Beck makes strong return with upbeat ‘Colors’

‘Colors’ proves a strong follow-up for the Grammy winner

ae-Beck-CourtesyWikimediaCommons

Beck's latest LP "Colors" has the multi-talented artist performing at the peak of his powers.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons | Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The last time we heard from Beck, we really just heard from Kanye West — “Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyonce.” This was Kanye’s response to Beck winning the award for Best Album at the 2015 Grammy’s for his record “Morning Phase,” and beating out Beyonce’s self-titled LP. 

During the ceremony, Kanye jumped on stage, leaving Beck looking as uncomfortable as 2009’s Taylor Swift. But somehow this was perfectly appropriate for an artist who has never received the attention he deserves. Even when he achieved a David versus Goliath level upset over the Queen B for arguably the biggest award in music, he was still second place in the headlines.

Beck has now followed up this award-winning effort with his newest release, “Colors,” as he continues to build a discography as protean and creative as Kanye’s. “Colors” was in the works even before the release of “Morning Phase,” as the production for this album was quite a process. Beck noted in an interview with Rolling Stone that these songs could have come out earlier, “But these are complex songs all trying to do two or three things at once. 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.”

Despite the complexity and abstraction of the arrangements, the result is Beck’s first album that can simply be classified as “pop” in the modern sense. This certainly is not to say he has become too cheesy or “mainstream” — a word that can make self-proclaimed savants of contemporary music cringe and flee. But many of the songs on “Colors” have that “make you want to get up and dance” quality that might put them on the radio if more people gave Beck the respect he deserved.

One such song is “Up All Night,” with a catchy hook that could slide seamlessly into a Maroon 5 single, yet which still maintains a slight air of sophistication and coolness that has always been a constant with Beck. Other such highlights include “Dreams” and the title track, “Colors.”

The root of this poppier sound comes from his goal of simply making a “happy” album. Though clearly recognizable in the fiercely upbeat rhythms, this theme is also present in his lyrics with constant epithets such as “I’m so free” and “Do you feel alive?”

Another standout is “Wow,” which sounds like this century’s version of his 1993 breakout single “Loser.” Both appropriately weird and uniquely Beck, “Wow” takes more than one listen to stick the landing — however, it has a second half that feels like it could be the climax of the album. 

“Standing on the lawn doin' jiu jitsu / Girl in a bikini with the Lamborghini shih tzu,” Beck yelps towards the end of the song, begging you to sing along even to his most eccentric lines.

Beck is quick to point out the difficulty of writing about happiness. 

“It’s much easier to go out and get really down. There’s a multitude of things that will oblige you in misery in the culture and there’s only so many that will produce true happiness,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. 

But with its big sound and ear-perking rhythms, this album succeeds in producing that happiness. Will it bring Beck another Grammy? Who knows, but don’t ask Kanye.

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