Justin Bieber’s new album, Justice, immediately caught people’s attention when it was first announced — not necessarily for the music it promised but for having a really terrible album cover. Along with Bieber’s painful attempt to edgily pose in a dim, green tunnel, as if he was the new Skins cast member, eagle-eyed music lovers also spotted the album font’s similarity to the band Justice’s logo.
Both designs emphasize the “T” in “justice” as a cross instead. Making matters worse, Bieber’s team had contacted Justice last year to discuss a logo but didn’t resolve the conversation. The band only found out about Bieber’s Justice artwork upon the album’s announcement.
To give Bieber and his team partial credit, plagiarism or not, he is among good company when it comes to having an awful design choice (even if it’s a solid album, as some of these are). As an opportunity to showcase the range of cringe-inducing records in this category, here are 10 other fairly recent album covers that we’d wish to change if we could.
And keep your shorts on, Beliebers. It’s all in good fun.
The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships (2018)
The 1975 had two albums out before 2019’s A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. Previously, their cover choices reflected the “aesthetic” of the album’s cycle. (Their self-titled debut was black and gray, and 2016’s I Like It When You Sleep… was bubblegum pink.) Sadly, on this third album, they traded their 1975 neon sign motif for a rip-off cover of the time Squidward broke the time machine on Spongebob Squarepants. The change was definitely a shock, considering the 95% blank space and apparent lack of effort.
The Chicks – Gaslighter (2020)
As someone already annoyed that “gaslighting” is incorrectly used as an Internet buzzword for something people disagree with, The Chicks latched onto this trend when they returned last summer. They named their album Gaslighter. There’s a song called “Gaslighter”. They also boldly placed the word four times on the album’s cover in a clashing pink font. I love The Chicks and this record a lot, but if I have to see this design again, my brain is actually going to catch on fire.
Drake – Scary Hours 2 (2021)
The first time looking at Drake’s cover for his new EP, Scary Hours 2, legitimately gave me nightmares. That’s how horrifying it is design-wise. Drake either had zero say in this design or knew that choosing an unreadable medieval font (in 2021…) and random shapes is “scary.” Thankfully, Spotify tells you what the album’s called because this cover is impossible at first glance … and second … and third. If Scary Hours 2 was on display at a record store, it would likely go unnoticed — unless you’re a hardcore Drake fan. Or someone who stares at “magic eye” illusions all day long.
Grimes – Miss Anthropocene (2020)
Even after Grimes began dating creepy moon overlord Elon Musk, and before X-Æ-12, we still somehow agreed to give her another chance. For a second, it worked out in our favor. The first cover of Miss Anthropocene followed in the design footsteps of her past albums (notably, Visions). Out of nowhere, Grimes switched the artwork to an eerie digital piece of an … elf with dragon wings? That’s my best guess. If anyone is well versed in creating creepy mythical creatures, I’d love to know what this is.
Nick Jonas – Last Year Was Complicated (2016)
With a poorly aged title for a solo album and one of the strangest cover photoshoots, I have many questions for Nick Jonas’ team. First, why is he shirtless but surrounded by oddly placed shards of broken glass? A broken mirror is seven years of bad luck, so that would make things complicated. Second, does this misstep make Kevin the second-best Jonas Brother now? Because we all know Joe would never let this cover slide…
The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful (2017)
Despite calling their album Wonderful Wonderful, The Killers’ choice for this cover is anything but that. To this day, it still genuinely confuses me so much. It’s an image of someone’s hand holding a seashell that doesn’t match the actual music at all. Am I supposed to care about this for some reason? I feel like I’ve missed out on a poorly told inside joke. This image is the second strangest thing The Killers have released, following their mind-boggling lyric: “Are we human? Or are we dancer?”
Ed Sheeran – Divide (2017)
On another album where Ed Sheeran loves mathematical symbols, Divide’s cover featured just that. Intended to serve as a continuation of X (Multiply) and + (Add), this album spelled out what listeners see. Along with the acid-wash blue background, it feels like something thrown together in a matter of minutes on Photoshop. The only way it could even potentially get worse than Divide is whatever Sheeran has in mind for the eventual Minus album.
Taylor Swift – Red (2012)
Hear me out. As a self-proclaimed Taylor Swift stan, Red is easily one of my favorites and holds a place in many hearts. However, if you own the Deluxe Edition, you also know that it features her worst cover by a long shot. With awkward, giant letters covering Taylor’s face, it overshadows the era’s iconic photoshoot. Luckily, the standard issue corrects this problem, and most fans don’t have to see this abomination outside of occasional Google searches.
Kanye West – Jesus Is King (2019)
Where do I even begin with Kanye West’s JESUS IS KING? This cover is god-awful. Even his fans know it. Between the Craigslist photo of a blue vinyl and lyrics about Chick-Fil-A, it’s shocking how this got approved — given we know what he used to be capable of creating. I have no idea how this won a Grammy recently or why nobody interrupted about it being undeserved.
Jack White – Boarding House Reach (2018)
Compared to the eye-catching covers during Jack White’s time in The White Stripes, his solo material’s designs just feel depressing. Somehow, on his most recent release, Boarding House Reach, White decided to combine doom, gloom, and … aggressive CGI? It’s a shot of what appears to be himself, but as one of the child-scarring robots in that Will Smith movie. Long story short, this cover should feature a warning label: Don’t Let Your Kids See This! (Or anyone else for that matter.)