Review Summary: Genre hopping that is accessible without sacrificing any of the fun or quality.
What first comes to your mind when you think about the technique of genre hopping? Maybe it's the psychosis of Mr. Bungle or the psychedelic fusions of Ween, or quite possibly, you might think of the drastic differences between the sides of David Bowie's Low. Whatever it may be, it's usually not something well received by the casual music fan, or even by someone who's more of a beginner when it comes to experimental music. In a completely stark contrast, Beck's album Odelay brings same level of genre hopping neatly cushioned with commerciality. By masterfully combining these two qualities, Odelay is not only a good and accessible genre hopping album, but quite possibly one of the best albums to use the technique.
Stylistically, Odelay incorporates both singing and rapping - although the rapping isn't particularly similar to a typical hip hop artist's. It's more similar to just talking than anything specifically rhythmic - this is to no fault though. On a couple of tracks, while singing, Beck will unexpectedly start screaming as if he were suddenly fronting a hardcore punk band. Also, the lyrics do a great job at tying the album together. Whether it's the playful word salad of songs like "Where It's At" or the moody poignancy of songs like "Ramshackle," Beck's lyrics display a strong force of emotional and interesting presence throughout. Genre-wise, the majority of the album shifts from alternative rock, to folk, to country, to hip hop, to 60s styled blues rock. Literally every single one of these genre transitions are pulled off slickly and naturally. With a diverse array of singing styles, lyrics, genres, and transitions, Odelay keeps itself fresh and engaging throughout.
Specifically, the album displays plenty of experiments that all go over incredibly well. For instance: the fifteen second intro the "The New Pollution" features 60s styled vocals and typical 90s feedback meshing together into something that can be interpreted as both humorous and intriguing. It's a similar situation for out of nowhere raga instrumented track "Derelict" which is aided by thick druggy vocal effects typically found in alternative rock songs. Also, many of the tracks will shift from calm to crazy and then back again in a matter of seconds - creating an unsettling, yet satisfying vibe. While Odelay isn't necessarily the best example of an experimental album, it has enough experimental elements to surely qualify.
Odelay is quite possibly one of the most rewarding genre hopping albums in existence due to how cohesive and fresh it is - even to this day. Surprisingly, despite how incredibly experimental and diverse it is, Odelay is also an incredibly easy listen. Who else but Beck could get such an erratic and strange song like "Where It's At" to chart on the US Hot 100? Odelay is a testament to how well Beck pulls off the commercial side of weird.
Best Tracks: "Hotwax", "Jack-Ass", "Derelict", "Sissyneck"
"What first comes to your mind when you think about the technique of genre hopping? Maybe it's the psychosis of Mr. Bungle or the psychedelic fusions of Ween or quite possibly, you might think of the drastic differences between the sides of David Bowie's Low" - no, none of those, guess again
just playin, but anyway here's some criticism:
"or even by someone who's more of a beginner when it comes to experimental music"
- this line kind of irritates me. it implies that because you appreciate this album, that you are an experimental music veteran. whether or not this is valid, you're setting yourself up for scrutiny right off the bat.
- you use the term 'genre hopping' pretty excessively
- "quite possibly one of the best albums to use the technique ever made." - this is one hell of a bold statement, and you'd have to make a convincing argument to back it up, which you don't really :S
-"although the rapping isn't particularly similar to a typical hip hop artist'" - well no shit lol
-"At the same time, the album displays plenty of experiments that all go over incredibly well. " - this line (and the next couple that follow) pretty much tie into what you said in the previous paragraph. it's just more of how Beck mixes different genres.
-"While Odelay isn't necessarily the best example of an experimental album, it has enough experimental elements to surely qualify." - but you said earlier that it's possibly one of the best genre-blending, erm I mean 'genre hopping' albums ever made.... kinda contradictory, no?
-"despite how incredibly experimental and diverse it is, Odelay is also an incredibly easy listen" you say 'incredibly' twice in the same sentence, and it reads awkwardly
-"Odelay is a testament to how well Beck pulls off the commercial side of weird." - this is probably the most potentially interesting point of the entire review. I would've liked to see you delve a bit more into this, maybe
I'm making changes based on the advice that Johnny and Spooky gave me, but the reason why I mention genre-hopping so much is because it's something I tend to gravitate towards. So it's kind of through that type of lens.
@Ars - fair enough man, but you kinda take that idea and stretch it out over the entire review. I'm sure it's a cool aspect and worthy of mention, but surely there are plenty of other things that make this album great for you to touch on. not gonna lie, I'm guilty of taking simple points and dressing them up more than needed.