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Performance Art

Yes, You Really Can Judge an Album by Its Cover

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Album art took a hit with the demise of the LP, but there are still loads of creative CD packages dotting the record racks. We critiqued some current pop art—found a few priceless works encased in plastic. — David Browne and Michele Romero

1. Celine Dion A New Day Has Come Look who’s washed ashore after riding Titanic’s wake and then sinking into a two-year hiatus. To herald her return to the high C’s, Dion hired fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier to snap her portrait on a beach. Unfortunately, his model’s seduction of a tree trunk is not enough to distract us from the fact that this image, unlike the ocean, isn’t very deep. C

2. Kosheen Resist The best art always forces the viewer to stop and ask, ”What’s up with that?” This photograph of an ululating elk tells us nothing about the group (a U.K. dance trio who mix clubby beats with poppy melodies) or its music, but it does make us wonder: Are Kosheen Canadian wildlife preservationists or bored security guards at the Museum of Natural History? The compelling image by Patrice Hanicotte creates an irresistible desire to pick up the disc and find out. A

3. Remy Zero The Golden Hum Remember those classic Hipgnosis jackets on old Pink Floyd and Led Zep records? Designers Blue Source and photographer Amber Rowlands clearly do, with a cryptic cover for Remy Zero’s latest that pays homage, intentionally or not, to those predecessors. Who is that woman clutching the baby, and why is her face exploding with light? You’ll keep looking for an answer that never arrives. A-

4. Brandy Full Moon A graphic wreck: A clean shot of Brandy is derailed by confusing and unnecessary elements. The sci-fi logo, combined with the dog collar and an oddly placed full moon, can only convey one thing: that Brandy and her art director were abducted by space aliens and had their talent removed by probes. D

5. Ludacris Word of Mouf Although he’s not a hip-hop comedian, there’s something undeniably cartoonish about Ludacris’ silly rhymes and loopy, bass-heavy stomps. So Butch Belair’s exaggerated-head photo caricatures lend an aptly comic air to Ludacris’ latest opus. But it’s the canine dental work that’s most impressive. Fitting a menacing pooch with the dentures of a human doesn’t just gnaw at the funny bone—it’s joyfully ludicrous. B+

6. Grandpaboy Mono For an unexpected return to the street-punk grime he left behind nearly two decades ago when he was in the Replacements, Paul Westerberg, a.k.a. Grandpaboy, goes incognito as an insane, gritty outsider complete with crossed-out eyes, ragged teeth, and a psychotic scrawl of text. As art, it succeeds in jolting us from our record-shopping stupor — even as it freaks us out a little. B+