Why settle for one controversial image when a half dozen will do? That seems to be the tactic Rihanna is employing on the cover to "Russian Roulette," the first single from her upcoming album Rated R. It's got everything: the giant, gleaming blade "R" logo; the blood-dripping track title; a sinister peek-a-boo eye patch; gold corset; and, of course, her provocative barbed wire-wrapped torso.
While it's just the companion image to her single (so who knows what the actual album cover will look like?), the edgy picture has already set tongues wagging and gotten us thinking about some of our other favorite envelope-pushing album artwork.
» No list would be complete without the bloody baby bodies and butcher outfits donned by the Beatles for Yesterday … and Today. The Fab Four were forced to replace the art on their 1966 album with a more benign image of them crowded around a steamer trunk. (Meanwhile, the original became a sought-after collector's item.)
» What's more disturbing? The image of a buzz saw slicing through a man's tight trousers as his bloody hands hold onto a metal codpiece, or the title Animal (F*** Like a Beast)? Whatever you think, metal band W.A.S.P. found out in 1983 that what really offended people was foul language, so a pair of stars were cloned in to cover up the offending word.
» Guns N' Roses were hardly shrinking violets when it came to controversy, so it just made sense that the cover of their 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction came under fire for a graphic cartoon image that depicted the aftermath of a brutal robot sexual assault.
» Another 1980s band that never shied away from controversy was Jane's Addiction. But the Los Angeles tribal rockers found a novel way to combat the censorship of singer Perry Farrell's risqué mixed media cover sculpture depicting a nude man-woman-woman hook-up: He issued a new version with a white cover featuring the text from the First Amendment.
» Kurt Cobain also ran into some trouble from retailers Wal-Mart and Kmart, who both initially blanched at the nude, winged anatomical model on the cover of the band's 1993 In Utero album.
» You know what else Wal-Mart didn't like? The image of the devil and Jesus standing over John Mellencamp's shoulders on the cover of his 1996 album, Mr. Happy Go Lucky. They got airbrushed.
» Speaking of images of Jesus that didn't go over, serial provocateur Marilyn Manson was forced to wrap his 2000 album Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) in a cardboard sleeve before some stores would stock it because it depicted him as a rotting Son of God.
» And what list would be complete without the gore-dripping cover of party-hardy shouter Andrew W.K.'s self-titled 2001 debut? This one was so bizarre, retailers couldn't decide what offended them, but they knew the sight of him dead-eyed with blood dripping — possibly from excess cocaine use, they thought — from his nose was bad, so some would only sell it with the face covered up by a cardboard sleeve.
Nice first effort Rihanna — we can't wait for the album cover!
What are your favorite controversial album covers? Do you think Rihanna's is too spicy or should she stick to her guns? Leave your thoughts in the comments and be sure to check out the full gallery of controversial album covers.