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Megan McBean
Mr. Shane Wood
English 101
21 September 2015
Visual Persuasion through Album Covers
We live in a world where we invariably use images to persuade and communicate
to audiences. This leads us to believe that who ever can catch the attention of todays
lifestyle will be able to allure the culture and mold it into the future. What better way to
persuade and inform people better than listening to music? Not only do artists
communicate through the lyrics, but also through album cover art. Rhetorical strategies
and analytical devices are constantly used in the art on the cover of an album, regardless
of what genre of music. Two album covers that stood out significantly to me in this
generations music was the alternative rock band the Gorillaz album Demon Days
(2005), and hip hop artist Ice Cubes controversial album Death Certificate (1991). The
Gorillaz and Ice cube both use their album covers to allure the audiences attention
towards the problems with evolving society and depraved politics. These two album
covers convey messages for their music that appeal to the audiences visually, using
rhetorical appeals through symbolism and imagery to embolden social and political
The Gorillaz differ from other mainstream artists because of their band image.
With no real members, the band themselves are being fictional creations. Visual
representation play a huge part in who Gorillaz are, mainly representing the bands
formation and each members history. The Gorillaz also differ from mainstream artists

because rather than singing about love or fame, the topics of their albums are always
based on facing your inner demons in order to rid of the social and political corruption
that has been engraved into everyones brain by the brainwashing media (hence the title
Demon Days). The Gorillaz use their virtual members to tell stories about the horrors of
the hidden lewd ideals of modern evolvement.
When taking a first glance at the Gorillaz album Demon Days, eyes are
immediately drawn to the four cartoon characters on the cover. The four cartoon
characters are made to look like cartoon gorillas, each in a separate white box at equal
height. All the characters are also a different color, signifying they are all different and
multiple races. This applies to the audiences visually, especially considering the nature
and disposition of the cartoons are consistent themes of the band. Since the actual font of
the bands name and the album title is in thin white letters, the cartoons are what convey
the meaning of the album cover. The dark and mysterious color schemes look of the
characters depict the albums goal of being abnormal and rebelling against the norm. This
draws a wider variety of audiences in, appealing to no certain age group through the
visual image of the album cover.
On the cover of Demon Days, the band characters are looking in the same
direction in uniform matter. This is analyzed as a message representing guerillas, as in
freedom fighters. These freedom fighters can also be seen as the inner demons the band
has been consistent with, needing to come out to fight the system. This album cover is the
epitamy of freedom fighters, the albums songs consist of smooth alternative rock mixed
with some hip hop elements, lyrics consisting of the breaking down of the system and
dare to be defiant. The Gorillaz connected the rhetorical situation of the songs in the

album to the communicative album art cover. Their ideals of getting stuck in the social
system as well as the corrupted political system is communicated well through their
lyrics, and represented by the artistic cartoon characters.
The pathos appeal is used in the creation of this album cover and album art. Its
use of pathos is seen in the dominant subject of the mindless consumption to the
corrupted systems in todays societys. The dark color schemes, frumped characters, and
deep trip-hop sounds all contribute to the albums music and message. The dark art stirs
up emotions in the audience, appealing not only to emotion, but to imagination. The
Gorillaz use their virtual members to persuade the audience into looking at the bigger
picture of the overtaking, corrupted, and dangerous modern world. In Demon Days, the
bands fictional cartoon members travel through a dark, monster infested, postapocalyptic landscape. These monsters represent urban infringing on the natural world,
increase of violence in civil society, brainwashing effects of the media, and evasion of the
modern pursuit of pleasure. This album brings a euphoric feeling when listening and a
celebration of purity. However, it also warns listeners about the problems with todays
evolving society.
Ice Cube is notorious for being one of hip-hops best artists. He is also notorious
for being the first member to leave rap group N.W.A. and for being one of hip-hops most
controversial artists. His lyrics, even when with N.W.A., have always been smothered
with profanity. When he did establish himself as a solo artist, his hate of politics and
social injustice were defined even more. Death Certificate was Ice Cubes second record
released as a solo artist, and was acclaimed even more for being so controversial and raw.

Ice Cube proclaims this image as a contentious gangsta to catch the attention of many
on his Death Certificate album cover.
Death Certificate, 1991 album by American rapper Ice Cube, brings a whole
different vibe when analyzing the cover art. This hip-hop albums album art has been one
of the most controversial art pieces in music history. The Death Certificate album cover
shows a close up of feet with a morgue tag labeled Uncle Sam, with an American flag
covering what appears to be the dead body of Uncle Sam. Ice Cube is in the third
dimension of the image, wearing black to connote criminal activity, tying into the
narrative of the album. This indicates that Ice Cube was involved in the killing of Uncle
Sam, as the close up on his feet is the focal point of the violent and revolutionary
intentions of the album. The American flag over the body of Uncle Sam identifies Ice
Cubes intentions to extirpate America because of the way it has treated him. To add more
violent traits to the album cover, the parental advisory label is also pointing out the
aggressive content of this hip hop album, and the revolutionary changing of hip hop to
aggressive and mature content. The gritty vintage color and low lighting compliment Ice
Cubes thug image- as the dangerous and dark life he leads in this destructive album.
The listeners (or the audience) to this album are interested in the revolutionary
aspects against society, the ones who desire to change the system. Ice Cube was a symbol
of the rebellion against the US government in terms of respect and order. He is
communicating his hate of the political aspects involved in his life. Ice Cube examines
white supremacy, espousing his philosophies on his sociopolitical call for self- reform
and changes in American policy. Ice Cube exempts a clear message through his album
cover art of Death Certificate. This image justifies how much Ice Cube does not care

about what people think, and in that he cares about what the people need to know. He
attacks the authority directly with verve, not caring about the appeal people may make to
equate his music with violence and gore. Ice Cube clearly identifies himself as a street
spokesman and gangster with his dark clothing and harsh lighting. The body of Uncle
Sam on the cover indicates the albums music will consist of songs about the death of
patriotism as it has become too corrupt.
The appeal to pathos is dominant in this album cover. Ice Cubes Death
Certificate displays a dead Uncle Sam with an American flag over the body, appealing to
the emotion of hip-hop lovers. This emotion has stirred up plenty of conflict over the
rappers risky album cover choice, but has proven Ice Cubes determination to be seen
and to be heard as a revolutionary artist. Ice Cube uses harsh lighting and focus points to
depict his art as a form of freedom of speech. He is clearly proud to stir up conflict in his
audience and listeners, with his heavy use of language towards the US governments
discrimination against LAs young black youth. This pathos was received by politics
exactly how he wanted, as all controversy had lead to political fury and public
condemnation. However, this fury did not stop Death Certificate from going platinum and
number two on the charts.
These two genres of music differ greatly in visual presentation. Although both
project a sense of defiance against the system of politics and media, the two artists seek
to communicate using pathos in different ways. Demon Days used more of an illusion to
what the media has done and what the government has ruined. Their use of pathos
persuades their audiences by reason of why modernizing should be stopped and freedom
fighters are needed to preserve old euphoric values. Death Certificate had used an upfront

proposal. His pathos is used to hit the audience with the raw truth about the injustices of
America. Ice Cube molded his hate and fear for the government into a jaw dropping
image of a dead American symbol, luring in the ones who felt the connection of being
neglected by the system. The power of persuasion and communication through emotion
are shown significantly in these two album covers, catching the attention of many
audiences across the two genres of music. Demon Days and Death Certificate convey
messages for their music that appeals to the audiences visually, using rhetorical appeals
through symbolism and imagery to embolden social and political situations.