Review Summary: If you like the background music in iPhone commercials then Beck's Colors is for you! And if not, well...yeah.
I’ve always regarded Beck as the David Bowie of my generation. Like Bowie, with each release Beck constantly changes his musical pursuits, genre hopping at a moment’s notice. Whether he’s balancing trash-can folk with hip hop, taking funk down its weirdest avenues, or offering tender moments of introspection with just an acoustic guitar, Beck’s releases have always promised something entirely unique. But on his latest record, Colors, he loses some of that ingenuity in the most predictable of ways: with a conventional pop record.
was advertised to us a diverse collection of songs but 90 percent of the tracks are in the electro-pop territory. Funny enough, it’s the other 10 percent that deviate from the genre that are actually the best. “Wow” echoes some his freakier impulses of his late 90’s material (think “High Five (Rock The Catskills)” or “Nicotine and Gravy") while still remaining funky, and the piano driven “Dear Life” is a slice of life that will resonate with anyone that’s just trying to take it day by day.
Too bad the rest of the album isn’t as rewarding.
The problem isn’t the electro-pop genre itself, but that Beck fails to do anything new with it. The better songs like “Colors” and “I’m So Free” are good pieces of power pop that would do well on your next workout playlist, while the lesser efforts like “No Distraction” and “7th Heaven” sound like a mix of Phoenix and MGMT in all the worst ways. Even in the better moments on the album there’s this unshakable feeling that Beck could be swapped out at any moment with a Katy Perry type, and the effects wouldn’t be much different (Scary, right?).
It’s just so weird hearing such a conventional record from such an unconventional artist.
Perhaps we should look at the man behind the curtain, pop producer, Greg Kurstin. He’s had a lot of success producing for Adele, Pink, and Sia, but having such a heavy involvement in the writing process (having co-wrote all but 2 songs) hasn’t done Colors
any favors. On a technical level, the mix is great. Compressed drums pop behind shimmering guitars and keys, while Beck’s vocals dance on the foundation. Still, the top-notch production can't save the songs that sound like background music for an iPhone commercial.
In my book, there’s two types of Beck fans. The ones that really dig the more subdued efforts of Sea Change
and Morning Phase
and then the others that adore the eclecticism of Odelay
and Midnite Vultures
. This record doesn’t really aim to please either of those fan bases, which is fine, but that doesn’t excuse it for being uninventive.