Beck’s a weirdo –I don’t have to tell you that. Since his break into the music world, nearly twenty-five years ago, the musician has been composing and producing some of the wildest tracks out there. “Loser” and “Where It’s At” have been permanently burned into the public memory. Albums like Guero are still a fresh listen despite being more than a decade old, and nobody will forget that time Beck borrow the Church of Scientology’s time machine, so that he could produce the 60’s inspired funk album, Midnite Vultures.
Colors, Beck’s latest release, ventures so far away from his quirky roots and so far into dance-pop it’s a bit difficult to accept. As a long-time fan, it’s almost a travesty. At times, I wanted to praise Colors for being reminiscent of Daft Punk, at other times, I wanted to criticize the album for being a cash-out. It’s a far leap away from that you would expect; and at the same time –isn’t this what Beck does best?
Much like barbecue, the longer you just let the album sit, the better it gets. Colors had a rough opening for me. The title and opening track is perhaps too euphoric. Laden with claps, the track drives onward guided by Beck’s rollercoaster vocals. As the song breaks into its chorus, each electronic note punches through the claps and adds another busy layer. “Colors” is grossly overwhelming.
Luckily, the follow-up, “Seventh Heaven,” charts the rest of the album for a better course –the waters are still rough and choppy however. The track really kicks off with a groovy guitar line. Beck joins in with more tolerable vocal lines and while the clutter of the clap remains, “Seventh Heaven,” feels more organic. The guitar drives onward alongside an energetic percussion line. It’s a worthy advance and by the time we arrive at the third track, Beck seems to have kicked the dust from behind his ears.
“I’m So Free” drives the album forward with a poppy rock jam. There’s some leftover funkiness tossed into the mix, and the track holds together well. “Dear Life” chugs forward with a steady stumble. Piano keys give a bluesy vibe. Beck sings out, “Dear life, I’m holding on.” The track is warmly welcomed as a needed drop in mood. At the same time, it shows that the persistent composer still has an impressive degree of diversity in his style.
The next few tracks come through with more dance inspiration. It’s not terrible, but the amount of clap and frankly boring drum machine that Beck utilized is painful. Many of the more electronic inspired tracks come across as too hectic to really be listenable. Furthermore, I’m not sure “Wow” will ever be forgivable. The track is an interesting in concept, but terrible in execution –I’m just not sure that, “like wow,” should ever count as a chorus.
When I said that I thought of Colors as a cash-out, I wasn’t kidding. Many of the songs are incredibly catchy and seem to fit very well into the electronically driven pop world of today. “Up All Night” in particular comes to mind –while at the same time being enjoyable enough that it’s a guilty pleasure. Regardless, it’s concerning that Beck lost some of his adventurousness.
Overall the album features a very mixed line-up; some of the tracks are golden, some of the tracks are sullied by Beck just taking it too far. As an old fan, I personally wish there was more eccentricity to the album, but at the same time, I kind of just enjoy it for what it is.
Colors isn’t spectacular, and it may be a far leap for some Beck fans –but if your tastes are as eclectic as Beck’s composition, then you have a duty to hear out every shade of Colors. The album is by all means a modern pop hit. At the same time, it’s an interesting, ‘that time Beck tried dance’. Winter is coming, and the degrees are dropping. As you huddle inside for warm, pop on Beck’s Colors for an all night dance party.