An underwhelming attempt at a move into pop, Beck has taken one risk too many.
Beck is back, but with the American singer-songwriter releasing his thirteenth studio album in his twenty-five year career, it feels as if he was hardly ever gone. However, the latest instalment of Beck’s discography is far from a resounding success. Eleven-song-long Colors, unfortunately, fails to live up to its vibrant name, with the main colour of this album being an insipid beige.
From the beginning of his career, Beck has been no stranger to taking risks with his music, with fans watching the prolific artist journey from harrowing orchestral pieces like ‘Lonesome Tears’ in 2002, to delving into garage-rock by 2008, in tracks like ‘Soul of a Man’. Repeatedly tackling different genres, Beck has been skipping from step to step throughout his career, each time revealing another weapon in his seemingly endless arsenal. But it appears this time he has stumbled and ultimately met his match. Beck is not a pop star and never will be, but has decided to release an album of him trying to be, and struggling.
On Colors, Beck makes an underwhelming venture into the realms of pop. The album, despite being by far the most collectively upbeat group of songs Beck has yet to release, feels rather tedious and repetitive. A homogeny of similar sounding songs, one after the next, is not something that we have come to expect from the experimental artist. Often his albums offer something a lot more varied, and a lot more wholesome; with 1996’s Odelay and 2008’s Modern Guilt both being significantly more diverse and successful. The large majority of the songs on Colors are lyrically and emotionally empty, leaving its listeners a lot more to be desired.
The alternative music giant is able to play more than twelve different instruments, but it appears on this occasion he has exhausted his musical apparatus in a rather meagre attempt to attain some kind of appreciation in a much more commercialised, mainstream sense. I will, however, concede this: after vapidly enduring the opening title track, we are introduced to the best song on the album, ‘Seventh Heaven’. The track, full to the brim with synths and quite possibly the most energetic track on the album, it’s the only song that really appears as if it would have a chance of achieving any mainstream success. Nonetheless, as a whole, Colors shows the efforts of a tiring genius who has run out of ideas, clinging on desperately in hope of remaining relevant. Any positivity I can find with this album all derives from the music’s clear lack of ‘Beck-ness’. That is not to say that Beck’s attempt to venture into pop is something that shouldn’t be respected should it have been done well; however, it appears that ultimately he has drained his own distinctiveness from his work, resulting in something that resembles a Gary Barlow post-midlife crisis solo album.
Perhaps I have been slightly harsh in this criticism; it would be wrong for me to say that the album is utterly bad, it is more of an anticlimactic disappointment, and in my opinion a huge step in the wrong direction for a man who has so much more to offer.
Colors is out now via Capitol Records