Beck’s discography is anomalous— flirting with the edges of indie pop, rock, alternative, folk, hip-hop, and everything in between, the only sense of continuity between his releases lies within the fact that his audience is consistency thrown for a loop. Each record signifies Beck’s refusal to chase a definitive direction whilst simultaneously maintaining a distinctiveness that allows his listeners to know that it is, indeed, him. Guero demonstrated Beck’s ability to bounce in and out of grooves, Sea Change showing us a more somber, atmospheric side, Morning Phase letting us know just how talented of a composer and instrumentalist he is, and then there’s Colors, which, to my dismay, replaced a lot of the innovation found within his past records with a forced, conscripted energy.
Teaming back up with Greg Kurstin, who, after playing in Beck’s live band some years back, went on to produce artists such as Adele and Kelly Clarkson, Colors’ pop-infused nature is no secret. This in its own has actually worked in the past— some of Beck’s most successful and innovative releases have taken on an overtly fun, playful guise. At the center, though, was Beck doing what he does best— subverting his listeners’ expectations, presenting them with memorable hooks, cunning rhythms, and mellifluous guitar lines. Colors, however, although executed in a lively, merry fashion, lacks the idiosyncratic, unique element inherent to what we know as Beck.
The record aptly kicks off eponymously with what is, in my opinion, the strongest track on it. “Colors” commences with an automated low-pass filter, gently guiding us from down under unto the surface with its playfully electronic percussion. Once we arrive, we are handed to Beck himself, addressing an anonymous, second person character, slyly admitting “I see you/ I need you/ Every day.” Following the verse, the track abruptly transitions to a refrain that, to my delight, sounds like something out of Morning Phase with its glistening strings, anthemic vocals, and ambient weirdo synths. It’s almost like a breath of fresh air in the middle of a high-speed car chase.
The next track, however, titled “Seventh Heaven,” is a better representation of the album itself. With its overly clean-cut production, we are thrown into a world that sounds as if it is filled with anthropomorphized gummy bears and Halloween candy. Even “I’m So Free,” with its electric guitar and power chords, lacks any sort of edge. The aesthetic of this record represents something similar to a sorority girl sticking her head out of her boyfriend’s Jeep Wrangler, arms in the air— however, their lack of direction and control just result in them being pulled over shortly afterward, killing any sort of vibe they had going on.
I’ve aways found the beauty of Beck to be his unwillingness to compromise being his authentic self. On the brink of each release, despite not having a clue what to expect out of the record sonically, I could always depend on getting something truly, unapologetically Beck. I wish I could say the same thing with Colors. Instead, we are given what sounds like an artist who has the potential to push music forward decides to give Top 40 a go.