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Beck loses his voice

For an artist known for always finding a new trend-setting direction to go in Beck’s latest album, ”Colors” released Oct. 13, is largely a disappointment.

Beck established his career in the 90s with songs that mashed together genre’s unapologetically with hipster anthems such as “Loser” and “Where it’s at”. Hip hop met folk and was turned into ambient rock with indecipherable lyrics that just made sense. He was idolized on MTV as he sang songs like “MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack”.

And right when you thought you figured out what Beck was doing, he’d come out with a new album that sounded like nothing else before and was amazing.

And with “Colors”, his 13th album in his illustrious career, Beck has found yet another new direction to head into. The upbeat tempoed, glistening smooth pop album is a huge departure from anything he has previously released, but this album Beck seems to simply be following the trend rather than setting it.

Singer/Songwriter Beck performs in front of live audience. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
Singer/Songwriter Beck performs in front of live audience. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Beck started work on the album as early as 2013 with the goals creating a collection of songs that would be upbeat and lighthearted and four years later “Colors” does deliver highly danceable music with chrome-streaked synths, catchy guitar riffs, and almost abrasive snare drums. While polished and fun, the music lacks any classic Beck-styled irony or truly intriguing sound collaborations.

From songs like “I’m so free” with its almost cringey chorus attempting to becoming a youth anthem to “Dreams” with its basic pop song structure and catchy nothingness hooks, the albums flows from catchy pop song to catchy pop song.

“No Distraction” nods to the 80s rock’n’roll of the Police with it’s reggaesque beat and “Dear Life” sounds like a Beatles song played by Elliott Smith on a piano. The album as a whole is a clear exploration of pop music and all its different mutations.

Then you reach track seven on the album and everything changes. A pan flute introduces you to the song and floats you along onto a trap beat as you get pulled into all different directions by whistles and tones. Welcome to yet another classic Beck song.

Originally not even meant to be on the album, “Wow” is the only song on the album that truly reflects the musical genius of Beck. A song that is both absolutely hilarious and yet some how soulful, Beck deftly defies genre and creates a song that is both fun and badass. With lyrics like “Standing on your lawn doin’ jiu jitsu /Girl in a bikini with the Lamborghini shih tzu” you get a glimpse of the Beck of old, strong sense of humor still intact.

As a whole this album is still a let down with the singular anomaly of “Wow”. It’s simply a bunch of overly polished pop songs without any of the soul, humor, and angst that has characterized Beck through his many musical shifts. Sadly this album feels like a sell out, after years of mocking the sell outs.

Maybe what describes this album best is how many of its tracks have been used as background music in videogames and in department stores in malls. I guess “Colors” is a great for when you’re waiting in line to buy a new shirt.

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