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Bridge Wilson

Professor Lehn
October 20, 2014
Eminem Album Covers
The visual designs of album covers often convey a mental image that relates to
the theme of the songs in the album. The arrangement of colors, drawings, and text on an
album cover is meant to evoke emotion in the listener. The album cover artist(s), in most
cases, have a plan when creating an album cover. The drawings and designs on album
covers are usually arranged in a specific way by the artist(s) to look the coolest or most
intriguing. Album cover designs are often intended to attract the attention of the person
buying the album, but they also portray a message about the album that will allow the
consumer to have a better understanding of what he/she will be listening to. This analysis
will be primarily focused on the designs of Eminems album covers, specifically those of
his albums Relapse and Recovery. I will dive into and describe the different methods in
which the album cover artists designed the album covers to portray the meanings behind
the songs in these two Eminem albums. I will then compare and contrast the artwork of
the two albums and how this comparison translated to the music in the respective albums.
Since his introduction into the hip-hop genre, Eminem (born Marshall Bruce Mathers II)
has been a cultural icon for many people who enjoy listening to hip-hop music, including
myself. Eminem is a white hip hop artist born in Detroit, Michigan in 1973; hes 41 years
old and still rapping like hes in his twenties! Due to his impeccable rhyme schemes and
outside-the-box lyrics, Eminem has rightfully been awarded the best white rapper alive

title, but I believe that the word white could easily be dropped from that title. Even
people who arent fans of rap music see Eminem as an inspiration; he established the idea
that music does not have a race and that anyone can reach their aspirations if they put all
of their heart into it. Eminem is a legendary artist and his work should never go
unnoticed, but neither should the message behind the visual aspects of his album covers.
An abundance of messages is available for interpretation in these album covers.
An album cover can deliver a message. In one particular case, one word and one
picture summarizes one mans story. Eminems sixth album, Relapse, was released on
May 19, 2009. This album consists of twenty sound tracks that can best be described as
weird. Among these is the song 3am. Due to Eminems sinister diction in his songs,
it is no coincidence that 3:00 A.M. happens to be the time of the Devil. The lyrics of this
song are nothing short of freaky; for example, his second verse begins with him saying
Sitting nude in my living room, its almost noon. I wonder whats on the tube; maybe
theyll show some boobs. Surfing every channel until I find Hannah Montana, then I
reach for the aloe and Lanolin. Blood all over the wall panel and dismantlin every candle
on top of the fire place mantel and grab my flannel and bandana then kiss the naked
mannequin man again; you can see him standin in my front window. Eminem has a
certain pain and passion in his voice when he raps; this pain that he possesses is
accurately portrayed on the album cover of Relapse. The serious, expressionless face that
Eminem is making on the Relapse album cover sets the tone of the music in the album.
Although some of the songs on the Relapse album are boisterous and humorous, it is
evident, in the album cover, that Eminem had been through a lot and had struggled with

The album cover for Eminems Relapse is a prime example of pointillism.

Pointillism is the art of using hundreds or even thousands of tiny dots to create a larger
image. On the case of pointillism on the Relapse album cover, the image that is created
from the tiny dots is Eminems face staring into the eyes of the viewer; he is not smiling
and he appears emotionless. His face looks like that of someone who is either angry or on
drugs. This corresponds well with the title of this album, Relapse, in the sense that he is
under the influence of drugs and likely not in a happy state of mind. When the Relapse
album is observed more closely, one can see tiny dots: the dots that form the image of his
face. The dots in this case happen to be pill capsules. This was, undoubtedly, done on
purpose by the album cover designer; it creates a stylistic image of the meaning behind
this album, as if the meaning behind the album was not already clarified with the title
Relapse. The pills that construct his face in this album cover can likely signify a
subliminal message that Eminem was virtually made of pills when this album was
made. To further the references to prescription pills in this album cover, in the bottom left
corner, there appears to be a white prescription form. However, this prescription form
is actually information about the album. At the top of this prescription form is the title
of the album: Relapse. The R in Relapse has the subscript x next to it. Rx is the
medical symbol for prescription; this is a reference inside a reference and its quite
intriguing to me. The prescription form also has a reference to a specific song in the
Relapse album, the song 3am that I previously mentioned. It says Take 1 tablet(s) one
time(s) daily at 3am. The designer of the Relapse album cover had a lot of creative
talent. With his images and stylistic techniques, he was able to capture the emotions of
the album. The album cover includes various visual interactions, such as contrast (the

colorful image of Eminems face on top of the black background), repetition (the
repetitive pills that act as dots to create Eminems face), and access (the album name and
Eminems face are easy to see and not hidden). The Relapse album cover provides insight
about the meaning of the album: Eminems struggle with drug dependency.
On a brighter note, Eminems seventh album, Recovery, released on June18,
2010, was a far cry from the musical style he used in his Relapse album. While Relapse
was an album of dark songs and a carefree attitude, Recovery was more emotionally
driven and intended to suit the listening ear of a broader range of people. Whereas
Relapse sounded more like a collaboration of sinister Slim Shady type songs, Recovery
included songs that would more likely be played on the radio. By this, I mean that the
songs on Recovery were less explicit and the beats were more pop-sounding than the
hardcore rap style of Relapse; one example of this fusion with pop music in Recovery
was the song Wont Back Down featuring Pink. The chorus of Wont Back Down is
a motivational ballad in which Pink sings You can sound the alarm , you can call out
your guards , you can fence in your yard, you can pull all the cards, but I won't back
down. Oh no I wont back down. Oh no... This related to the theme of the album:
Eminem wont let drugs tear him down and hes not going to back down when they try
to tempt him. Eminems previous album, Relapse, included more negative contexts and
drug references than Recovery, which promoted positivity and the battle against drug
dependency. The difference in music styles is portrayed in the designs of the album
Eminems personal transition from the party all day and go cray attitude to a
more focused, positive attitude can be seen on the Recovery album cover. This album

cover is simpler than that of the Relapse album cover in the sense that it is just a picture
and there are not a lot of words or secret images hidden in it. However, this album cover
is still very meaningful and relatable to the songs in the album. The album cover for
Recovery includes a picture of Eminem walking on an empty country road with his hands
in his pockets. Eminems back is facing the viewer and he appears to be walking into the
distance on a road that vanishes into the distance. On the Recovery album cover, Eminem
is wearing a beanie and long sleeve clothes, so it can be assumed that the weather is cold
wherever he is. This corresponds with the first song in the album entitled Cold Wind
Blows. However, in Cold Wind Blows, he is talking about the weather in a
metaphorical rather than literal sense. The song is about settling scores with celebrity
rivals and letting go of any grudges he previously held. Already in the first song of the
album, a positive side of Eminem can begin to be seen (or heard, for that matter).
Eminem matured tremendously in a year. From the release of Relapse in 2009 to the
release of Recovery in 2010, he shifted his entire outlook on life; that is, that life is not
pointless and that anyone can make the world a better place if they have the right
mindset. This positive outlook of his can be seen on the motivational album cover for
Eminems Recovery.
The Recovery album cover includes visual interaction styles, such as contrast,
proximity, access, and hierarchy. As opposed to the Relapse album cover, Eminems face
is not the most important part of the Recovery album cover. The first thing that is seen is
the album title in the top right cover. There are a few reasons why the album title is the
first thing seen on the Recovery album cover. Firstly, the letters are white so they contrast
with the blue sky; also the O in Recovery is a red circle with a white cross inside of it,

which symbolizes health. The red and white O makes the word Recovery even more
noticeable by contrasting the blue sky and contrasting the white letters. Another reason
that the album title is the first thing seen is hierarchy. The word is positioned at the top of
the album cover, so it signifies that it is of utmost importance. I believe this was
intentional on the part of the album cover designer. Eminem did not want himself to be
the albums main focus; he wanted it to be the idea of recovering from drug dependency,
hence Recovery. Eminem placed himself on a personal level with his listeners to
deliver his message in his Recovery album. The album cover artist portrayed this by
making Eminem look like a normal guy walking down the road. The Recovery album
cover designer used proximity to make the road look really long and practically endless;
the road gets blurred out near the end. This acts as a metaphor that the road to positivity
is a long one. Although its a long road, Eminem is walking it and this is very
motivational to me. He emphasizes the importance of leaving the past behind and moving
forward to a better lifestyle.
Eminems personality is reflected through his music and also through his image.
He began making positive changes in his lifestyle that shined through his music in the
Recovery album. The tone and the message of Recovery differed greatly than those of
Relapse. The album covers for Relapse and Recovery were very different as well; both
accurately laid the groundwork for the themes of the albums. With the mental image of
the album cover in the listeners mind, the lyrics to the songs become even more
coherent. As the lyrics become more coherent to the listener, the message and theme of
the album becomes more easily interpreted.