In 2015, Beck Hansen, better known as Beck, won the Album of the Year Grammy for his 2014 project, Morning Phase. Beck’s win was a big upset, especially since he was up against pop giants Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, and Beyoncé. Angry Beyoncé fans began a Twitter hashtag campaign expressing their disappointment and wondering #WhoIsBeck. Since the 2015 Grammy’s, and the release of two commercially successful songs “Dreams” and “Wow,” I think it is safe to say mainstream audiences now know who Beck is.
So, what can new and old listeners expect from Beck’s thirteenth studio album, Colors? Those who have stuck with him since the early 90’s know that Beck is a “musical chameleon.” His discography ranges from alternative rock, hip-hop, folk, funk, etc.
As an artist who knows how to play more than twelve instruments, and has been in the industry for almost thirty years, Beck is running out of new things to try. Being a casual fan myself, I think it was time for a change of pace for the multi-instrumentalist.
Colors is easily Beck’s most accessible album to date. He created an uplifting pop album that aimed to make listeners dance and sing along, which is a sharp left turn from 2014’s moody Morning Phase.
The upbeat, happy vibe that Beck was aspiring for is evident from the singles he released years prior to this album. “Dreams,” a song that took a while to click for me, is easily a highlight on this record with its theme of freedom and the trademark imaginative Beck sound.
Another personal favorite of mine was “Dear Life.” This is one of the only songs on the record that was not as “pop-y” as the rest. From the cheerful pianos to the Beatlesque guitar and the message of making it through rough patches in life, “Dear Life” is one of Beck’s best new songs.
Unfortunately, this is where my praise stops. While Colors has some great new songs and ideas, it feels like this project is lacking a lot of Beck. Simply put, Beck lets inspiration and references rule the sound of Colors rather than putting in his own spin.
There are many songs on here that sound like either modern alternative rock, pop, or even 80’s pop and rock. I remember listening and thinking to myself, “That sounds like The Police”, “This guitar sounds like something from The Beatles,” or “I thought I was listening to Beck, not Foster the People.” This is my biggest problem with Colors.
One of the reasons I like Beck is because of his ability to sound unlike anything you have heard before. His music is in a genre of its own. Colors lacks the imagination and creativity that fans expect from a Beck project.
In the past, Beck was able to mix genres and sounds together and pull it off like it was small potatoes. Here, fusing alt-rock and pop falls flat. There are a lot of repetitive and annoying hooks throughout the record. Beck has been repetitive before, – “Devil’s Haircut” from Odelay and “Girl” off of Modern Guilt come to mind – but this selection of songs left a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall, Colors is an interesting and decent project, but certainly nowhere near Beck’s best. I wonder if this album was a response to winning that Grammy back in 2015, or the #WhoIsBeck Twitter campaign. Maybe with Colors, he tried to prove to younger music fans that he could be hip and relevant in 2017. If that was the case, Beck wasn’t up to the challenge.