Prince Rogers Nelson was far too young when he was taken from us at age 57 in 2016 after an accidental fentanyl overdose. The multi-talent made his presence felt in the music industry as a teenager, sharing his debut LP, For You in 1978. He was a consistent genre-bending force throughout the following decades, not only influencing others musically but also with his unique style and way of being. Some of Prince’s album covers beautifully reflect just how powerful his presence was. Meanwhile, others rely heavily on the use of symbolism to convey the prolific messages the father of one hoped to share with others in his art.

Besides being an incredible vocalist and performer, the always-ambitious Prince was known for recording many of his projects alone. He’s skilled in various instruments and also used his voice as a tool to help enhance his sound. Keep scrolling to explore the history of the Purple Rain hitmaker‘s discography visuals, and let us know which LP has your favorite cover in the comments!

Late 70s and 80s

When introducing himself to the world on For You, Prince opted to keep it simple, blurring his serious-looking face across a black and orange background. The image is powerful, though minimalistic, and helps emphasize just how much the fallen star evolved throughout his career as an entertainer. For his self-titled sophomore LP, Nelson let more of his personality shine through, posing shirtless with beautifully blown-out hair in front of a baby blue background. In contrast with For You, Prince shows the singer’s stark duality – his seamless ability to align with masculine and feminine energies inside him to create powerful songs.

As he moved into the 80s, the Minnesota native continued to carve out a lane for himself amongst competitors, letting his body do the talking on Dirty Mind and Lovesexy much later that decade. Prince and his team used distinct hand-drawn art in 1999 and Around the World in a Day to catch our attention, and who could forget the “Kiss” hitmaker’s iconic motorcycle from 1984’s Purple Rain?

Prince Album Covers Through the 90s

By the time the 90s began, Prince had found his footing and was feeling fully confident in his creative skills. His first LP of the decade was Grafitti Bridge, which gives a close-up look at an animated version of the icon’s face though only half of it is visible. Interestingly, Nelson leans into his ultra-mysterious Scorpio Ascendant during this time, not giving a clear, full-frontal view of his famous mug on any of his album covers. The closest he came to letting that wall down again was for 1998’s The Truth, but a blurring effect still somewhat distorts the image.

On many of his projects, Prince includes a distinct symbol that represents a merging of the traditional male and female gender symbols. To him, this shows a merging of opposites, as we see in the Chinese yin and yang. This is just another of the many ways that the boundary-pushing star was able to outwardly express his gender fluidity.

Prince Album Covers Through the 2000s

Unlike some of his contemporaries, Prince didn’t have a difficult time adjusting to the ever-changing desires of music lovers. The 2000s introduced us to The Rainbow Children, The Chocolate Invasion and The Slaughterhouse – all three albums which feature funky, eye-catching animated characters. Other releases, like Xpectation, Musicology and 3121, tease cheeky side profiles or shadows of the Grammy Award winner’s face before he reminded fans how gracefully he was aging on 2007’s Planet Earth.

Prince’s Final Few Years of Music

As age and decades of being in the spotlight began to take their toll on Prince, we saw less of his face on his albums. Instead, the “Raspberry Beret” singer leaned more heavily into animation, kicking the 2010s off with his 20Ten effort, featuring a fierce cartoon version of the Artist Formerly Known As modeling a chic, purple, blue and green outfit. Leading up to his tragic 2016 passing were ART OFFICIAL AGE and HITNRUN Phase One and its sequel, all showing caricatures of Nelson as well. On his 2021 posthumous LP, Welcome 2 America, supporters of Prince were happy to see his signature smize looking back at them.