Latin American music is artistic, colorful, and bold, in and of itself. It paints a picture in our minds and makes our lives that much brighter and vivid. Such impactful music should have equally impressive album covers, no?
It only makes sense to portray the richness of the auditory experience you will have listening to the album with corresponding artwork. Some records we reach for solely on what the covers look like — it’s an added bonus if they sound just as good as the artwork. Well, we found some vinyl covers, which are as beautiful to look at, as they are to listen to.
For this article, we have compiled a 20-record roundup featuring great, artsy album art. All albums are by Latinx musicians and span several decades. You will see, in the artwork and fashion of the artists photographed, influences from the time period of the vinyl’s release. You will also see how these vintage covers have inspired other artists since. Time to get inspired, and learn about some Latinx music at the same time!
The first album we are looking at on our cover art list is Santana’s Santana. Released in 1969, the debut album from the rock group featured optical illusion artwork by artist Lee Conklin. If you look closely, besides the lion, you can see people. This trippy visual makes total sense, as the album was released during the psychedelic era. Santana features the hit song, “Evil Ways.”
Selena, Amor Prohibido
Released in 1994, Selena’s fourth album, Amor Prohibido, and its album cover is iconic. How many people have you seen dress up as Selena in this photo, recreating her wispy bangs, ruffle shirt, and leather jacket? With the red lips and hoops? How about the pins, lipstick, T-shirts and other products we have seen since, which pay homage to this legendary ’90s album cover.
Sheila E, In Romance 1600
The cover photo for Sheila E’s 1985 album, Romance 1600, is pure ’80s romantic excess at its finest. She looks like the female version of Prince on it, in all the soft lavender, ruffles, and drama. Romance 1600 features Sheila’s hit song, “A Love Bizarre.” Definitely, an album to listen to, with a cover that’s just as impressive.
Celia Cruz, Introducing Celia Cruz
We don’t have to tell you that a Celia Cruz album is going to be amazing — it just is. And so many of her album covers are also iconic, so it took us a while to narrow down the choices to just one. Introducing Celia Cruz has such a vibrant, beautiful cover — Celia’s glamorous pose, her peach tiered ruffled dress, the matching wall, and those plants and peacock feathers as part of the scenery.
Alejandra Guzman, Unico
Mexicana Alejandra Guzman is one of the rockeras we all know and love. She is known for her rebellious, in-your-face attitude and style, just as much as for her music. This album cover is so dope — big, edgy, bold, just like Alejandra. It’s one of those covers we mentioned, that you want to buy because the photo styling is so cool. It also gives you the idea that the songs are just as badass.
Nelson y Sus Estrellas, Mucho Nelson
The ’60s records are especially cool, due to their abundance of cheery colors, far-out graphics, mod moments, and trippy fonts. It doesn’t even matter if the record is cool, you’ll want to buy the album just for the art. Nelson y Sus Estrellas is a Venezuelan orquesta who created boogaloo, son, pachanga, and guaguancó music. They released Mucho Nelson in 1968. It’s such a fun album cover; with its swirly graphics and groovy colors, you can tell right off the bat that it’s a 1960s production.
Carlos Vives, La Tierra del Olvido
Colombian singer Carlos Vives loves to sing songs about the motherland. His 1995 album, La Tierra del Olvido is made up of vallenato, Latin pop, and tropi-pop sounds. The artwork is so beautiful, and rich in color, showcasing some of the natural beauty of Colombia. I have heard this album — some of the great songs La Tierra del Olvido contains are “Pa’ Mayte,” “La Tierra del Olvido,” and “Zoila.”
Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe, Crime Pays
Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe are salsa legends, who have had some cool album covers as a team, and on their own. Their joint efforts usually have a gangster feel to them, including 1972’s Crime Pays. How swaggy do Colon and Lavoe look in trench coats and fedoras, smoking cigars while sitting on a Rolls Royce?
La Lupe, The Best
Next on our list of super cool album covers is this one of La Lupe. The 1993 release of The Best, features a throwback photo of the Latin Queen of Soul. Just look at the attitude and look of confidence on her face! And the style! Then you add in the words “the best,” and you have literally one of the best album covers ever.
Latin rock band Azteca released their eponymous debut album in 1972. The album cover features an Aztec calendar, with the addition of pianos. The cool artwork is both a sign of the band’s Chicano pride and their love of music. Fun fact: Sheila E was a member of this group at one point (along with other members of the Escovedo family).
Linda Ronstadt, Canciones de mi Padre
Linda Ronstadt is a rock legend, but she is also known Latin music. She released Canciones de Mi Padre in 1987, a celebration of Ronstadt’s Mexican heritage and Chicana identity. As of 2010, the classic mariachi album has sold 10 million copies worldwide.
Mana, Drama y Luz
The artwork for Mana’s 2011 album, Drama y Luz, delivers just that. How beautiful is this album cover?! A white dove in flight is surrounded by light and the cosmos. Three of the singles on the album —”Lluvia al Corazon,” “Amor Clandestino,” and “El Verdadero Amor Perdona” — reached the top of Billboard’s Hot Latin Tracks and Latin Pop Airplay charts. The album also won two Latin Grammys and one Grammy.
Mariah Carey, Rainbow
Mariah Carey has been serving up her sexy album covers for decades now. The one we wanted to include on this list is for 1999’s Rainbow. It’s just so cheery, girly, and undeniably Mariah. The music on the album is great too; some hits on it include “Heartbreaker,” “Heartbreaker” (Remix), and “Thank God I Found You.”
Elis Regina E Ximbo Trio, O Fino, Do Fino
This next album cover was selected for its beautifully graphic simplicity, and use of color (it’s also a handy lesson on color theory!). It’s the 1965 Brazilian Bossanova recording, O Fino, Do Fino, by Elis Regina E Zimbo Trio. The live album was recorded at the Teatro Record de São Paulo.
The Cover Girls, We Can’t Go Wrong
The Cover Girls is a freestyle group, who had several hit songs, including “Show Me,” “My Heart Skips a Beat,” and “Wishing on a Star.” Their album, We Can’t Go Wrong, was released in 1989. We had to include it for the late ’80s fashion, empowered poses, and cute magazine-style layout.
Latin rock albums can contain an entire artistic story, illustrated right there on the cover. Such is the case with Malo’s 1973 album, Evolution. No doubt a shout out and celebration of the band’s Chicano culture, the beautiful, colorful artwork portrays what appears to be the evolution of Mexican culture.
Yma Sumac, Voice of the Xtabay
Yma Sumac was a singer, whose voice was legendary, and who had an incredible vocal range. She became a star, creating music which falls under the genres of exotica, mambo, lounge, and world. The album that launched her career was 1950’s Voice of the Xtabay. The album cover is exquisite, showing Yma in ornate fashion, which represent her Peruvian identity.
Vicente Fernandez, Para Siempre
Like several of the other Latinx artists on this list, the Mexican icon Vicente Fernandez has so many cool albums to choose from, which feature great covers. But this one, 2007’s Para Siempre, really stood out to us. From the rich red color scheme, to the rose, and Chente’s romantic stare, it’s an album cover which probably made millions of women swoon. Can you believe this was his 79th studio album?!
Gloria Estefan, Let It Loose
Vibrant red was also eye-catching in Gloria Estefan’s album cover for Let It Loose. The album dropped in 1987, and featured the songs “Anything For You,” “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” and “1-2-3.” We love the drama and glam of the whole ’80s look, from Gloria’s big hair to her ’80s makeup, black and white outfit, and bold accessories.
Various Artists, Nu Yorica Roots! The Rise of Latin Music in New York City In The 1960s
Nu Yorica Roots! is an entire album dedicated to celebrating Latin music in New York City, during the 1960s. It features legendary musicians, such as Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Palmieri, and Ray Barretto. The album’s cover art is so psychedelic, in-your-face vibrant, and groovy, it just begs to be picked up and looked at.
Gal Costa, Cantar
The final album cover we will be looking at belongs to Brazilian legend Gal Costa. It is Cantar, released in 1974. The artwork on the cover strikes a cool balance. It features layered pops of fun colors on the top, but the bottom of the album is more soft and bohemian, featuring Gal’s face covered by her hair and a big flower.