Cherry Ice Cream Smile: Paper Gods Album Cover

So how about that Paper Gods album cover?

For months now (actually it’s been YEARS…but we won’t bring that up again right now), I’ve wondered what they would do for a cover and a title. Would it be something artsy like All You Need is Now? Would it be a photo of the band? Would they use the black and gold or black and silver DD logo?  And what would they call this thing? I was starting to think they’d go with Pressure Off only because they hash tagged it everywhere; but my heart was with DD14 because, well…duh.  It’s what we’ve all called it since about September of 2013. Maybe it can be the treasured nickname, only used by friends and family.

Overthinking again. Right….anyway…

And…as is very indicative of my “relationship” and communicative abilities with this band, I was so, so wrong. In a lot of ways, I’m glad I couldn’t read their minds (actually, in MOST ways I’m glad I can’t read their minds). After all, when the day comes that I can pinpoint what they’re going to do, I will need to probably take a giant step back from the keyboard and find a new hobby. I mean, if there are no surprises, what is truly the point? In my point of view, some surprises can be good.

Admittedly, I am still trying to come to terms with the album cover, if not also the name. This is not meant as an insult, it’s that we’re all in that awkward phase where we’re introducing ourselves to someone (something) we’ve not really met yet. I’ll give a personal example and pray that my youngest never reads the blog. When I had my youngest, back in 2008 – we were pretty set on her first name. (That name came from a stuffed dog that my oldest owned, oddly enough…we are very careful to say that we didn’t name her after the dog of course, only that it gave us the idea!) Anyway, her middle name was tougher. We’ve named our kids after various family members, and I wanted to continue the tradition but I also wanted to give her the middle name of Marie (a name which belongs to no one in our family). Instead of doing so, I went with Renee, a middle name she shares with my sister. For the first few months, she didn’t look at all like her name to me. I was still getting used to her, finding her personality.  I would even occasionally slip and call her the name I’d originally chose rather than the one on her birth certificate. Now? I couldn’t imagine her having any other name. It fits perfectly.

I’m trying to remember back to All You Need is Now. Remember the cigarette burn on the cover?  I believe some of you out there even called it a sperm…isn’t that lovely? I’ve never seen so much criticism given to a cover of an album we’d yet to have heard. Funny, I hear nothing about that cover these days. We got used to it, and the album of course grew on most of us, too….and now we’ve moved on to Paper Gods.

Let me briefly comment on the name since I didn’t have a chance last week. I don’t even know when the news of the name hit – was it Friday? I didn’t really come up for air until Sunday afternoon, so the name doesn’t quite roll off my tongue (or my fingers) with ease just yet. I think the name is one of those things that will explain itself in time, and then I’ll wonder why I even thought twice about it…because that’s what albums are really supposed to do. If I had the chance to ask the band about this album, I’d ask them if they feel like it’s a complete “statement” in the same vein as albums back in our day were done (Ziggy Stardust comes to mind), or if it was put together the way so many are today, where they’re meant for quicker consumption. There’s no wrong answer there, albums are written so much differently today, thanks to iTunes and similar. People buy songs, not albums – so there isn’t as much of a motivation for a band to create an album that tells a whole story, or gives a statement. I’ve just been curious as to how they feel about it, especially now that it’s finished. In any case, as I ramble on here, I am hoping that once I really listen to the album, the name and it’s meaning will unfold in the very same way that all of their albums have done.  I think back to not just All You Need is Now (although perfectly named), but Red Carpet Massacre, Astronaut,  Pop Trash and even Medazzaland.  When you stand back and look at those albums as a whole – the meanings are clear and the names are perfect. I can’t wait to hash this one over.

Then there’s the cover, as I mentioned earlier. At some point over the last several days, I saw the new logo and the blurred background image. I love the logo by Brian Roettinger. I really do. I love the way the Duran kind of sits on top of and blends into the other Duran. I actually like the colors, too. I was able to make out the ice cream cone and even the telephone and tiger (actually at one point I had thought the cover looked similar to the one they did for the single of Perfect Day), and that’s when I realized that those images of the ice cream cone, telephone and tiger were meant to remind us of what came before. I dug that…because they were blurred. They were sort of enigmatic in their own way. We knew they were there, we knew what had come, but we weren’t meant to focus on them. The colors were complementary, they’ve had pinks and blues around them for as long as I can remember, and I like them.  At the time, I didn’t realize that the intention wasn’t for the cover to remain blurred.

The cover was reveled just yesterday (I believe??), with the caveat that the artwork is not final (Warner store website). The images are no longer blurred, and they kind of look like stickers. Someone else said (very accurately) that they reminded him of Colorforms from back in, well…OUR day.

The cover artist is LA-based Alex Israel and was done as a collaboration with the band, overseen by China Chow. Alex’s work is very large scale and much of it might remind you of gorgeous soft sunsets across a blue sky, although he has a multitude of other work as well. What tickles me with a cover such as this, where it might be easy to discard it as just pop -whether pop art or pop culture or even pop music – Alex Israel puts those images right on a reproduction of one of his very fine art pieces. Those images are somewhat styled to look like stickers or Colorforms if you remember them, very much icons of pop culture, if you will. But, if you bother to look beyond the surface, you’ll also find real art.

If that doesn’t describe this band; well, you’re not looking hard enough. Yes, Duran Duran are a part of pop culture. Yes, they’ve been pin-ups and have not been taken seriously, very much like this cover is being taken by FANS right now, but if you look hard enough, if you really pay attention, you just might find something far more valuable underneath.  I think it’s genius, and I love that Duran Duran makes comment on the (supposed) paradox of their career in such a unique and subtle way.

I’ve seen many, many negative comments regarding the cover. There was even one or two comments suggesting that fans put together a sort of online petition so that the band reconsiders. Really?! Really??? First of all, the obvious: it is THEIR cover. The band can call the album whatever they want, put whatever they want on the cover, and the rest of us have to respect their choice. That’s the way this all works. This is the boundary between being a fan and being the band. It’s a slippery slope at times, and yes – there are moments when we have that sense of ownership, but this cannot be one of those times. We have not commissioned the band to go into the studio and make the album we want.  They wrote the music THEY wanted, created the package and message they wished to convey.  I’m as guilty as the next person, but enough is enough. Secondly, how about putting a little thought into the cover before condemnation?  Dig a little deeper and see what you might find.

Lastly…anyone ready to take some Pressure Off?!?  I sure am!  I can’t wait to hear that single!!!



28 thoughts on “Cherry Ice Cream Smile: Paper Gods Album Cover”

  1. I just read this and ran to the computer (I was on my mobile reading!) while the comment was fresh in my mind.

    I just adore this post–it truly made me think, reconsider.

    My first reaction to the cover was not utter hate… it was more like “hmmm, not sure how to feel about this.” But I also understand why some don’t. I get that too.

    Back up a bit… when the blurred image was presented, at first I saw a corndog instead of a tiger and I couldn’t unsee that. I couldn’t get over a corndog on a duran album. But then they were unblurred. I immediately felt the connection. I saw what they were pointing at. All those images reference the very best parts of the 80s (for me). And stickers were so 80s eh??!

    And beyond. I can’t say I LOVE it. Part of me thinks it looks… um… cheap. But, I don’t want them to change it. You’re totally right there. These are images that connect both us and them… a feeling, a memory, a genuine connection. Its def a message to long time fans. That I love.

    So I am torn.

    I always thought pop-art was presented with a message about irony… or commercialism… and then the title hits me in the Face. Paper Gods… have they turned this album into a mirror that they are shining back in our faces? (I can’t help but reference the Nine Inch Nails song Head Like a Hole either).


    I think its starting to grow on me. It speaks to US. We know who WE are. A new fan, all those unknown festival new fans… won’t get it. But we do.


    1. I very much like the cover (although if the images were blurred I would have loved that too) – and I like it BECAUSE at first glance, it does look cheap. And photoshopped. And way more about 80s pop culture than I care to think about…and that’s the intention. But the point, the point that most probably will never quite understand unless they take the time to really think, is that you’ve got to look beyond that to see the real genius. The fine art, so to speak. 😀

      I think it’s brilliant. Most won’t like it, just as they didn’t love the last cover. That makes me like it even more. It’s a message to long time fans that newer fans may never fully understand, and that’s OK by me. 😉 LOL


    2. Hey, you know, they are classic. They can do what they want. They pull it off because that’s who they are. It takes a true fan to get the references. To an outsider, it won’t make sense. They are owed respect. I will love them always!

  2. I’m going out on a limb and state that I’m not liking the cover…yet. I’m hoping that the music will make the cover relevant for me…but as of right now I don’t like it.

    Let’s put it this way though…I didn’t like the AYNIN album cover at first, but now that I’ve heard the album a million times (OK – that may be slightly exaggerated) it has grown on me.

    It just seems like the album artwork has been thrown by the wayside a bit once we moved from 12″ vinyl releases to CD releases. Or maybe I’m just not understanding the artistic statement yet.

    1. It’s OK Al. I didn’t love Before the Rain when I first heard it. Took me MONTHS to really grapple with it before I decided I loved it. Sometimes the things you struggle with most are the things you hold most dear in the end, you know? And…if you never love it, that’s OK too. There’s one hell of a lot of art out there that I don’t love. -R

  3. I’ve also been in the “meh” camp about this design (agreeing with other comment above about it looking “cheap”), but I’m also willing to keep an open mind and know that it may all make sense later, after I’ve had a chance to digest the music. I LOVE your interpretation of it. I didn’t even get that far in my head with it. It felt too much to me like something more appropriate for a Greatest Hits compilation, with so many references to their past work, when they are usually so much about looking forward and never doing the same thing twice. When I pre-ordered yesterday, I saw that the CD has a 16-page booklet, so I’m eager to see how the design will follow through the rest of it. (and what the t-shirt is going to look like!)

    1. Won’t lie…I’m really hoping the t-shirt uses some different imagery. I think it’s interesting that they did use those old images, but I think that it might have everything to do with what they’re saying about themselves…and their fans. Can’t wait to hear the whole album and really ponder the entire package as a whole. I love that the band didn’t just throw a photo of themselves up there and call it a day though. They like to give us something to think about. Most don’t like to take that time, but I LOVE IT! 🙂 -R

  4. I am actually okay with the cover, because to me it is so reminiscent of something you might have seen in the 80s. Not to mention every image on that cover has significance to the band’s 80s heyday!

    I would love to see a discussion about the title of the album “Paper Gods”. First thing that came to mind is Paper Gods was a synonym for money, since for a lot of people, money is their god. Not saying that is the case for the band, or that was even their intent or meaning behind the album title. But I know that was the first thing that popped in my head.

      1. What is really funny is that if you google Paper Gods…there’s an entire manga book series by that name. Paper can mean a lot of things, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the band had in mind. It’s very difficult to discuss the album name without considering the music, so I’m kind of trying to hold off until September! 🙂 -R

  5. This cover is basically saying “We’re Duran Duran and we’re going back to our roots”! These are all symbols of their most commercially successful albums and images they gave to pop culture. The lips and ice cream make you think of Rio’s “cherry ice cream smile”. The sumo wrestler and silhouetted girl reminds us of “Girls On Film”. The drink and phone are those iconic images out of the Rio video. The tiger is you guessed it, Seven And The Ragged Tiger, where they became the biggest band in the world. And of course, who can forget that Chauffeur hat!!!! Not sure if this is what the boys are getting across but that’s my take. DD forever!!!

    1. Hi Billy, I am getting the feeling that most fans, such as yourself, see the stickers and stop there. Yes, those images ARE from their past…if I didn’t use those words, it is because I assumed that most fans would have already interpreted where they were from. The point though that nearly EVERYONE is missing, is that those stickers are placed upon a piece of fine art. That background is a reproduction of a painting, so you’ve got pop culture placed upon fine art. If you only see the stickers, you don’t see the fine art underneath. Get it?? -R

        1. Yes, it a reproduction of one of Alex Israel’s pieces called Sky Backdrop. Here is a photo of it, and I picked this one specifically because it pictures China Chow in front of it…and China managed the entire collaboration between the band and Alex. Interesting, huh?

          Alex Israel's Sky Backdrop (pictured with China Chow)

        2. I believe that the artwork existed prior to the cover and that Alex Israel reproduced it to be used as the cover background. -R

  6. Those had better be REAL STICKERS (on the vinyl at least). I really like the part underneath. Thanks for the blog, I guess this will sit better with me now… (FWIW, I really like the AYNIN graphics)

    1. Pretty sure that the images are only made to look like stickers…but who knows! Personally I think it would be kind of cool to issue them as Colorforms…Duran Duran version!! 🙂 – R

        1. Hey Mirabella70 I was doing a little reading on Facebook and someone mentioned that a sticker pack (I think it said 16 stickers) comes with the albums that are set up for preorder on the Warner Store (there’s a link on the DD Facebook page as well as right on their website)…so you’re gonna get your stickers! 😀 -R

  7. OK Rhonda…I’m starting to get the relevancy of the album cover now especially after researching the artist. I’m seeing several articles comparing him to Andy Warhol. That’s when it clicked for me. I still can’t say that I’m a “fan” of the album cover just yet…but at least now it’s starting to make more sense to me. We’re making some headway for me now. 🙂

    1. I think it’s really hard to be a fan of an album cover without really knowing the album itself, to be honest. I mean, some album covers do just click and that’s great, but a lot of times I find myself scratching my head and wondering why the images were even chosen. So, best we can do is try to keep an open mind. You’re doing far better than most from what I can see so far!! 😀 -R

  8. I AM thrilled that there is so much discussion of the cover. With the prevalence of downloading and streaming now, there seems like a huge decline in how much attention is paid to cover art in general, and that makes me sad.

  9. I actually thought that those would be images iniside of the album, you know like a booklet of sorts. I’m not sure how I feel of that being on the cover, but as you said we’ll have to wait and see how it all fits together.

  10. A few album pics are… Girls in film, seven and ragged “tiger” and rios ” cherry ice cream smiles” any clues to the rest?

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