Beck Has a Late Career Breakthrough on 'Colors'
By Alana Willis
Few artists can claim to still be “indie” after over two decades of consistent success, several Top 40 hits and household-name status. Then again, most artists aren’t Beck Hansen. After more than twenty years of recording innovative, unique and versatile music that occasionally flirts with the pop charts yet still manages to transcend the typical offerings of the genre. Beck has done it again with his new album, Colors. With a catchy vibe reminiscent of 80s New Wave interspersed with creative and experimental instrumentation, Colors sounds simultaneously familiar and like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
The first single to be released, “No Distraction”, would be just as at home on an old album by the Police as it is on Colors- with its electronic drum beat and catchy hook, here’s a song you can dance to in your underwear when nobody’s home. Just try and stop yourself from boogie-ing left, right and in all directions, as Beck instructs you to in the lyrics. Complete with hand claps, the universal indicator of a party song, “No Distraction” delivers the perfect homage to pop’s happiest era without losing that distinctive Beck vibe.
“Wow,” another notable track on Colors, contains almost a hip-hop undertone, with Beck’s trademark swirl of sonic idiosyncrasy giving it a dreamlike, wavy feel. Like much of Beck’s work on earlier albums, “Wow” plays with established genres, intermixing and mingling them with otherworldly sounds and beat patterns to create a fresh, original sound worth a second, third and tenth listen.
Beck briefly returns to his roots as a neo-folk singer-songwriter with the ballad “Fix Me.” This piano and strings-laden track is alternately plaintive and hopeful, surrounding the listener with soaring, echoing instrumentation and a lovely, haunting melody. Like “Lost Cause”, Beck’s standout hit from his acoustic-heavy 2002 album, Sea Change, “Fix Me” gives listeners a glimpse at the more serious side of Beck, both as a man and as a musician.
A lot has changed since 1993, when Beck’s smash hit “Loser” first hit the airwaves with a vengeance- in the past two and a half decades, as we have grown up, loved, lost, triumphed and crept closer and closer to that mysterious chasm called “middle age,” Beck has been right there with us, working in the background and giving us the music we can add to the ever-changing soundtracks of our lives. We can all only hope to age as gracefully as Beck and his music have done- Colors is a whole new generation’s chance to discover a brilliant and talented singer-songwriter who has managed to stay relevant while remaining under the radar enough to retain the serious street cred he deserves.