Titles: A Book Cover for Songs

Peter Mendelsund designs some stellar book covers.

As a matter of fact, some of those books I recall reading exclusively because of his cover. While the subject matter was appealing, the cover sealed it: I had to check the book out.

A book cover is more important than we imagine. At its best a cover not only complements the book but encapsulates its ideas. And even further, it not only encapsulates its ideas but even influences how we interpret the book.

Song titles can be just like book covers. This is especially true with instrumental works. Lyrics cannot help us along that kind of sonic journey. The only suggestion we receive besides what the music gives us is the title.

The Bad Plus is a band in particular that really nails song titles. They range from tender (“For My Eyes Only”) to straight up comic (“The Empire Strikes Backwards”). And the most profound part, like the book covers, is that these titles influence how I listen to the piece.

With, “For My Eyes Only”, I think of marriage or seeing a child being born: your loved one’s body or seeing your child born are only for you to witness; personal momentos that only you can cherish. With the already great music the song becomes this powerful ballad drenched in pathos.

And all with just four words…


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