Beck : "Colors"
In the pantheon of Grammy Award ridiculousness, Beck’s astonishing 2014 Album of The Year win over Beyonce is surely well placed. His record, "Morning Phase" was a mixture of lullaby acoustic rock and indie whispers. However, with his 13th record he seems emboldened by the surprise success of “Phase” and ready to embrace the mainstream. What transpires from this new direction is perhaps his boldest album yet, not because of any musical virtue or creativity, but just due to its brazen, unashamedly commercial heartbeat.
“Colors” has been slowly drip fed to the public with previous singles “Dreams” and “Wow” indicating that Beck has shunned his sad white boy vibe for a more groovy, dad rock one. The kind that would have won him praise and huge sales in the UK in 2005.
“Seventh Heaven” is a 90210 type song, you can just see it being featured on a beach festival scene, with rich kids heads bobbing all around. “I’m So Free” is dripping with bass and swagger, with Beck’s cooing falsetto making for an icy cool song, until he starts…to rap. Yes, apparently Kanye’s stage invasion during his AOTY win caused more than just a few twitter comments. It is a cringeworthy track, one you’ll want to skip for future reference. “Dear Life” is a fun, Elton John meets Coldplay bop that passes without really leaving a mark, but it keeps the energy up. By song 5 “No Distraction” - you’re ready to dive into his back catalogue. If this was any other artist, you’d applaud the catchiness and clever execution, alas it feels devoid of ideas and bizarrely restrictive, as if his obsession with hooks are constraining any hope of making a memorable song.
Luckily “Dreams” is next - Beck’s powerhouse 2015 single, that explodes out of the blocks in the way that this album intends. One suspects, this record is an attempt to replicate this free spirited, punchy track. However, with more than two years since its release, it now feels old news and can’t really salvage some of the less engaging material. Even Beck’s weird “Wow” feels exciting and creative amongst the collection.
The highlight comes with the single “Up All Night” which while containing a similar tone to “Dreams” maintains an irresistibly enjoyable streak to it and the title track “Colors” which again, successfully employs producer Greg Kurstin’s sonic brilliance to an earthquake effect. By the time “Fix Me” caps off the record, you’re ready for the softer, more traditional vibes that you’re used to. This record throws a lot at the wall to varying success. While it is by far his most fun record, it is his least interesting. He seems to have run out of ideas and things to say, but then again 13 records later, he’s earned the chance to let loose, if only it sounded less constrained by ambition.