Because it's not enough to simply sound sexy.
Of all the things we regularly lament the demise of here at the Nerve office (manners, pennyfarthings, dueling as a method of conflict resolution), none causes us to gnash our teeth and wail skyward like the demise of album covers as an art form. Nowadays, with album art confined to a tiny square in your iTunes window, we've lost the ability to gaze longingly (or lustily) at the covers of our favorite albums. So we're taking a trip down erotic memory lane, and commemorating the twenty-five sexiest album covers of all time. Where others might call any cover with some bare flesh sexy, we tried to limit our choices to covers with a bit of wit and panache; we think you'll agree it's not what you've got, but how you use it. Enjoy with a touch of nostalgic tumescence.
25. Serge Gainsbourg, Histoire de Melody Nelson (1971)
Serge might have occasionally erred on the side of perversion, but Jane Birkin's appearance on this classic is just restrained enough while still delivering an unmistakably sultry vibe.
24. Madonna, Like a Virgin (1984)
Madonna's album covers recently have been more pop arty and less overtly sexy, but there's something about her gaze in that iconic wedding dress that brings it all back for us.
23. Carly Simon, Playing Possum (1975)
That barely-there hemline and those incredible stems combine for a level of sex appeal previously unseen from Ms. Simon.
22. Sade, Love Deluxe (1992)
It's restrained by the standards of a lot of the other albums on this list, but Sade Adu manages to radiate sex all the same on this cover.
21. The Ohio Players, Fire (1971)
The Ohio Players really took the "sexy album cover" to the bank during their '70s heyday, but this one still sticks out. It's a great photo, shot just well enough to diffuse the vague stupidity of the concept.
20. The Slits, Cut (1979)
The Slits were one of the all-time great female punk bands, and the provocative cover to Cut is as badass as it is sexy.
19. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Whipped Cream and Other Delights (1965)
Yes, it's a bit of a cliche of the sexy-album-cover pantheon, but we know a winner when we see one.
18. Scorpions, Love at First Sting (1984)
Scorpions had their fair share of dopily sexy album covers, but this one strikes the right balance of eroticism and restraint. Especially when you compare it to Lovedrive.
17. Roxy Music, Country Life (1974)
Country Life exemplifies the brooding eroticism and high-class sensibilities of the seminal glam band. Also, there are boobs.
16. Fatboy Slim, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars (2000)
Original title: "Total Eclipse of the Vagina."
15. Nashville Pussy, Let Them Eat Pussy (1998)
Here's a unique inversion of the typical sexual power structure of rock. Yes, we like it because it's political.
14. Patti Smith, Horses (1975)
While it's not explicit, Robert Mapplethorpe's famous picture of Smith is unspeakably alluring.
13. Eric Clapton, EC Was Here (1975)
We'll bet he was.
12. Black Crowes, Amorica (1996)
11. Prince, Dirty Mind (1980)
Nobody could make a thong look simultaneously threatening and sexy quite like Prince. The androgyny was progressive, the music was incredible, and Prince made it all look easy.
10. Basement Jaxx, Remedy (1999)
This one switches up the objectification that fuels of most of the rest; in place of the singular lust object, it almost seems to capture lustiness itself.
9. Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA (1980)
Annie Liebovitz's cover for Born in the USA launched a thousand parodies and established Bruce as a working-class sex symbol for the ages.
8. Bow Wow Wow, See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah! City All Over, Go Ape Crazy! (1981)
Annabella Lwin was fifteen when this album came out. The music is frantic, jittery, and hormonal — just like every fifteen-year-old since the dawn of time. Points for the Manet reference.
7. Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers (1971)
There's some dispute as to whose magnificent package that is on the cover, but there's no dispute about the tingly sensation it stirs up. (The music's not bad, either, for a bunch of ugly British dudes.)
6. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (1977)
The elegant composition of this cover is only slightly tainted by Mick Fleetwood's… ah, fuck it, his balls. But since it was taken at a time when Stevie Nicks was ascending to new heights of ethereal beauty, we don't think he's the real focal point of this one.
5. Pixies, Surfer Rosa (1988)
This cover just seems perfect for an album that's both erotic and raw.
4. D'Angelo, Voodoo (2000)
This cover, along with the video for "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," made D'Angelo into a sex symbol. It's unfair that he had that voice, that songwriting talent, and that body all at once.
3. The Cars, Candy-O (1979)
Legendary airbrush artist Alberto Vargas came out of retirement to do this pinup cover only after being presented with his model, the coincidentally-named Candy Moore. She probably would've lured us out of retirement too.
2. Morrissey, Your Arsenal (1992)
For someone who's repeatedly claimed to be asexual, Morrissey could smolder with the best of them. Also, it looks like that all-broccoli diet paid off in the abs department.
1. The Strokes, Is This It (2001)
Too sexy for us puritanical Americans, this was replaced by an image of a particle collision for Is This It's stateside release, but the original version perfectly captures the almost-too-seedy late-night feel of the album. It is also beautiful, weird, and hot as hell.