This past Thursday evening, I found myself in a place with which I am incredibly familiar: two chapters ahead of the reading. Unable to find any more work to busy myself with, and faced with absolutely no Piazza notifications, I wondered what I might do to fill time (time, of course, being a human construct that I only reference in order to make this article apprehensible to the average reader).

Ultimately, I made the decision to review some albums I’ve noticed are climbing in popularity.

However, I don’t actually listen to music, because I believe that headphones degrade your eardrums, so instead of reviewing the albums based on their music, I will focus on the album art.

ANTI (Deluxe) – Rihanna – 2016

Bathed in red and flanked by a grainy white texture, I imagine this album is a hallmark work of communist propaganda. After all, Rihanna is known to have smoked marijuana, which is a gateway drug, as far as I’m concerned. The small child in the center of the picture, however, wears golden glasses, and is likely a symbol of affluence. Thus, the album cover introduces a tension to the work, a struggle between contending ideologies. (I hope I’m using “contending” correctly—my history professor often refers to my word choice as “puzzling.”)

ANTI was originally only released on Tidal, a music streaming service that seeks to democratize the sonic landscape, again a tension in the work. In the myriad classist overtures of this work, the listener (presumably) arrives at an elevated class consciousness. As such, perhaps with this work, Rihanna is asserting herself as the modern day Karl Marx, who I believe was a central topic of this week’s reading and—

Oh, Marx was only mentioned in the introduction? Oh… that’s so odd… I swear I saw his name in… um… chapter… uh—

Piece By Piece (Deluxe) – Kelly Clarkson – 2016

Veiled in kaleidoscopic color and layered repetitions of the same portrait photograph of Kelly Clarkson’s face, the cover of Piece By Piece alludes to Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, and is therefore likely an allegory on the superficial nature of life in the music industry, something I’m particularly familiar with as my father is the owner of the label of this year’s Lawnparties headliner. If you thought that was a run-on sentence, you should take a look at the introduction of my R3. My motive takes up an entire page. But here is my reasoning: this is a result of my unparalleled critical engagement with the topics at hand. I should be celebrated, not punished.

And I shouldn’t have gotten a B- on my R3. But my father is currently handling that situation.

Clarkson’s album art features a smoky side eye, which, when multiplied in the facial layering scheme mentioned earlier, brings about exactly five smoky eyes in what appears to be the 2 dimensional mapping of a 4D hypercube. You probably can’t see that, as you are likely not able to see in four dimensions, unlike myself. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m kind of a numbers guy. I’m currently ranked in Piazza as the number one contributor in COS 109, known colloquially as “Emails 4 Females.” I, however, do not subscribe to traditional gender roles and truly try to push through gender imbalances and gender stereotypes here at Princeton, specifically by wearing a “Meninist” snapback, but only 100% ironically.

Mind of Mine – ZAYN – 2016

The small child on the cover of ZAYN’s new album smiles at us, creating a sense of disarming and contentment, as small children are generally agents of joy and happiness. This disarming nature is contrasted sharply by the tattoo sleeves snaking up this child’s wrists; and it is in this contradiction that the backdrop of the album cover really comes into play. Presumably a chalkboard or tarnished leather on cheap combat boots, this background perfectly captures the struggle on the frontal plane of the image, a struggle of personal identity and—put more concretely—homoerotic proclivities. I realize this might be a stretch, given the fact that I haven’t actually listened to any of these songs, but I imagine my intuition regarding the artistic composition of the album art is sound. I have, after all, completed ART 100.

While listening to the recorded versions of each lecture I keep for this class in my Walkman, I thought really deeply about Malik’s struggle in this album—namely his struggle for departing from an old identity and finding a new one, something I’ve been thinking a lot about ever since thoroughly stalking the St. A’s website.

What’s really remarkable about this album art is its ability to evoke—and perhaps to challenge—Victorian high art portraiture; its themes, its eccentricities, its beauties, most importantly, its flaws. I’m not really sure what that sentence means, but it came to me in a dream I had about this class last night, after reading and re-reading Atlas Shrugged for fun. I’m also not sure how those things are related. But, as with many great works of modernist literature, my intent is to pose questions about life and resist answering them concretely. I think that will make everyone enjoy our class so much more.

Alright, well that’s all I have time for today. I have to get ready to attend my Princeternship at Goldman tomorrow. Honestly, I think it’s an amazing opportunity to network and to see Goldman on the inside, to really understand how everything works. That, and I believe that Effective Altruism is the greatest theory ever constructed and would like to see it become a new world order. But you didn’t hear it from me!