It's always easy to come up with litany of "things that just depress us about contemporary pop culture today." You know things like upskirt shots of Britney Spears, whatever it is that Perez Hilton does, Josh Groban's stellar record sales history, et. al. To me, though, these things are simply trainwrecks. Best to just look the other way...
My disappointments tend to be a bit more subtle. Opportunities for aesthetic advancement and pleasure not taken. On my list, one peeve reigns supreme: record covers these days.
Here, via Pitchfork, are two of the worst examples thereof, by two of today's biggest genre stars, from hip-hop Lil' Wayne and from alt-rock Weezer. But wait, neither of these records are actually out yet, and all it takes is a cursory read of Pitchfork's headlines in debuting these covers (#1: Dear God, Please Let This Be the Lil Wayne Album Cover and #2: Is This Really the New Weezer Album Cover?) to realize what's amazing about them is their unlikelihood, their impossibility, the fact that critics are doubting they're even for real.
To my mind, shock tends to be a sure sign of artistic success (or at least artistic intrigue). And, at the end of the day, I've begun to take great pleasure in these covers, the way they seem to acknowledge the reduced graphic design standards of the day -- be it the ease & misuse of Photoshop, or the inherent limitations of interactive, internet graphics. Are these examples of "the new ugly" as discussed in Design Observer and the New York Times? (Both articles worth reading for those who want to stay on the cutting edge of graphic design cocktail chat.) The factors these pieces seem to consider are largely related to color and type rather than photography, but this is a natural difference that might occur in the record business (a business devoted to celebrities and the photographic deification thereof) versus the fashion and magazine scene (businesses devoted to style in its purest form, unhinged from personality).
After the jump, a single song that proves why Lil' Wayne is worth paying attention to.
Lil' Wayne - "I Feel Like Dying"
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And, while we're at it, via Prefix Mag, the widely available MP3 version:
I can't think of a single better hip-hop anthem unpacking psychological nihilism, at least since this: