Beck's New Album Is Perfect for a Really Weird Car Commercial
The prolific songwriter is ready for his pop radio phase on Colors.
BY Matt Miller | Oct 17, 2017 | Music
If humanity were wiped out tomorrow afternoon, Beck would still be around that night rhyming Jiu Jitsu with Shih Tzu into a studio microphone somewhere. He can survive anything—any trend, any era, any experiment, any industry pivot. Beck, despite all logic, has remained relevant for more than two decades even though he hasn’t had a song on the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 since 1994’s “Loser” and hasn’t released a platinum album since 1996’s Odelay. But at least in terms of accolades, Beck reached a career peak in 2015, winning Album of the Year at the Grammys for his beautiful and subdued Morning Phase. What’s bizarre is, while he was channelling his Sea Change days, he was simultaneously in the middle of making another hyper-caffeinated album of laboratory pop. This is a type of musical multitasking that’s only capable of someone as ambidextrous as Beck.
In 2013, a year before he released Morning Phase, Beck began working on Colors, his buoyant collection of radio bangers that’s finally out today. In what compartments of Beck’s brain was he simultaneously crafting these two antithetical albums? Regardless, he released the right one first, with the sombre, Grammy-winning Morning Phase setting the stage perfectly for Colors. With the success of his last album, Beck now has both the attention and influence to turn his next release into a financial success.
And Colors is exactly that album. It’s a collection of songs ready for a Target commercial. It’s Beck, at the age of 47, putting his best possible effort into reaching that No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. In the four years since he began work on it, Colors sounds like he’s spent every moment in the studio adding every possible flourish—a kaleidoscope of maximalist bubblegum. Working with producer Greg Kurstin—a pop wizard whose credits include Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Sia, Ellie Goulding, and Lily Allen—Beck basically mainlined the top of the charts.
Colors has all the Hot 100 potential of “Loser,” a hook-obsessed album that’s trying 100 percent harder and is 100 percent less self-deprecating than Beck’s only big hit from two decades ago. At least in diva mode, Beck has lost none of his weirdness, with panflutes, digitized drops, and growls—and that’s just on the ambitious trip-hop single “Wow.” Elsewhere, Beck is just as happy and just as eccentric. “Dear Life” is the musical equivalent of one of those “Hang in there” cat posters over a McCartney-esque piano line. On “I’m So Free”—the anthemic rocker that alternates a sing-along chorus with Beckrapping over a crunchy riff—he cheerfully affirms, “Nobody’s gonna keep me down” and “I’m so free from you.” Live your best life, Beck, it’s obvious no one and nothing can stop you at this point.