The Best and Worst Magazine Covers of May 2016

Olly, Taylor and Beyoncé, oh my!

They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but that’s untrue when it comes to fashion magazines. Each month we dissect covers far and wide using our patented Anna Wintour rating system.

It’s beauty month on the newsstand, dear readers. And while it’s a strong showing overall, not all of these covers are flawless.

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Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair May 2016
Vanity Fair
The comic of the hour/month/year gets the Annie Leibovitz treatment, but it all feels too much like an idea Judd Apatow had for Amy’s character at her magazine job in Trainwreck. Amy herself is smoking hot—her vagina is literally on fire in another photo from the shoot—but this cover is really contrived. Also, that “Sisters” graphic is painful.

Communication 16

Esquire UK

Esquire UK May 2016
Esquire UK
This cover evokes all the appropriately inappropriate feelings Daddy Idris arouses. It’s the perfect image for a man “in waiting” to star in 007: The Spy Who Took a Selfie.

He can storm our Bastille any day.

Communication 16

Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan May 2016
Cosmopolitan
Yes, everyone wants to steal ScarJo’s swagger—the swagger she has in just about every other photo except this one, that is. I imagine some assistant shouting, “Brace yourself, Ms. Johansson, this is going to be awful.”

How else would you get her into that oh-so-flattering pose and that dress?!

0.5 annas

Harper’s Bazaar Men

Harper's Bazaar Men Spring:Summer 2016
Harper's Bazaar Men
If you’ve found yourself thinking, “There’s nothing missing in my life, so why do these tears come at night?” you need LOCATE and ACQUIRE this issue immediately. We can’t be too thirsty about Lucky Blue Smith because he doesn’t turn 18 until June 4—it’s on my calendar, you betcha—but this image perfectly explains his slingshot to international superstardom.
Communication 16

W

W May 2016
W
The you-saw-it-at-Coachella-first rainbow treatment on W’s name and headline probably works better on the actual magazine than in a photo, but all of those words over Jennifer’s chest are still really hard to read. (Does she really need such a distracting introduction?)

And where is J. Lo she going in this look? To audition for an off-off-Broadway production of Cabaret?

Communication 16

GQ

GQ May 2016
GQ
So much to unpack in these SIX covers! It may not be a novel approach, but using photos of stylish men out in the wild is a fun concept. These celebs (and their stylists) speak for themselves. Also, there’s only one suit look and one tux look!
Communication 16

Cosmopolitan UK

Cosmopolitan UK May 2016
Cosmopolitan UK
What did you do to deserve this cover, Little Mix? We wouldn’t wish this treatment on our worst enemies—it looks like an outtake from one of those hairstyle books they having lying around hair salons. And that “way naughtier” tease takes this whole thing to a very “Real Housewives reunion” place.
0.5 annas

Elle Man Turkey

Elle Man Turkey
Elle Man Turkey
Maybe James Franco can make Interior Another Leather Bar so he can be “a little gay” with this Spanish hunk. We’re sorry things didn’t work out with you and Kylie, Andres. Come here, we’ll take care of you.
Communication 16

Vogue Australia

Vogue Australia May 2016
Vogue Australia
Emilia Clarke suffers from Selena Gomez Syndrome: No matter how she’s styled, looking at pictures of her always feels a little uncomfortable in a “How old is she again?” sense. But she indeed conquers here—everything about this images feels incredibly now and impossibly timeless. It’s a dream in progress captured in one single shot. This is how it’s done, folks.
Communication 16

Marie Claire

Marie Claire May 2016
Marie Claire
So the way this works in print is Ellie, Hailey, Gugu and Kylie are on the actual cover, and then you flip the magazine over and upside down, and Zendaya is on every back cover for the global beauty guide. Strike one. As it’s a big beauty-as-a-trend month in the mag business, shouldn’t there be a more complete spectrum of “beautiful” represented if you spring for five cover stars? Strike two. Poor Zendaya—photo editors have never, ever been kind to you, girl. These. Covers. Are. Out.
Communication 16

Vogue UK

Vogue UK May 2016
Vogue UK
Repeat after us: Either pop the whole body over the name of your publication or leave it all under the words. No one, not even Kate Moss, wants that VO bracelet she’s been edited into here. Also, it’s Kate Moss. On the cover of a Vogue edition. In a bedazzled Rolling Stones t-shirt.
Communication 16

Attitude

Attitude May 2016
Attitude
This cover is Magazine Design 101—we love it for not overcomplicating a gorgeous image of a very handsome man. And maybe we also love it a little because it’s the American issue. Whatever!
Communication 16

F*cking Young!

Fucking Young! 8
While this month’s Out cover featuring Troye Sivan is something to hang in a museum, this Olly Alexander issue of F*cking Young! is one is just so infectiously fun.
Communication 16

Harper’s Bazaar UK

Harper's Bazaar UK May 2016
Harper's Bazaar UK
This! This is how you do a beauty cover. Make it beautiful at every level. Make it conceptual. Make it art.
Communication 16

V

V Magazine Summer 2016
V Magazine
It’s an impressive month for tight, creative portrait covers, but this one wins hands down. The Theronaissance is happening, and if you’re not here for it, click away from this page right now. We are mad for this V cover—it’s simple, sleek, sexy and powerful. (And unlike W, V always knows exactly how to treat its big bold logo/name.)
Communication 16

Essence

Essence May 2016
Essence
Even though Ciara’s just 30, we’re not convinced this shoot wasn’t originally done for (the now defunct) More magazine. Straddling is one of those things that has maybe ever worked on a cover ONCE. And what’s with all flowers? Flowers on her outfit, fake flowers on the swing?

Let Ciara shine on her own!

Communication 16

Vogue

Vogue May 2016
Vogue
This is not generally a Taylor Swift-friendly column, but there is no denying her carefully self-tuned star power. Anna doesn’t pull out the “WHO’S THAT GIRL?” cover treatment for just anyone, and this is American Vogue at its most essential. This is one of those covers you’ll see on those annoying subscription cards forever. It’s clever, fun, fresh, conceptual and immediately captivating. Now if only it didn’t look like a Macy’s-sponsored December/New Year’s cover, it would have earned that fifth Anna.
Communication 16

Nylon

Nylon May 2016
Nylon
Groan. Again with the Coachella vibes? (But you’d almost blame Nylon if they released an April issue without referencing the festival. Know thy audience and all.)

Maisie Williams keeps sporting these big graphic repeating patterns, and actually it’s working for her. But why isn’t the Peggy Olsen of Westeros wearing pants? There’s better ways to make a young woman look sexy.

Communication 16

Out

Out Magazine May 2016
Out
It may be too soon for this Bowie-esque cover but the conceptual implication—and all that YouTube red!—is not wasted here. The world has been watching Sivan’s trajectory—he’s literally grown up on the Internet—and we expect more bold things from him soon.
Communication 16

InStyle

InStyle May 2016
InStyle
InStyle is still rocking this redesign! Mother’s Day star Kate Hudson shines on one of the best beauty covers of the month.

But while that dress is beautiful, it’s borderline “No, Kate, you’re supposed to take one dress OFF and then put the next one one on.”

Also, “one ring to rule them all” is good fashion advice, too!

Communication 16

Glamour UK

Glamour UK May 2016
Glamour
Sometimes it feels like Karlie Kloss has ceded all her supermodel power to T-Swift. Her face—one of the industry’s most famous—is booking more ads than covers these days, but when she is back out front, KK always makes you stop and stare for more than a moment. What a captivating image for Glamour UK’s 15th birthday.

Communication 16

Elle

Elle May 2016
Elle
We’re gonna go ahead and bow down here in formation over this rare Beyoncé cover, but the photo editing is not quite flawless. (The details of the clothing could pop off the page a little more.)

It’s incredible, though, that this look is all activewear (from her new Ivy Park collection, natch)—that’s something only Bey could pull off.

Communication 16