Beyond being a mere fashionable accessory, sunglasses have earned their place in the music industry by allowing musicians to craft their persona. Whether it’s Elton John’s bold and eccentric pairs or Janis Joplin’s rockstar sunglasses, it was through their choice of frames that they were able to visually communicate their artistic identities.
Besides artists’ public appearances and performances, their music videos can also use sunglasses to symbolize sonic landscapes, such as the luxury in Future’s Jumpin On A Jet and the hidden narrative in Brie Stoner’s Loved Me Like A Weapon. This time, however, we look at how musicians leverage and immortalize the iconography of sunglasses through their album covers, mainly through the following iconic examples.
John Lennon - Walls & Bridges (1974)
Like Elton John, John Lennon is another musical legend who was rarely seen without his eyewear. In fact, his identity was inextricably linked to his signature glasses, to the extent that his pair of wire-rimmed glasses was auctioned off for a whopping $162,500 at the Julien’s Auction “Icons and Idols: Rock N Roll” sale in 2022.
In his album cover for Walls & Bridges, the rockstar takes his penchant for specs and sunglasses to a whole new level. Lennon can be seen wearing five pairs with different frame shapes and lens tints, stacked on top of each other so they almost cover his face — as though signifying the depression and separation he experienced while recording the album.
Freddie Mercury - Mr. Bad Guy (1985)
Sunglasses were all the rage in the ‘80s, so much so that one of the biggest bands at the time, Queen, had its frontman frequently rocking sunglasses on and off stage. It’s only appropriate, then, that Freddie Mercury’s first solo studio album, Mr. Bad Guy, would feature him wearing mirrored aviators.
Although there’s a debate on which exact model he was wearing, these sunglasses were particularly reminiscent of the RB3025 Aviator from Ray-Ban, the decades-long brand credited for popularizing these metal, teardrop-shaped frames. In the hit biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), Rami Malek, who played Freddie Mercury, ended up wearing the same model with silver frames.
Pharrell - Girl (2014)
Fast forward to the 2010s, and sunglasses remain a symbol of coolness and mystery. Such is the case for Pharrell, known for showing up in custom-designed sunnies — like the bejeweled pair from Tiffany and Co — to signify his influence not only in hip hop and R&B but also in the fashion industry.
Years before his popular fashion collaborations with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, however, the American singer, songwriter, and producer was already showcasing his undeniable sense of style. In the artwork for Girl (2014), Pharrell donned Thom Browne TB 100 shades to exude the same charm and sensuality as the tracks from this second studio album.
Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy (2018)
Like Pharrell, award-winning rapper Cardi B is also famous not only for her chart-topping hits but also for her status as a fashion icon. In her 2018 debut studio album, Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B demonstrated her bold sartorial choices when she completed her black and white checkered outfit and bright yellow wig with retro-inspired cat-eye sunglasses — equally iconic and distinctive as tracks like Bodak Yellow and Money Bag.
Clearly, sunglasses help elevate the visual imagery and cohesion of album tracks by reflecting the artists' unique personalities and choices. For more interesting articles on music and new releases, continue reading Buzz Music.