This feature originally ran in 2016 when we first expected Colors to be coming out. Don’t fool us again, Beck!
Ever felt overwhelmed by an artist’s extensive back catalog? Been meaning to check out a band, but you just don’t know where to begin? In 10 Songs is here to help, offering a crash course and entry point into the daunting discographies of iconic artists of all genres. This is your first step toward fandom. Take it.
It’s strange to think there are music obsessives who aren’t familiar with Beck’s work or don’t understand why he would win numerous Grammys. Then again, Beck is a 47-year-old dad. His first album came out in 1993. He went on an unofficial hiatus from 2008 to 2014. As far as millennials are concerned, that’s a big enough gap to never feel the allure of digging into his records. Those who were introduced to Beck through Morning Phase were surprised to see the musician rapping with dweeby shades in a music video with over 60 million views. Catch him live, though, and he’s a sight to behold. Beck tears through his guitar, hits falsettos higher than ones Adele can hit, and dances with the energy (and flexibility!) of someone half his age. That guy who took the Grammys by surprise in 1997 is just as absurd in 2016 — though his son steals the spotlight sometimes.
The truth is, Beck’s catalog is daunting. With 13 studio albums, film scores, and a handful of collaborations to his name, he’s got enough material to warrant holing up for a week just to appreciate it all. Chewing on it takes time because he pushes himself to try new styles. There are funk-rooted cuts, anti-folk absurdities, and songs about McDonald’s. He changes things up not just for listeners, but himself, wholly aware that music trends are worth challenging.
As articulate a songwriter as he is, Beck brings his music together with the help of a band somehow more reckless than he is, like bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen and keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr.. His catalog, both as a bandleader and a solo artist, shows the genius of a gangly white dude who can sing, dance, and play guitar better than any other gangly white dude out there. In the age of too many mediocre bands led by cis straight white dudes, Beck paves the way, showing it’s possible to raise the bar for yourself, increase the entertainment of your live sets, and remain creative as musical trends evolve even quicker than you do. Maybe that’s one of the plus sides to being a scientologist?
Associate Features Editor