Designed by critically-acclaimed artist George Condo, the cover features a cartoon West being ridden by a wingless, semi-nude phoenix. It is crude and more than a little silly. Regardless, when I looked on the iTunes store pre-order section, I noticed that Apple decided to blur out the image, so customers will presumably only get a heavily pixellated version of the cover when they download it Nov. 22.
The issue here isn't the cover itself, but what Apple hasn't done with other controversial album covers. For instance, The Black Crowes' hit 1994 album Amorica raised a stink by showing a bikini bottom with some errant pubic hair sticking out -- to the point where the band had to release an alternative cover with the hirsute region blacked out. The iTunes version currently sports the original version, as if the cultural war with Walmart (WMT) never happened.
More perplexing to the blurred cover decision is that Apple had a choice: There are actually five covers to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. West's label Def Jam encouraged him to present alternatives to family-friendly venues like Walmart and Target (TGT), and nearly all the other options, including a depiction of a blushing ballerina, are as tame as a Jonas Brothers CD.
Why did Apple bother to blur out the one potentially offensive cover? Either it was too lazy to update the picture or it wanted to send a message for other artists interested in pushing controversial art. I suspect the latter, especially based on on its capricious history with mature apps and classic literature. We'll find out the next time an artist has a cover that pushes the envelope.
Photo courtesy of Kanye West