Exclaim!'s 30 Worst Album Covers of 2021

BY Alex Hudson and Kaelen BellPublished Dec 15, 2021

Thanks to the swift and harsh feedback of social media, many artists are given a chance to correct their terrible album covers before they even get released. In 2021, Lana Del Rey pivoted after fans roasted her ghastly first draft of Blue Banisters, while Rick Ross switched out the original "granny going to church" look of Richer Than I Ever Been for a more contemplative version.

And yet, despite the abundance of constructive criticism, plenty of artists still managed to put out god-awful album covers this year. Some of these were zero-budget Bandcamp artists — but just as many were world-famous artists, proving that all the money in the world can't buy good taste.

Now that you've enjoyed the best albums and best songs of 2021, brace yourself for the year's worst album covers below. Also be sure to check out last year's list of the worst album covers of 2020.

30. João Donato & Jards Macalé
Síntese do lance

No matter how cute and friendly their smiles are, there's something sinister about these Brazilian bossa nova guys hanging out naked in the bushes, ready to jump out and terrify the next person who walks past. I absolutely refuse to listen to this album until you put some damn clothes on!

29. Nad Sylvan
Spiritus Mundi

The Genesis Revisited singer delivers a swift kick to the Nad with ye olde portrait of himself creeping everyone out at the Renaissance faire.

28. Brothers in Arms
Sunset and Clark

Sunset and Clark is an infinity mirror of rock clichés, as an image of the album cover appears six times within the album cover itself, and the words "Whisky a Go Go" can be found 11 times (by our count — see if you can spot more!).

27. Liz Phair

For her first album in more than a decade, Liz Phair returned with this Photoshop monstrosity, which depicts New York City with the aesthetic of a social studies textbook.

26. The Offspring
Let the Bad Times Roll

Offspring frontman Dexter Holland runs his own hot sauce company, which perhaps explains the supremely tacky visual style of the band's 10th album. Inexplicably combining Día de los Muertos imagery with a pirate flag and fists full of money and pills, this would admittedly look cool as hell on a hot sauce bottle.

человек плохой компьютер

"человек плохой компьютер" translates as "man bad computer." It's a powerful commentary on how technology drives us to the brink of madness, making us so disconnected from reality that we end up on the beach with an ironing board, screaming at some poodles.

23. Big Paul Ferguson
Virtual Control

Killing Joke member Big Paul Ferguson is saying something or other about groupthink and/or the media with Virtual Control, which depicts a baby with OSX pinwheels over its eyes and resembles a "wake up sheeple" meme your uncle would share on Facebook.

22. Weezer
Van Weezer

As a tongue-in-cheek tribute to '80s hair metal, Van Weezer's cheesy album cover is on the money. But considering that the backdrop is actually a stock image called "free electric lightning texture background," it's not so much cheesy as it is just lazy.

21. Lil Wayne feat. Rich the Kid
Trust Fund Babies

Lil Wayne has a long tradition of releasing fun baby-themed album covers, but the cartoonish Trust Fund Babies is less Tha Carter and more Captain Underpants.

Click "Next" to continue reading.20. Greeting Committee

At first it looks like a disgusting case of pink eye before revealing itself to be a mouth pasted in place of the eye. But maybe the worst thing about Dandelion's off-putting artwork is the sloppy editing — see the way the lines overlap at the corners of the box. 

19. AK Bandamont
Soul Controller

The guns are scary, but why is there the logo from Pixar's Soul? And is that the Disney font spelling out the artist's name? Surely it's only a matter of time before the cease-and-desist arrives in the mail.

18. John Diva and the Rockets of Love
American Amadeus

John Diva and the Rockets of Love deliver an unholy combination of aesthetics: Mozart is wearing cowboy chaps, riding a piano like a bucking bronco against a background of Ben-Day dots from a 1950s comic book. The band logo is pure '80s rock, while the album title is rendered like a cut-and-paste ransom note. Hair metal is supposed to be corny, but this is just confusing.

17. Kanye West

The all-black artwork is presumably intended as a tribute to Ye's late mother, but this generic black square just looks like a placeholder until Kanye uploads the finished version. Which, knowing his habit of editing albums after they're already done, might still happen.

16. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Raise the Roof

You know that feeling when you're waiting in line for the Ferris wheel and you start disintegrating into the ether? No? Well Robert Plant and Alison Kraus have provided a handy visual anyway, created in what was presumably a five-minute exercise for a junior high graphic design class. At least Alison looks like she's having fun!

15. Getúlio Abelha

The longer you look, the uglier it gets: the gnarly little human feet; the cigarette between the toes; the literally steaming turd; the way this creature appears to be suckling its own teets with hair-tentacles. It's the GOAT: grossest of all-time.

14. Woody & Jeremy
Gravy in My Coffee

Have you ever taken a sip of your drink, only to discover that your mug is filled with something different than you expected? It's a disorienting, unappetizing experience — much like Gravy in My Coffee's extremely on-the-nose artwork.

13. Ed Sheeran

Each of Ed Sheeran's math-themed album covers is uglier than the last, and after the garish ÷, he's outdone himself once again with this mashup of Jackson Pollock paint splotches and some disheveled butterflies that look like they've just splatted on the windshield of a semi-truck.

12. Baby Boys

In March 2021, at the tail end of a brutal COVID winter, Minnesota trio Baby Boys broke quarantine for a viscerally unhygienic Threesome. We can taste the metal and smell the bad breath from here.

11. David Bowie

David Bowie has made some of the most iconic album covers ever, but in the '90s, he achieved Olympic levels of badness with the artwork for 1. Outside, Hours... and Reality. In that tradition, Toy's monkey-baby-Bowie has a face not even a parent could love.

Click "Next" to continue reading.10. M Unknow
Story Timeless, Tome 1

If there was one trend that emerged when compiling the worst album covers of 2021, it was that political statements missed the mark every time. That's certainly true of M Unknow [sic], whose album Story Timeless [sic] features a steampunk clock and a lightning bolt striking a mask of Catholic theocrat Guy Fawkes. We do indeed live in a society!

9. Tom Morello
The Atlas Underground Fire

Miles away from the political provocations of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello has now embraced the aggressively relaxing aesthetic of a mindfulness pamphlet. And as if this Martian-looking one wasn't bad enough...

8. Tom Morello
The Atlas Underground Flood

...Morello outdid himself just two months later by bringing back the butterfly-elephant hybrid for this soft-focus fever dream. This time, our poor elephant friend is in an over-saturated, high-contrast forest where aesthetic sense goes to die. Butterflies are small and delicate while elephants are big and strong. Dichotomy! Do you get it?

7. Ballsqueezer

The problem isn't that Ballsqueezer are silly; it's that they know they're being silly, and they're trying to make us laugh with the overenthusiastic zaniness of the opening act at a community improv show. Just smile politely and don't encourage them.

6. Corey Feldman
Love Returns

Lots to unpack here! Actor-musician Corey Feldman presents a perplexing update on psychedelic '60s art, featuring someone shredding a guitar that says "Daniel," a bikini lady about to stab Corey in the ear with a huge knife, and a misguided butchering of the "I can't breathe" slogan.

5. Van Morrison
Latest Record Project: Volume 1

Van Morrison's toxic nightmare of a new album is a two-hour, 28-song slog of insipid blues boogies pwning social media ("Why Are You on Facebook?"), the MSM ("They Own the Media") and online activism ("Where Have All the Rebels Gone"). Bizarrely, these rambling screeds are packaged together with the beyond-generic title Latest Record Project: Volume 1 and an album cover that resembles an auto-generated placeholder image for an audiobook. But hey, at least it's better than his The Prophet Speaks artwork.

4. Cappadonna
Black Tarrzann

When Black Tarzann's album cover arrived early this year, it was heralded with headlines like "Cappadonna Album Cover Clowned as the Worst Ever" and "Wu-Tang Clan's Cappadonna Gets Clowned for PowerPoint Style Album Cover." Its amateurish collage might be a forgivable offence for a newbie Bandcamp musician, but surely a member of Wu-Tang Clan should be capable of more than "so bad it's good."

3. Horgon Freetader
The Pleasantries of War

This cursed castoff from the underbelly of SoundCloud feels dangerous and possibly illegal. We're going to need to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Freetader about the concerning propaganda that their son Horgon has been distributing.

2. Bruce Cockburn
Greatest Hits (1970-2020)

After a hard day of being an old-timey crime-solver, Detective Cockburn heads down to the ole watering hole for a wee dram of whiskey from a martini glass. Cheers, you sly old dog!

1. Drake
Certified Lover Boy

Believe it or not, the putrid emoji artwork for Drake's Certified Lover Boy was created by a world-famous designer, Damien Hirst. If his goal was to create something easily meme-able, then mission accomplished, because CLB is by far the most parodied album cover of 2021. But unfortunately, the reason it's so recognizable is because it's simplistic and flat-out ugly.

Latest Coverage