“Stop being creative! NOW! It’s illegal!”
Art Directors are really hot on Beck’s new album, The Information, or at least the CD cover art. The CD comes with blank graph paper and a bunch of stickers created by top illustrators with which the listener fills in their own cover.
Creative Review quoted Big Active‘s Art Director Gerard Saint saying, “It’s actually highly reflective of Beck’s idiosyncratic and creative approach to his art. It invites the listener to get involved and participate in the experience of the album.”
Dimitri Siegel writes a great piece on it at the Design Observer asking the question, “the gesture reveals a tension about where the creative act is situated: in making the work or making the rules?” In other words is it the idea that is the art, or is it how we put the stuff together?
Meanwhile, believe it or not, Beck’s album has been banned from the UK charts because this cover art is regarded as a marketing gimmick, a giveaway that creates an “unfair advantage”! Pop music has always been about “unfair advantage”. Sometimes it’s called ‘genius’, or ‘god’s gift’ or simply ‘talent’. Sometimes it is marketing, and sometimes it’s a combination of both where the marketing itself is an art form, becomes part of the larger pop process, whether it’s a Spike Jonze video for Fatboy Slim or a Julian House sleeve design for Primal Scream.
And when it comes to photography what if the cover was shot by Anton Corbjin or Kevin Westenberg or Alan Clarke? Would that be too appealing to music photography obsessives? Is this image of Beck by Julian Broad a little bit too interesting for chart sleevework? I think we should be told!
And Broad’s image, lots of vinyl, on shelves, in rows, strewn across the floor, is a simple reminder of Beck as music obsessive. His Headphones shutting out the outside world, a reminder that Beck’s music comes from that enclosed space called ‘Beckworld,’ and that his music output is a result of all those inputs. A product of information, creating more information.
But the question that’s been prodding me since I heard of this affiar won’t go away. Where does marketing creativity end and marketing gimmickry begin?