It would be pointless to try and pretend that I am not ridiculously impressed by this album cover art.
Where to begin? Perhaps first and foremost, this cover art strikes me – just like Something ‘Bout Love – as a smart, professional take on David’s own preferences. In other words, I believe we are seeing more of David in this photograph – in all the choices that add up to such a critical “brand” decision – than in any previous release of an official image.
The cover art for the self-titled debut album was a smart strategic choice for that moment in David’s career (one of the only smart strategic choices in that period) because it showed that David could pull off a pop, youth appeal for which many thought him unsuitable. The edgy, rock-and-roll red tee-shirt shot against a crumbling brick wall in the hippest neighborhood on the planet was the right concept, but, let’s face it: it wasn’t really David. David has about as much in common with the trend-setters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as he does with, well, any homogeneous grouping of people with common values and attributes. David is a one-off. Completely unique. We all know that. It’s one of the main reasons he has such a devoted fan base. What is obvious from just the first glimpses of his sophomore effort is that David has finally had enough of letting others define him. We are clearly getting more of David in every aspect of his work, now, and that’s about as smart a strategic choice as could possibly be made.
Footwear. Oh, but the boy doth loveth him some footwear. There is something undeniably sexy about anything strappy around the ankles, for either gender, and the short boot has always been a dashing choice for men. And don’t even try to suggest that these were some stylist’s selection. No, sir. If I am dead certain about any item of attire in this picture having come from David’s own closet it’s them what’s on his feets. And while we’re starting at the bottom, let’s not ignore the fact that this set-up is a rather clever way to get a full-body shot that is more casual than contrived. Why a full-body shot of the Archeletor? Let’s just acknowledge that he has been workin’ that bod and deserves to show it off, shall we?
The ripped jeans and the dark, fitted sport jacket are a staple for young guys wanting to appear both classy and blithe. We might even go so far as to say that the combination symbolizes the demographic extremes of his fan base, unique for an artist not yet twenty. Was that a conscious juxtaposition? Doesn’t matter. It works as one. It’s the tee-shirt, though, that comes as a welcome surprise, and which is the one choice I might acquiesce to the stylist. David tends to favor graphic tees (or, at least, once did), and the use of a simple gray one here makes all the difference in keeping the entirety of the image and its graphical context modern and sophisticated. Indeed, it’s the overall sophistication of this image that is marvelously appealing – and completely David.
Songs could be written about David’s smile, and this one would certainly serve as premier fodder for such an effort, but the aspect of this image that stands out to me, the one element that strikes me as something of a genius choice, is the chair. Why, you ask, the chair? Out of all the chairs that could have been chosen for such a purpose, this one offers a rather specific cultural reference to anyone with more than a passing interest in entertainment. I can’t say whether this was a conscious choice or not, it is perhaps impossible to know, but this is the style of chair that is most closely associated with theater and cabaret. Maybe the fact that it’s such an iconic design for entertainment purposes makes it a staple in most photography studios and, as such, suggests it was less of strategic choice than a practical one, but it really doesn’t matter how it got there. It suggests the deeply-embedded theatrical legacy of the performer and, even more specifically, the singer. And amidst all the modern, minimalist elements composing this enormously appealing image, the bentwood cabaret chair is a vivid yet subtle reminder of what is truly unique and special about David Archuleta. It is rather a wonder of a choice, intentional or not. The precarious aspect of the chair, tilted onto two legs, is also easily apropos: David is putting himself on the line more than he ever has before; he is set to take some risks; to gamble on the success of his own, more personal decisions.
Those of us in the devoted category know full well that the more David is David in his work, the more successful he will be. It’s fun to think of it as a risk, but as David himself so often likes to suggest: being true to yourself is its own reward, and the only way to authentically connect with others. I would suggest that those of us lucky enough to have felt that connection can see quite plainly that this image may well become one of the most iconic in the Archuleta legacy. Congrats, David, it’s brilliant.
P.S. And as to how well the color palette of the new album cover matches that of TDC… Coincidence?