Creating a masterpiece doesn’t happen overnight, over the course of a few months or weeks, or even through years of trial and toil. A full-fledged masterpiece, tried and true and withstanding the test of time is a feat that most artists dream of, but bouncing from masterpiece to masterpiece is something else entirely. And even for a hint in time, the bite-size minuscule that oftentimes encapsulates greatness, an artist can unleash a creative output to blend amongst relative significance. Colors is exactly that: a single note of greatness amongst an orchestra. But it’s a release that’s polar opposites from its bunkmates, which is as characteristically Beck as it gets.
Undoubtedly Beck’s most pop-fueled and energetic release to date, Colors pushes the limits that constitute a “strictly pop” record. It’s pop, no bones about it, but what if Beck put his own spin on the definition of the genre? From middle-of-the-road alternative and sprightly upbeat takes to classically damn good numbers, Beck set out with a clear mindset when approaching this record: conquer pop, and producer Greg Kurstin was right on par with him. Take the mammoth “Dreams” as a cue; from beginning to end, every drum beat, vocal part, and layered guitar shimmy-shake align in unison as if the song came to him in a vision (full disclosure, there’s a high likelihood it was). Accelerating like an pop-alternative(ish) standard and falling with a distorted breakdown, all cards are on the table with a song like “Dreams”, and it lands nowhere short of spectacular. Even more so on songs like “Up All Night”, “Colors”, and “No Distraction” does Beck and co. break out the full cast of sprightly-sounding characters. Panpipes and synths, bouncy and quick drum parts, guitar and piano licks intertwining, and even lyrics about late-night, carefree love flings, no stone goes unturned, and underneath is a pop macrocosm.
As if conquering the party-esque, mainstream-ish pop haunt wasn’t enough, Colors goes a step further and takes a tip from the history books. Fortunately for listeners both old and young, a pop record wouldn’t be such without channeling the inner Beatles, and “Dear Life” does so by drawing a line in the sand between contemporary and classical pop. A monumental song with catchy hooks, a driving piano melody, and harmonizing, effects-lathered guitar that’s strictly secluded to the chorus (see artist, Paul McCartney), “Dear Life” couldn’t be a more modern testament to recreating the blueprints of past demagogues. Amongst the many standout hits on the record, “Dear Life” exhibits an attention to detail with layering and composition on top of lyrics that speak of only one classification: perfectionism.
Right, wrong, or indifferent, when an artist of Beck’s caliber releases a record that’s drastically different from the preceding catalog, opinions arise and waves are made. Most artists either nestle into a comfort zone of “their sound” or branch out into others, and Beck has made it abundantly clear that he isn’t like “most artists”, if you didn’t know that already (the lyrics to his first major hit, “Loser” should be enough evidence). Look no further than his catalog for a clue as to why he would release such a pop-centric album. Historically, he’s bounced from genre to genre, which is perhaps his most reputable attribute, and pop was one he hasn’t extensively dived into (or at least dedicated an entire album to). Add producer Greg Kurstin behind the board, and you get one of the most noteworthy pop records of 2017, if not of the past decade or more. It’s the alter ego to his previous award-winning and acoustically mellow release, Morning Phase, and there’s a good chance his next release will be just as different.