Exclaim!'s 25 Worst Album Covers of 2023

BY Alex Hudson, Kaelen Bell and Megan LaPierrePublished Dec 14, 2023

Few things can compare to the beauty of holding a gorgeous LP in your hands. Whether it's an exquisitely detailed piece of art like Bitches Brew or Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, or an iconically simple one like The Dark Side of the Moon or The Velvet Underground & Nico, the right album artwork can make a great album even greater.

These days, when the most common music format consists of squinting at a thumbnail-sized JPEG on a phone screen, the stakes feel a bit different. But don't tell that to this year's crop of the worst album covers of the year, who packed their unsightly Photoshop monstrosities full of confusing details and vague gestures toward unclear meanings.

Anyone can whip up a simple album cover and throw it onto Bandcamp; making album covers as off-putting as the ones below takes true talent, and we salute them for it.

Check out the worst album covers below, and revisit our 2022 list while you're at it.

Ergo Atlas

A crowd of nude men are mysteriously drawn to the great glory hole in the sky, which would honestly be kinda hot if that's what Portuguese prog band APOTHEUS were going for. Those waters look chilly — I shudder to think of the shrinkage.

24. The National
First Two Pages of Frankenstein

Journalist Matty Monroe already gave the definitive assessment of First Two Pages of Frankenstein's album cover in a viral tweet back in January, so we're just going to hand this one over to him: "this is a Walk the Moon ass album cover. this is a Cold War Kids ass album cover. this is a Cage the Elephant ass album cover. this is a Twenty One Pilots ass album cover. this is a Grouplove ass album cover. this is a Fitz and the Tantrums ass album cover."

23. Metallica
72 Seasons

Man, IKEA's new METÄLLICA collection looks like shit.

22. Sam Roberts Band
The Adventures of Ben Blank

It's giving "self-published book about mindfulness," or maybe even "senior citizen spinoff of Home Alone," which is actually a pretty fun idea.

21. Chris Shiflett
Lost at Sea

The interpretation of the album's title is overly literal, but what really sinks this ship is the Photoshopped boat, which is rendered with the finesse of clip art. Hopefully he can swim back to shore in time to make the next Foo Fighters concert, because clearly the guitarist's solo career isn't making enough money to pay for a graphic designer. At least the Foos are keeping him afloat!

20. Adam Calhoun & Tom MacDonald
The Brave 2

America: fuck yeah! Here's what would have happened to Thelma and Louise if they avoided the Grand Canyon and headed straight for the Capitol Building instead.

19. Narnia
Ghost Town

Narnia offer a lot to unpack here, and yet no trace of a lion, witch or wardrobe. A bloody handprint next to a cross, a businessman gazing through a telescope, signs pointing toward "HOPE" and "REBEL," and a Sisyphean character staggering around with boulders strapped to his back. It all feels like the most complicated way possible to say "society bad."

18. AKRaca
Worst Album in the World

The rings around the planet look like Saturn, but the graphic design is more like Uranus.

17. AJR
The Maybe Man

You've entered a wormhole to 2008 — your only tools for survival are a moustache finger tattoo, a copy of Amélie, a voucher for free puppetry lessons and this album cover. Good luck.

16. Chris Brown

One Chris Brown is already too many, so this just feels cruel. But we tried wishing his career away on it anyway — fingers crossed!

15. Taylor Swift
1989 (Taylor's Version)

You'd think that the most famous musician in the world, who officially became a billionaire this year, could afford to hire a professional graphic designer, but this looks like it was whipped up by a fan on Canva. Is that Instagram's "Toaster" filter?

14. dwi
Zoo Life

We're fans of Vancouver indie rock songwriter dwi, but truthfully we'd rather not have to look at this little butt every time we listen to the album. Surrounded by a yellow stain, the aesthetic is pee-pee-poo-poo-caca.

13. Forgiato Blow

The first part of self-admitted "MAGA rapper" Forgiato Blow's moniker means "forged in the fire," which we can only assume is in reference to the inferno of Trump's tanning bed. The second part speaks for itself.

12. Ed Sheeran

Welcome back, Ed! Returning to Exclaim!'s list of the worst album covers after appearing in the 2021 edition, the platonic ideal of guy-at-the-party-with-an-acoustic-guitar returns with an image of his own face smeared in what we truly can't believe is not butter. Given how flavourless his music is, we assume it's unsalted.

11. Madness
Theatre of the Absurd presents: C'est la Vie

Featuring a drone, a humanoid robot and what looks like that mechanical dog from Black Mirror, we're guessing this is meant to be some sort of a commentary on modern life. But truthfully, all we're really getting is "men's 50-and-over improv troupe" — did somebody say, "Yes, and?"

10. Melanie Martinez

Björk can pull off this kind of thing because, well, she's Björk. The Voice alum Melanie Martinez, on the other hand, looks like an Annihilation extra who stumbled through a hedge.

9. Granada
Like Wars

Even the most rabid anti-vaxxers on the timeline mostly moved onto new conspiracies in 2023 — but don't tell that to Granada and their collage of syringes, a medical mask worn over the eyes, smartphones, a shushing doctor and, uh, poutine.

8. Kickstand Jenny
Between the Lies

Black and white. Good and evil. Wrong and right. The yin-yang symbol represents opposing forces that are intrinsically intertwined. Or, in the case of hard rockers Kickstand Jenny, it's a cyberpunk globe featuring the vaguely conspiratorial choice to cross out "lines" so that it says "lies." Nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative!

7. Bombay Bicycle Club
My Big Day

Eggs are a nutritious way to start the day! They contain protein and boost your "good" cholesterol, and they taste delicious in a wide variety of dishes. As an eye mask, however, they're a little gross. The Bombay Bicycle Club lads have egg on their face for releasing this one into the world.

6. Trapt
"Ignorance Is Bliss"

Normally, we omit singles from our list of the worst album covers of the year — but we're honoured to make an exception for the post-grunge bros of Trapt, who bravely imagine what would happen if Storm Thorgerson was indoctrinated by MRAs on 4chan.

5. Abortion Twins
Best Experimental Act

That chicken salad honestly looks kind of tasty, but it's hard to feel hungry when the band's typeface references coat hanger abortions. Looking at this, we feel almost as sad as that poor pug looks.

4. Måneskin

Italian rock pervs Måneskin specialize in making songs about sex sound as sterile and clumsy as possible, so it's only fitting that their album cover shows them ogling up the skirt of what appears to be a gigantic preteen. Yuck.

3. Louie Montgomery
Biden's America

It's 2023 and people are still out there trying to own the libs. I could have gone my whole life without seeing a blue-gloved, chined-up Biden badly edited to look like a Supreme-wearing hypebeast with a "BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY" puffer. If that makes me a snowflake, so be it.

2. The Vegetarians
Loo Read

There's a lot going on here! The most confusing album cover of the year features a Guy Fawkes mask, a Frank Zappa book, a Velvet Underground pun, a fez hat and a vaguely futuristic Y2K font. But all of that disappears into the background the second you notice the guy's pubis.

1. U2
"Atomic City"

Single artwork is obviously held to a lower standard than album artwork — but we simply can't sit by and say nothing about U2's ghastly "Atomic City." The single was released to promote the band's Las Vegas residency at the $2.3 billion Sphere, so the fact that the cover artwork looks this cheap feels like an insult. That Larry Mullen Jr. is wearing a punk T-shirt feels almost like he's daring us to call out their capitalist excess, so here goes: this stinks.

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