There have always been artists willing to push socially acceptable boundaries to the brink of breaking point. Some do it on stage with their performances, some do it with their lyrics or their outlandish solos, and others use their album artwork to push the envelope. Some, like Prince, do all of them and usually at once.
Having a provocative or controversial album cover has often been the sign of a band or artist who has a serious intent to impose their artistic will upon everything they release. It’s also a sign of an artist unwilling to bend or conform to the masses. Put simply, it’s the sign of a good record. All of this leads us to assume that Prince has suffered from the odd banning order and, sure enough, his 1988 album Lovesexy was banned from hitting the shelves for an apparently offensive album cover.
Let’s not get it twisted; the ability to upset the fragile apple cart of western society has never been challenging. From nudity to silly pranks, there have been countless album covers that have upset retailers and publishers and seen themselves thrown on the rubbish pile of the industry, even if they aren’t really that offensive at all. Naturally, contrary to established beliefs, the banning of the albums often contributed to their cult status, making them more desirable than ever. However, there was no such luck for Prince on this occasion.
Back in 1988, Prince’s new album Lovesexy was pulled from the shelves after the photograph of the singer on the front of the album was deemed too sexy for stores. It sees the singer sitting on a flower, and although he’s covering his modesty, US censors were none too pleased. It was removed from shops, and some covered it in black wrapping, which when you considered the album was a replacement for the aptly named and hastily withdrawn Black Album does add a touch of irony.
Looking through an array of album covers that have been banned over the years it is hard to see how this one suffered the same fate as Blind Faith’s depiction of a topless 13-year-old girl or Posion’s use of a devil woman.
Of course, Prince is in the nude, but his affections are clearly placed skyward as he allowed theology to guide his writing, providing one of his only gospel records. Prince noted the album’s titled track as being a reflection of “The feeling you get when you fall in love … not with a boy or girl but with the heavens above.”
If this image of Prince (shot by fashion photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino) goes anyway to offend you, then we suggest you avoid some of the singer’s music too. With many of the performer’s earlier songs being written almost exclusively about sex, Prince’s image sitting atop an open flower while naked and apparently opening himself up to God is comparatively pretty wholesome when you think about it.
The album has since gone on to become a rich piece of Prince’s iconography, showcasing his unwavering talent of getting a funky rhythm out of any theme or notion he chooses. Whether his love for God or the skies clashing together, Prince always gave the audience his unadulterated vision. Seemingly, sometimes, music fans need their hands held.