From the moment Prince signed with Warner Bros in 1977, as a shy 19-year-old, he demanded complete control over his art. Everything from the way his music sounded to how it was packaged was Prince’s call – and his call alone. But while his aesthetic helped define the 80s, the best Prince album covers also created a world that was entirely his own. “When he would switch eras, he would literally change everything, from his wardrobe to the way his rooms were decorated,” photographer Jeff Katz told Pitchfork in 2020. Each creative phase came with a colour scheme that extended to his album artworks, not only reflecting the music within, but the way Prince conducted his entire life: as an artistic statement in its own right.
“He would show up at a photo shoot wearing what you think was the stage outfit, and that would be his street clothing,” Katz said. “There was no difference. Most artists have a stage persona, but he was looking like that in his house when no one else was around.”
Covering every studio album artwork – from the intimate to the outrageous – here is a countdown of all 39 Prince album covers, ranked and reviewed.