Check out these wonderfully bizarre AI-expanded classic album covers!

Metallica In Photo Session At A Hotel
Metallica In Photo Session At A Hotel / Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/GettyImages

AI-generated images are all the rage right now, and it's fascinating to see the different applications, such as modifying existing images. It turns out that using AI to expand classic album covers results in ridiculous fun images and are a transcendent example of the surrealism of the AI "mind." Covers of albums by Nirvana, Metallica, The Beatles, David Bowie, and The Clash have been taken to the next level by AI.

Adobe Photoshop has a new feature called “outpainting,” which uses AI to “expand” any image you give it. In other words, the AI makes guesses about what’s outside the frame of an image and creates a coherent, believable “expanded” image. A few years ago, that would’ve seemed like sci-fi, but we’ve all had a play with those AI image generators, and this is the same principle. Naturally, people have been experimenting with the concept of “expanding” existing artworks, like the Mona Lisa and classic album covers

What makes those AI image generators so much fun is that the results are reliably surreal. They frequently interpret prompts in the most bonkers way possible (although this is a little bit of a crapshoot, as it can also come up with the painfully mundane).

The best of the AI-expanded classic album covers are true madness.

For instance, you’d think that imagining what was outside the frame of the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover would be pretty obvious. More streets, more buildings, etc. In fact, you can visit the famous crosswalk outside Abbey Road Studios and see what’s outside the frame.  What you probably didn’t imagine, and definitely wouldn’t know if you went there, is the whole scene taking place in a snow globe floating in space, with an inflatable boat parked in the background for some reason. 

Or then there’s Metallica’s Master of Muppets. Wouldn’t you imagine that the famous field of white cross grave markers would be surrounded by other white cross grave markers? The AI imagined that the grave markers were bunting on a cake. It’s glorious. It completely subverts the darkness of the original image. AIs struggle with humor, but this has got to be the funniest thing a computer has ever conjured up.

The “expanded” cover of Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations initially seems a little uninspired. The original image was four guys sitting around a meeting table on an alien planet. The AI gave us more alien planets, a spiral galaxy in the sky, an alien spaceship, just stuff you’d expect to see on an alien planet. But then you scroll down to see an alien with an uncanny smile that only an AI could conjure, taking a selfie in the foreground. The original image was surreal, but this is sublime silliness. 

AI is the latest hot-button issue, so it’s not all uncomplicated fun. We have to consider the ethics of how AI art uses other peoples’ art. And this is using other peoples’ art in ways they didn’t intend, in a straightforward manner. 

There’s a piece from Gizmodo doing the rounds arguing that this is asinine to the point of being offensive. Artists, they argue, decide on the parameters of their art, and there’s nothing outside of those parameters, that’s the point of art. To say otherwise makes no sense, and is an insult to the artist. Or as one Twitterer put it: “It’s like saying “ever wonder what the rest of your shirt looks like?” and then adding 20 FOOT SLEEVES”. 

There’s no pretense here that we’re revealing what’s outside the frame. We’re making up what’s outside the frame, out of whole cloth, for fun. In terms of the actual artistic intent of the album covers, the image ends at the frame; but this is a joke. It’s reminiscent of when that guy did the exact same concept but as a joke meme

Or put another way, yes, it would be very stupid to add 20 foot sleeves to your shirt, and claim you were revealing what the rest of the shirt looked like, but if you did, it would be hilarious in a  Monty Pythonesque kind of way.

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With so many serious issues linked to AI, it’s just nice to see an application of it that’s just fun.