6 July 2010

MJ Cole campaign - art direction by Michael Williams

The MJ Cole artwork that marked the producer's move from underground work to major record company in 1999 appears to be a comment on the label-conscious times. But we can see that it also identifies Cole as a 'brand'. The placing of the former hardcore/drum & bass name in the scene's heirarchy also becomes closely linked to the kind of style-oriented images: along with references to Cole's classical training and smooth, melodic output, we find reviewers discussing him as "dapper" and "classy". This is often exaggerated by defining an opposing approach to other names that had emerged within the UK garage scene and the likes of So Solid Crew are addressed as the uncouth alternative to his supposedly more well dressed and assumedly polite direction. [There may be concerns that some of these assertions may be racially motivated and, despite the music within the hardcore continuum being a product of the African diaspora, some critics have commented on major labels cherry picking white artists from within these scenes to achieve crossover success.]

The art direction of Michael Williams does, of course, play with the idea of sophisticated, glossy imagery. The designer bag - indicative of aspirational consumerism - burns. The Champagne bottle spills a thick toxic slick while the chunky sports watch - more a status symbol than a time-piece - is charred. The turntable cartridge/stylus is the only item from the series that is undamaged and we might see its maintained perfection as indicating that this is the only kind of product fetishism that is relevant: that the delivery of the music is of more importance than the items solely associated with displaying wealth.

Or something.

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