Robert J. Belton

The Narrative Potential of Album Covers

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Studies in Visual Arts and Communication – an international journal / Dec 2015 2(2)


In Popular Music Studies there appears to be a conceptual divide between the aesthetics of videos and those of album covers because the former move in time and the latter do not. One of the consequences of this separation is that music video studies tend to take inspiration from film and media studies whereas album cover studies tend to derive ideas and methods from art history. This paper asks if this isn’t a missed opportunity. It argues that album covers can and do exist in time, and it offers a type of analysis that shows how still and moving images both integrate with music to create a modal hybrid that is greater than simply the sum of their parts. One can, for example, profitably deploy narrative analysis to understand still images. Similarly, one can deploy art historical methods to assess music videos.

Biographical note

Robert J. Belton
The University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus, Canada
Department of Critical Studies, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies
PhD, Art History, 1988 (UToronto); MA, Art History, 1981 (UToronto); BFA, Visual Arts 1978 (UWestern).

Recent positions:
Associate Professor, Visual Culture and Popular Music, UBC Okanagan, 2010-present; Dean, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, UBC Okanagan, 2005-2010; Dean, Faculty of Arts, Okanagan University College, 2000-2005; Associate Professor, Art History and Visual Culture, Okanagan University College, 1992-2000