which one of his albums will win? West and Jay-Z prove to be a lethal combination in Watch the Throne; an entire album dedicated to the glamorous lives of West and Jay-Z. However, West’s solo album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has proved to be his masterpiece, with featured artists ranging from Nicki Minaj to Justin Vernon. I was stunned to see Dark Twisted Fantasy left off the ballot for Album of the Year, and I’d be really surprised if it didn’t win the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

Photo taken from billboard.com

 

When the nominees for the 2012 annual Grammy Awards were released Wednesday night, my mind was bursting with questions. How many Grammys will Adele win? Will we actually get the Van Halen reunion we were promised? How the hell did Bruno Mars get six nominations? Here are some of the nominations that caught my attention Wednesday night.

Album of the Year Nominees

Last year’s nominations for Album of the Year proved the Grammys were taking a step in the right direction. Nominees ranged from rapper Eminem to country-pop group Lady Antebellum, and Arcade Fire broke through as the first indie band to win the award. This year’s nominations, however, proved they took five steps back. The category contains only two realistic competitors in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Adele’s 21 (sorry Foo Fighters). I’m not quite sure how Bruno Mars and Rihanna got thrown into the mix, and I know I’m not the only one asking, where’s Kanye?

Remembering Amy Winehouse

There’s no question that there will be some sort of memorial for soul singer Amy Winehouse, and it will probably come during the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award. Winehouse collaborated with jazz icon Tony Bennett for his album Duets II, where the two sing a rendition of “Body and Soul” that will give you chills. The song is one of Winehouse’s last known recordings before her untimely death and will most likely win the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Too Much Dubstep

I’m just going to flat out say it. I hate dubstep. I hate the noises, I hate the concerts and most importantly of all, I hate Skrillex. This year, Skrillex was nominated for five Grammys, including Best New Artist. If you ask me, that’s five nominations too many. I know dubstep has gained a huge following over the last couple of years. But for those of us who aren’t 13-year-olds wandering through a rave in our underwear, dubstep is just plain annoying. But maybe I’m being too hard on Skrillex. I mean, she seems like a pretty nice person.

Kanye vs Kanye for Best Rap Album

It’s seems pretty obvious that the odds are in Kanye West’s favor to win this year’s Grammy for Best Rap Album. The only question is, which one of his albums will win? West and Jay-Z prove to be a lethal combination in Watch the Throne; an entire album dedicated to the glamorous lives of West and Jay-Z. However, West’s solo album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has proved to be his masterpiece, with featured artists ranging from Nicki Minaj to Justin Vernon. I was stunned to see Dark Twisted Fantasy left off the ballot for Album of the Year, and I’d be really surprised if it didn’t win the Grammy for Best Rap Album.