Harry Styles and Kendrick Lamar's Album Covers: The Power of Imagery

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1549 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Words: 1549|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Cover Art's Role in Music Marketing
  3. Extending Visual Art in Music Videos
  4. Kendrick Lamar's Impactful Imagery
  5. Conclusion
  6. Work Cited


For many years in the past and for many years to come, musicians’ album cover artwork, including that of Harry Styles, proves to play a massive role in the success of the music. These covers can tend to go under the radar when it comes to importance. There are people in this world that will give any music a listen if they are intrigued by the cover art. It is one of the main marketing tactics artists integrate in order to sell either their music itself or merchandise with the artwork on it. Cover art is one of the first glimpses buyers get at an artist and from there, people begin to formulate their opinion on the music. In theory, album artwork and imagery, in general, plays a massive role in the depiction of the music’s message and meaning. Not only can the musicians use lyrics to portray their meanings, they also utilize the album cover as a way to foreshadow what is to come in the music. Not only can it aid in portraying the message behind everything, it acts as one of the main selling points for the artist.

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Cover Art's Role in Music Marketing

Cover art is one of the first images listeners get when it comes to musicians releasing their new projects. Since it is one of the first things listeners know about the new project, it plays a pretty massive role in the marketing of their music. This cover art gives the listener an idea of what the music may be about and what the general theme of everything will be. With that being said it is the listener’s first impression of the artist and this is what people will use to make their initial judgments of the music. In the article “You Can Judge an Artist by an Album Cover: Using Images for Music Annotation” the author writes “While the perception of music tends to focus on our acoustic listening experience, the image of an artist can play a role in how we categorize (and thus judge) the artistic work.” (Shah 1) This shows the general idea that imagery of the artist and their work can affect how their music is received by the audience. To further explain this, that same article uses a good example to sum this idea up. In the first paragraph, the author starts out by saying “Imagine that you are at a large summer music festival. You walk over to one of the side stages and observe a band which is about to begin their soundcheck. Each member of the band has long unkempt hair and is wearing black t-shirts, black boots, and tight black jeans with studded black leather belt. It would be reasonable to expect that they play heavy metal.” (Libeks 1) This completely explains the idea of how important imagery is to an artist. If you see a band warming up dressed in the stereotypical heavy metal attire, you are probably going to assume they play heavy metal. Based on their aesthetic, you are making judgments on the music they play and that will ultimately affect the way you perceive their work. This idea works the same for cover art too. The same way you judge that band sound-checking, is the same way you judge an artist’s work based on their cover art. For example, a mainstream artist who recently released the title of their album as well as the cover art for it is Harry Styles. Style’s new album is titled “Fine Line” and the cover art to go with it uses the colors pink and blue. Styles has been a major advocate for the LGBTQ community in his past. With the title and the cover art, people have already begun to speculate on the theme of his album. Fans of his think it can be about there being a fine line between happiness and sadness in life or even there can be a fine line between masculinity and feminity (Image of cover art down below). With these speculations, his unreleased album has already gotten a lot of attention and marketing just based off his cover art alone. This just goes to show the power imagery and cover art has for a musician in being able to sell their work.

Extending Visual Art in Music Videos

Not only does cover art act as the main selling point for musicians, music videos for the play just as important a role in identifying and hinting at the general theme for the project. In an article titled “Music Industry Market Research” the author further explains the importance of cover art and imagery in general. It reads “Tangible product such as records, cassettes, and CDs, all had album artwork. When a consumer picks up one of these products, cover art was the first noticeable characteristic. Holding something that is visual brings an associated connection with the album and the artwork. Album artwork is very similar to branding logos.” (Cook 13). This further proves my point that covert art and imagery, in general, has a massive effect on the marketing side of things for an artist. Continuing with Harry Styles’ upcoming sophomore album, the combination of the cover art and the music video gives his fans and listeners a general idea of what his album will be about. The imagery he uses throughout the buildup to the release of his new project plays a pivotal role in hinting at his theme. In his well put together music video for his single “Lights Up” (video cited below) he uses scenes where he is staring at himself directly in the eye in a mirror, he is being stunned by bright lights, and he is seen wearing a wide variety of clothes. With these images in mind, fans have speculated that he has been trying to find out who he really is as a person despite all the bright lights and fame he has. These speculations of this imagery go hand in hand with the speculations fo his cover art speculations adding even more publicity to this upcoming album.

Kendrick Lamar's Impactful Imagery

To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar has one of the most powerful album covers of this decade (cited down below). Lamar who is renowned for his witty lyrics and the meaning behind his project, released this impactful album in early 2015. For someone who was not up to date on the release of this album found it very hard not to be soon after the release. The imagery Kendrik used for this cover art help gave so much meaning and gave the listener a major idea as to what kind of message he was trying to send. Not only did it give a hint to the listener, it caught fire and he was given so much publicity for the statement he was trying to make. In an article titled “ The Narrative Potential of Album Covers,” the author writes “album covers can and do exist in time, and it offers a type of analysis that shows how still and moving images both integrate with music to create a modal hybrid that is greater than simply the sum of their parts.” (Belton 1).

This statement along with Kendrik’s cover art shows the importance album covers have to the artist. The imagery used by Kendrik in his cover art summed up the idea he was trying to portray. Another type of imager Kendrik is renowned for are his performances at award shows. For example his performance at the 2016 Grammys. Lamar performed a compilation of his songs and used strong background imagery to try and help convey the message he was trying to get across. He used images such as fire, him in shackles, and even his background dancers behind bars. The meaning of this performance and the imagery used is not important to the essay.

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What is important is how the imagery he used during his performance allowed himself to market not only him as an artist but his music as well. Multiple news outlets reported on his performance and he was very much so in the public eye for a bit after that. That just shows the power imagery and cover art has on listeners. Cover art and imagery have always and will always play a massive role in the marketing side of things for musicians. From Harry Styles to Kendrick Lamar, the imagery they used in not only their covert art, but music videos or live performances, have catapulted them into the eye of the media and marketed themselves to perfection. Cover art is the first impression we get of the artist and their music. We create out initial judgments from there. Imagery will always be of importance to musicians for the rest of time.

Work Cited

  1. Belton, Robert J. ​The Narrative Potential of Album Covers​. Cook, Kendall ​Music Industry Market Research: The Effect of Cover Art on the Music Industry
  2. Lamar, Kendrik, director. Kendrick Lamar’s Inspiring Grammy Performance.​.
  3. Libeks, janis, and Douglas Turnbull. ​You Can Judge an Artist by an Album Cover: Using Images for Music Annotation​.
  4. Shah, Deep. “The Importance of Album Artwork Considering the Relationship between Art and Music in a Digital Age.” ​HumanHuman​,
  5. Styles, Harry E, director. ​Lights Up​. ​​.
  6. Harry Styles - Fine Line album cover
  7. Kendrik Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly album cover
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Harry Styles and Kendrick Lamar’s Album Covers: The Power of Imagery. (2023, August 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from
“Harry Styles and Kendrick Lamar’s Album Covers: The Power of Imagery.” GradesFixer, 31 Aug. 2023,
Harry Styles and Kendrick Lamar’s Album Covers: The Power of Imagery. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Feb. 2024].
Harry Styles and Kendrick Lamar’s Album Covers: The Power of Imagery [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Aug 31 [cited 2024 Feb 26]. Available from:
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