There is no doubt that Beck is one of the most innovative and talented musicians of his generation. He has blended various sounds and styles into his music such as folk, hip-hop, psychedelia, and electronic and alternative rock. How can you not love a guy who has mastered all those genres like a shape-shifter? However, Beck has been incorporating a new style of music on his latest singles for his upcoming long-delayed studio album, Colors, that is very radio-friendly contemporary pop.
“These are complex songs all trying to do two or three things at once,” he said. “It’s not retro and not modern. To get everything to sit together so it doesn’t sound like a huge mess was quite an undertaking, Beck said in a Rolling Stone interview. But tracks like “Dreams,” “Wow,” “Up All Night,” and the exclusively released “No Distraction” doesn’t show any of that meticulous work. These are all simple upbeat tracks that sound like something Bruno Mars or Pharrell Williams would release. Nothing against those two artists, but comparing them to Beck just doesn’t seem right. How can an artist who has released songs like “Devils Haircut” or “Cellphones Dead” make songs now sounding like “Treasure” or “Happy?”
The single “Dear Life” is the only noteworthy track released so far; it sounds like a track that could’ve been on The Information (2006) with an added Strokes guitar solo. Beck is even dressing the same as them. Of course Beck has a funky and entertaining side to him. It’s shown on albums like Odelay (1996) and Midnite Vultures (1999), but this is completely different and out of range of Beck’s artistry. When “Wow” was released, it was portrayed as an ironic track, making fun of the current generation’s slang. After “Dreams” and “Wow” were released, the upcoming album seemed like it was going to be a modern Midnite Vultures, an album that was a parody of the late nineties nightclubs. Now with tracks like “No Distraction” and “Up All Night,” these are all songs for the current generation, not poking fun at them. Beck trying to relate his music to the younger generation might have to do with him beating out Beyoncé in the 2015 Grammy Awards.
Since Beyoncé is overly worshiped by millennials, many people took to social media, posting “Who is Beck?” after Queen B’s loss. Of course Kanye West was offended and stormed the stage in protest of Beck winning, prompting a breakout all over news outlets and social media. This controversy introduced many of this generation to Beck’s music. I mean, Billboard had to publish a profile piece on Beck and even the Fine Brothers made a reaction video for teens on their YouTube channel. Many teens later realized that they knew songs like “Loser” and “Where it’s At,” but not the artist who made them. Beck has stated, these new singles were already established and ready to go well before Morning Phase won album of the year, meaning that there was no mainstream influence on the new singles. However, since Colors has been postponed several times, you can say these songs might have sounded a bit different in artistic style before they were released.
Beck has won several Grammy Awards in the past, but never Album of the Year. Winning this award and also Record of the Year, has hurt many musicians artistic abilities and forced them to be more mainstream due to increases in record sales. This has happened to many critically acclaimed independent artists before they made it big, such as Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire. I am not saying Beyonce’s album is in anyway better than Morning Phase. However, Beck should have won Album of the Year at the Grammys in 1997, not in 2015. The Grammy Academy voting members probably felt that they owed Beck an award, just like how Martin Scorsese was owed his Academy Award for Best Director in 2007.
Beck once sung about the industry that is about to absorb him. It’s great that Beck finally got his fair share of winning, but it was at the wrong time. Now as veteran musician, Beck is about to breakthrough again, surrounding himself in a very toxic music environment. I mean, who would ever imagine Beck performing alongside America’s pop sweetheart, Taylor Swift? Definitely not me, but this is the Beck I guess we have to deal with now.