Secret Meeting score: 70
by Martin Harrison
Beck’s 25 year career has confidently played hop scotch with almost every music genre and his thirteenth studio album, Colors, is no different. But, as widely reported, it’s his most mainstream pop record in a decade, yet it still failed to receive the warm, commercial reception expected, despite the heavy promotional campaign that preceded it.
So, what went wrong? Well, the clue might be in the word ‘mainstream’. It’s a word that you wouldn’t exactly associate with his previous work. And here is the rub – Beck has gone from setting trends to following them.
Colors pays homage to a mish mash of disparate sounds. Of the four singles released in the build up to the record’s release, the undoubted highlight was the swaggering Dreams – think Bruno Mars meets football terrace anthem. But, the fact that this standout track so closely echoes 2005’s grungy E-Pro (italics) sound says a lot about the success, or lack of, in the new direction he has chosen.
Wow exhumes bouncy hip hop, complete with a healthy dose of patented lyrical eccentricity in lines like, “Standing on the lawn doin’ jiu jitsu, Girl in a bikini with the Lamborghini shih tzu.” However, I don’t need to remind you: Beck is pushing 50. So do you think the girls in the playground want to get down and boogie to their dad’s record collection?
The work of producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Lily Allen, Sia) is very much in evidence throughout. But, Beck’s falsetto tones don’t save tracks like Up All Night from sounding like something that was written for a boy band – perhaps understandable given Kurstin’s regular day job. While jaunty piano ditty, Dear Life sounds like a cross between a Beatles B-Side and an 80’s sitcom theme tune.
2017 was a year when music became even more homogenous (if that was possible) and, sadly, Beck seems to have blended into the background with this record. Colors is well worth a spin, but Beck’s always been an innovator, and the trend-following rather than trend-setting may leave you feeling a little washed out.