Writer: Riley Glenn
As one of my favorite artists, Beck, released his 13th overall studio album 2 weeks ago, I couldn’t help but to think about him as an artist. Throughout his career, Beck has made a name for himself by not only blending, but dabbling in different musical genres and styles. He has many influences that shaped the way he makes and thinks about music, as well as has become that person for many other artists. However, despite these things, I think that Beck is a very underrated artist, at least for his level of talent.
Now, depending on what genre you spend your time listening to the most, you may be thinking: “Riley, how can you say that Beck is underrated? If anything, he may even be overrated”. And you may be right on that. But that is if you look at it from a very indie standpoint. As someone who is involved in almost every genre of music (except contemporary country of course), I am bombarded with either a deep love for Beck, or a total ignorance to who he is. For some, the only thing they know about Beck is that he was in the spotlight of a 2015 Grammy drama featuring Kanye West. Essentially what happened was that, as Beck was on stage accepting the Best Album Grammy for “Morning Phases”, Kanye got onstage, probably to pull another stunt like he did with Taylor Swift in 2009. However, when he gets on stage, he decides not to and turns around, and an equally surprised Beck ushers for him to come back up, all of which was captured on camera. In an interview after the show, however, Kanye said that Beck needed to “respect true artistry” and “give the award to Beyonce”. While Beck, who does write and create his own music, as well as many other artists, handled the drama very well, saying that Kanye deserved to be up there just as much as he did, and even stated that he expected Beyonce to win anyway. Anyway, the day after that happened, I heard more than one person talking about it and saying “Who’s Beck” and “obviously if I haven’t heard of him then he doesn’t deserve to win”.
Aside from the fact that the above statement is a weak and flawed argument, Beck consistently puts out albums worthy of Grammy’s, spanning all genres. Whether it be the soul and R&B of “Midnite Vultures”, or the sample heavy “Odelay” and “Guero”, or the soft, acoustic sounds found on “Sea Changes”, “Morning Phases”, and parts of “Mutations”. And that is not even to mention all of his sounds of his repertoire. Beck, throughout his albums, has had underlying traces of hip-hop, rap, noise rock, and even softer sounds.
In my opinion, no other artist has been able to, as effectively, combine all these genres, and do them as well as he does. Not only does he have a wide variety of sounds, he is also very talented, as he writes, plays, and sings/raps in all of his songs. He has lent his talent to movie soundtracks, and assisted in the creation of other’s music. During his prime, in the 90’s and early 00’s, Beck’s sound was very unique, as nobody had used sampling the way he did, which ultimately paved the way for hip-hop artists to adopt some of the same techniques. He also incorporated rap and spoken word into his “rock” or “noise rock” sound, something else that hadn’t been done much before him.
As shown, for someone as talented and versatile as Beck, I feel like he does not get the credit and recognition he deserves, at least in the mainstream eyes. Not only is his musical abilities on point, but his lyrics paint a very vivid and beautiful picture in all of his songs, showing that he is up there with the main lyricists in the business like Dylan, Brian Wilson, Morrissey, and Neil Young, as well as many hip-hop lyricists like Kendrick Lamar, Nas, and Andre 3000. Finally, because Beck is so influential and versatile, I would definitely recommend everyone listen to him. In my opinion, he is so different across all of his albums, rather than sticking to one thing, that there is something in at least one of his albums that everyone could enjoy.