The move to digital streaming has meant album covers have become less important, with album art now reduced to a small square on our screens. Which is why Phumlani S Langa is loving Apple Music’s drive to bring this art form back into the spotlight with new playlist cover art created by a selection of designers.
Apple Music and similar digital platforms are slowly taking centre stage in terms of how we engage with music. While these platforms put a vast database of artists and albums at our fingertips, it’s also meant that album art has been reduced to a small thumbnail image next to a track list.
With this in mind, Apple has commissioned a group of international and African artists to design cover images for the various playlists they offer. Apple’s global director, Rachel Newman, says the idea is to present something relatable and tailor-made for a specific region and sound. I really dig the Afro-soul cover – a dark-skinned sister with a mighty ’fro, reclining on a couch almost as if she’s getting lost in the melancholic melodies of this genre.
Locally, South Africa was represented by Cape Town’s Merwe Marchand, Studio Muti and Beloved Beadwork. The Afrikaanse treffers playlist shows a Springbok grazing in a green and mountainous pasture with a Protea flower in the corner. This one is perhaps a little on the nose but at least Apple is catering for everybody. Most of the work is fairly straightforward and conveys what is included on the playlist – at a glance.
Some are a little cryptic and abstract, such as the Mzansi jazz cover while the Mzansi hip-hop cover is dark, with gold-tipped buck horns on an all-black background. If we’re being honest, how many of our local rappers are as dark as the image might make you think?
Imagine clicking on this and seeing a playlist with songs such as Fela In Versace attached to it. There is an alternative image, a Rastaman wearing an interesting pair of glasses that look like an old school car radio. Go with that, in my opinion.
The idea is a good one, a nice touch to make you feel like the song selectors at Apple are thinking about you and your region’s music, as they very well should be. I’m digging the work, but next Apple should focus on a holistic approach to its cataloging. For instance, it is ridiculous that there are only two Prokid albums on this platform.