This article is about the American singer. For other uses, see Beck (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Jeff Beck.
American musician and singer
Beck David Hansen (born Bek David Campbell; July 8, 1970) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He rose to fame in the early 1990s with his experimental and lo-fi style, and became known for creating musical collages of wide-ranging genres. He has musically encompassed folk, funk, soul, hip hop, electronic, alternative rock, country, and psychedelia. He has released 14 studio albums (three of which were released on indie labels), as well as several non-album singles and a book of sheet music.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Beck grew towards hip-hop and folk in his teens and began to perform locally at coffeehouses and clubs. He moved to New York City in 1989 and became involved in the city's small but fiery anti-folk movement. Returning to Los Angeles in the early 1990s, he cut his breakthrough single "Loser", which became a worldwide hit in 1994, and released his first major album, Mellow Gold, the same year. Odelay, released in 1996, topped critic polls and won several awards. He released the country-influenced, twangy Mutations in 1998, and the funk-infused Midnite Vultures in 1999. The soft-acoustic Sea Change in 2002 showcased a more serious Beck, and 2005's Guero returned to Odelay's sample-based production. The Information in 2006 was inspired by electro-funk, hip hop, and psychedelia; 2008's Modern Guilt was inspired by '60s pop music; and 2014's folk-infused Morning Phase won Album of the Year at the 57th Grammy Awards. His 2017 album, Colors, won awards for Best Alternative Album and Best Engineered Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. His fourteenth studio album, Hyperspace, was released on November 22, 2019.
With a pop art collage of musical styles, oblique and ironic lyrics, and postmodern arrangements incorporating samples, drum machines, live instrumentation and sound effects, Beck has been hailed by critics and the public throughout his musical career as being among the most idiosyncratically creative musicians of 1990s and 2000s alternative rock. Two of Beck's most popular and acclaimed recordings are Odelay and Sea Change, both of which were ranked on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The four-time platinum artist has collaborated with several artists and has made several contributions to soundtracks.
Beck was born Bek David Campbell in Los Angeles, California, on July 8, 1970, the son of American visual artist Bibbe Hansen and Canadian arranger, composer, and conductor David Campbell. Bibbe grew up amid New York's Andy Warhol Factory art scene of the 1960s and was a Warhol superstar, but moved to California at age 17 and met David there. Beck's maternal grandmother was Jewish, while his maternal grandfather, artist Al Hansen, was of Norwegian descent and was a pioneer in the avant-gardeFluxus movement. Beck has said that he was "raised celebrating Jewish holidays" and that he considers himself Jewish.
Beck began life in a rooming house near downtown Los Angeles. As a child, he lived in a declining neighborhood near Hollywood Boulevard. He later recalled, "By the time we left there, they were ripping out miles of houses en masse and building low-rent, giant apartment blocks." The lower-class family struggled financially, moving to Hoover and Ninth Street, a neighborhood populated primarily by Koreans and Salvadorian refugees. He was sent for a time to live with his paternal grandparents in Kansas, later remarking that he thought "they were kind of concerned" about his "weird" home life. Since his paternal grandfather was a Presbyterian minister, Beck grew up influenced by church music and hymns. He also spent time in Europe with his maternal grandfather.
After his parents separated when he was 10, Beck stayed with his mother and brother Channing in Los Angeles, where he was influenced by the city's diverse musical offerings—everything from hip hop to Latin music and his mother's art scene—all of which would later reappear in his work. Beck obtained his first guitar at 16 and became a street musician, often playing Lead Belly covers at Lafayette Park. During his teens, Beck discovered the music of Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore, and X, but remained uninterested in most music outside the folk genre until many years into his career. The first contemporary music that made a direct connection with Beck was hip hop, which he first heard on Grandmaster Flash records in the early 1980s. Growing up in a predominantly Latin district, he found himself the only white child at his school, and quickly learned how to breakdance. When he was 17, Beck grew fascinated after hearing a Mississippi John Hurt record at a friend's house, and spent hours in his room trying to emulate Hurt's finger-picking techniques. Shortly thereafter, Beck explored blues and folk music further, discovering Woody Guthrie and Blind Willie Johnson.
Feeling like "a total outcast", Beck dropped out of school after junior high. He later said that although he felt school was important, he felt unsafe there. When he applied to the new performing arts high school downtown, he was rejected. His brother took him to post-Beat jazz places in Echo Park and Silver Lake. He hung out at the Los Angeles City College, perusing records, books and old sheet music in its library. He used a fake ID to sit in on classes there, and he also befriended a literature instructor and his poet wife. He worked at a string of menial jobs, including loading trucks and operating a leaf blower.
Early performances and first releases (1988–93)
Beck began as a folk musician, switching between country blues, Delta blues, and more traditional rural folk music in his teenage years. He began performing on city buses, often covering Mississippi John Hurt alongside original, sometimes improvisational compositions. "I'd get on the bus and start playing Mississippi John Hurt with totally improvised lyrics. Some drunk would start yelling at me, calling me Axl Rose. So I'd start singing about Axl Rose and the levee and bus passes and strychnine, mixing the whole thing up," he later recalled. He was also in a band called Youthless that hosted Dadaist-inspired freeform events at city coffee shops. "We had Radio Shack mics and this homemade speaker and we'd draft people in the audience to recite comic books or do a beatbox thing, or we'd tie the whole audience up in masking tape," Beck recalled.
In 1989, Beck caught a bus to New York City with little more than $8.00 and a guitar. He spent the summer attempting to find a job and a place to live with little success. Beck eventually began to frequent Manhattan's Lower East Side and stumbled upon the tail end of the East Village's anti-folk scene's first wave. Beck became involved in a loose posse of acoustic musicians—including Cindy Lee Berryhill, Kirk Kelly, Paleface, and Lach, headed by Roger Manning—whose raggedness and eccentricity placed them well outside the acoustic mainstream. "The whole mission was to destroy all the clichés and make up some new ones," said Beck of his New York years. "Everybody knew each other. You could go up onstage and say anything, and you wouldn't feel weird or feel any pressure." Inspired by that freedom and by the local spoken-word performers, Beck began to write free-associative, surrealistic songs about pizza, MTV, and working at McDonald's, turning mundane thoughts into songs. Beck was roommates with Paleface, sleeping on his couch and attending open mic nights together. Daunted by the prospect of another homeless New York winter, Beck returned to his home of Los Angeles in early 1991. "I was tired of being cold, tired of getting beat up," he later remarked. "It was hard to be in New York with no money, no place [...] I kinda used up all the friends I had. Everyone on the scene got sick of me."
Back in Los Angeles, Beck began to work at a video store in the Silver Lake neighborhood, "doing things like alphabetizing the pornography section". He began performing in arthouse clubs and coffeehouses such as Al's Bar and Raji's. In order to keep indifferent audiences engaged in his music, Beck would play in a spontaneous, joking manner. "I'd be banging away on a Son House tune and the whole audience would be talking. So maybe out of desperation or boredom, or the audience's boredom, I'd make up these ridiculous songs just to see if people were listening," he later remarked. Virtually an unknown to the public and an enigma to those who met him, Beck would hop onstage between acts in local clubs and play "strange folk songs", accompanied by "what could best be described as performance art" while sometimes wearing a Star Warsstormtrooper mask. Beck met someone who offered to help record demos in his living room, and he began to pass cassette tapes around.
Eventually, Beck gained key boosters in Margaret Mittleman, the West Coast's director of talent acquisitions for BMG Music Publishing, and the partners behind independent record labelBong Load Custom Records: Tom Rothrock, Rob Schnapf and Brad Lambert. Schnapf saw Beck perform at Jabberjaw and felt he would suit their small venture. Beck expressed a loose interest in hip hop, and Rothrock introduced him to Carl Stephenson, a record producer for Rap-A-Lot Records. In 1992, Beck visited Stephenson's home to collaborate. The result—the slide-sampling hip hop track "Loser"—was a one-off experiment that Beck set aside, going back to his folk songs, making his home tapes such as Golden Feelings, and releasing several independent singles.
Mellow Gold, and independent albums (1993–94)
By 1993, Beck was living in a rat-infested shed near a Los Angeles alleyway with little money. Bong Load issued "Loser" as a single in March 1993 on 12" vinyl with only 500 copies pressed. Beck felt that "Loser" was mediocre, and only agreed to its release at Rothrock's insistence. "Loser" unexpectedly received radio airplay, starting in Los Angeles, where college radio station KXLU was the first to play it, and later on Santa Monica College radio station KCRW, where radio host Chris Douridas played the song on Morning Becomes Eclectic, the station's flagship music program. "I called the record label that day and asked to have Beck play live on the air," Douridas said. "He came in that Friday, rapped to a tape of "Loser" and did his song 'MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack.'" That night, Beck performed at the Los Angeles club Cafe Troy to a packed audience and talent scouts from major labels. The song then spread to Seattle through KNDD The End, and KROQ-FM began playing the song on an almost hourly basis. As Bong Load struggled to press more copies of "Loser", Beck was beset with offers to sign with major labels. During the bidding war in November, Beck spent several days in Olympia, Washington, recording material with Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening, which would later see release the following year on Johnson's K Records as One Foot in the Grave.
A fierce bidding war ensued, with Geffen Records A&R director Mark Kates signing Beck in December 1993 amid intense competition from Warner Bros. and Capitol. Beck's non-exclusive contract with Geffen allowed him an unusual amount of creative freedom, with Beck remaining free to release material through such small, independent labels as Flipside, which issued the sprawling, 25-track collection of pre-"Loser" recordings titled Stereopathetic Soulmanure on February 22 the following year. By the time Beck released his first album for Geffen, the low-budget, genre-blending Mellow Gold on March 1, "Loser" was already in the top 40 and its video in MTV's Buzz Bin. "Loser" quickly ascended the charts in the U.S., reaching a peak of number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and topping the Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song also charted in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Europe. Beck's newfound position of attention led to his characterization as the "King of Slackers", as the media dubbed him the center of the new so-called "slacker" movement. Critics, feeling it the essential follow-up to Radiohead's "Creep", found vacantness in the lyrics of "Loser" strongly associated with Generation X, although Beck himself strongly contested his position as the face of the "slacker" generation: "Slacker my ass. I mean, I never had any slack. I was working a $4-an-hour job trying to stay alive. That slacker stuff is for people who have the time to be depressed about everything."
Backlash and Odelay (1994–97)
Feeling as though he was "constantly trying to prove myself", Beck suffered a backlash, with skeptics denouncing him as a self-indulgent fake and the latest marketing opportunity. In the summer of 1994, Beck was struggling and many of his fellow musicians thought he had lost his way. Combined with the song's wildly popular music video and the world tour, Beck reacted believing the attention could not last, resulting in a status as a "one-hit wonder". At other concerts, crowds were treated to twenty minutes of reggae or Miles Davis or jazz-punk iterations of "Loser". At one-day festivals in California, he surrounded himself with an artnoise combo. The drummer set fire to his cymbals; the lead guitarist "played" his guitar with the strings faced towards his body; and Beck changed the words to "Loser" so that nobody could sing along. "I can't tell you how many times I was looking at faces that were looking back at me with complete bewilderment—or just pointing and shaking their heads and laughing—while performing during that period," he later recalled. Despite this, Beck gained the respect of his peers, such as Tom Petty and Johnny Cash, and created an entire wave of bands determined to recapture the Mellow Gold sound. Feeling his previous releases were just collections of demos recorded over the course of several years, Beck desired to enter the studio and record an album in a continuous linear fashion, which became Odelay.
Beck blends country, blues, rap, jazz and rock on Odelay, the result of a year and half of feverish "cutting, pasting, layering, dubbing, and, of course, sampling". Each day, the musicians started from scratch, often working on songs for 16 hours straight.Odelay's conception lies in an unfinished studio album Beck first embarked on following the success of "Loser", chronicling the difficult time he experienced: "There was a cycle of everyone dying around me," he recalled later. He was constantly recording, and eventually put together an album of somber, orchestrated folk tunes; one that, perhaps, "could have been a commercial blockbuster along with similarly themed work by Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana". Instead, Beck plucked one song from it—the Odelay album closer "Ramshackle"—and shelved the rest ("Brother" and "Feather In Your Cap" were, however, later released as B-sides). Beck was introduced to the Dust Brothers, producers of the Beastie Boys' album Paul's Boutique, whose cut-and-paste, sample-heavy production suited Beck's vision of a more fun, accessible album. After a record executive explained that Odelay would be a "huge mistake", he spent many months thinking "that I'd blown it forever".
Odelay was released on June 18, 1996, to commercial success and critical acclaim. The record produced several hit singles, including "Where It's At", "Devils Haircut", and "The New Pollution", and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1997, winning a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album as well as a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "Where It's At". During one busy week in January 1997, he landed his Grammy nominations, appeared on Saturday Night Live and Howard Stern, and did a last-minute trot on The Rosie O'Donnell Show. The combined buzz gave Odelay a second wind, leading to an expanded fan base and additional exposure Beck enjoyed but, like several executives at Geffen, was bewildered by the success of Odelay. He would often get recognized in public, which made him feel strange. "It's just weird. It doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel natural to me. I don't think I was made for that. I was never good at that," he later told Pitchfork.Odelay sold two million copies and put "one-hit wonder" criticisms to rest. During this time, he contributed the song "Deadweight" to the soundtrack of the film A Life Less Ordinary (1997).
Mutations and Midnite Vultures (1998–2001)
Having not been in a proper studio since "Deadweight", Beck felt anxious to "go in and just do some stuff real quick", and compiled several songs he had had for years. Beck and his bandmates hammered out fourteen songs in fourteen days, although just twelve made it onto the album, 1998's Mutations. Beck decided on Nigel Godrich, producer for Radiohead's OK Computer the previous year, to be behind the boards for the project. Godrich was leaving the United States for England in a short time, which led to the album's quick production schedule—"No looking back, no doctoring anything". The whole point of the record was to capture the performance of the musicians live, an uncharacteristic far-cry from the cut-and-paste aesthetic of Odelay. Though the album was originally slated for release by Bong Load Records, Geffen intervened and issued the record against Beck's wishes. The artist then sought to void his contracts with both record labels, and in turn the labels sued him for breach of contract. The litigation went on for years and it remains unclear to this day if it has ever been completely resolved. Beck was later awarded Best Alternative Music Performance for Mutations at the 42nd Grammy Awards.
Midnite Vultures, Beck's next studio effort, was originally recorded as a double album, and more than 25 nearly completed songs were left behind. In the studio, Beck and producers studied contemporary hip hop and R&B, specifically R. Kelly, in order to embrace and incorporate those influences in the way Al Green and Stax records had done in previous decades. In July 1998, a core group began to assemble at Beck's Pasadena home: bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and producer-engineers Mickey Petralia and Tony Hoffer. Dozens of session players passed through, including Beck's father, David Campbell, who played viola and arranged some of the strings. The musicians held communal meals and mountain-bike rides on dusty trails nearby, but remained focused on Beck's instructions: to make an up-tempo album that would be fun to play on tour night after night. "I had so many things going on", said Beck of the recording process. "I had a couple of rooms of computers hooked up, I was doing B sides for Japan, I was programming beats in one room and someone would be cooking dinner in the other room." In November 1999, Geffen released the much-anticipated Midnite Vultures, which attracted confusion: "fans and critics misguidedly worried whether it was serious or a goof," and as a result, The New York Times wrote that the album "never won the audience it deserved". The record was supported by an extensive world tour. For Beck, it was a return to the high-energy performances that had been his trademark as far back as Lollapalooza. The live stage set included a red bed that descended from the ceiling for the song "Debra", and the touring band was complemented by a brass section.Midnite Vultures was nominated for Best Album at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Sea Change (2002–03)
In 2000, Beck and his fiancée, stylist Leigh Limon, ended their nine-year relationship. Beck lapsed into a period of melancholy and introspection, during which he wrote the bleak, acoustic-based tracks later found on Sea Change. Beck sat on the songs, not wanting to talk about his personal life; he later said that he wanted to focus on music and "not really strew my baggage across the public lobby". Eventually, however, he decided the songs spoke to a common experience (a relationship breakup), and that it would not seem self-indulgent to record them. In 2001, Beck drifted back to the songs and called producer Nigel Godrich.
Retailers initially predicted that the album would not receive much radio support, but they also believed that Beck's maverick reputation and critical acclaim, in addition to the possibility of multiple Grammy nominations, might offset Sea Change's noncommercial sound.Sea Change, issued by Geffen in September 2002, was regardless a commercial hit and critical darling, with Rolling Stone revering it as "the best album Beck has ever made, [...] an impeccable album of truth and light from the end of love. This is his Blood on the Tracks." The album was later listed by the magazine as one of the best records of the decade and of all-time, and it also placed second on the year's Pazz & Jop Critics Poll. Sea Change yielded a low-key, theater-based acoustic tour, as well as a larger tour with The Flaming Lips as Beck's opening and backing band. Beck was playful and energetic, sometimes throwing in covers of The Rolling Stones, Big Star, The Zombies and The Velvet Underground.
Following the release of Sea Change, Beck felt newer compositions were sketches for something more evolved in the same direction, and wrote nearly 35 more songs in the coming months, keeping demos of them on tapes in a suitcase. During his solo tour, the tapes were left backstage during a stop in Washington, D.C., and Beck was never able to recover them. It was disheartening to the musician, who felt the two years of songwriting represented something more technically complex. As a result, Beck took a break and wrote no original compositions in 2003. Feeling as though it might take him a while to "get back to that [songwriting] territory", he entered the studio with Dust Brothers to complete a project that dated back to Odelay. Nearly half of the songs had existed since the 1990s.
Guero and The Information (2004–07)
Guero, Beck's eighth studio album, was recorded over the span of nine months during which several significant events occurred in his life: his girlfriend, Marissa Ribisi, became pregnant; they were married; their son, Cosimo, was born; and they moved out of Silver Lake. The collaboration with the Dust Brothers, his second, was notable for their use of high-tech measures to achieve a lo-fi sound. For example, after recording a "sonically perfect" version of a song at one of the nicest recording studios in Hollywood, the Dust Brothers processed it in an Echoplex to create a gritty, reverb-heavy sound: "We did this high-tech recording and ran it through a transistor radio. It sounded too good, that was the problem." Initially due to be released in October 2004, Guero faced delays and did not come out till March 2005, though unmastered copies of the tracks surfaced online in January.
Guero debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 162,000 copies, an all-time sales high. Lead single "E-Pro" peaked at number one at Modern Rock radio, making it his first chart-topper since "Loser". Beck, inspired by the Nintendocore remix scene and feeling a connection with its lo-fi, home-recording method, collaborated with artists 8-Bit and Paza on Hell Yes, an EP issued in February 2005. In December 2005, Geffen also issued Guerolito, a fully reworked version of Guero featuring remixes by the Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock, the Dust Brothers' John King and Scottish electronic duo Boards of Canada.Guerolito combines remixes previously heard as B-sides and new versions of album tracks to make a track-by-track reconfiguration of the album. Also released in 2005 was A Brief Overview, a 12-track promotional-only "History of Beck" compilation CD sampler that featured a combination of older and newer Beck tracks.
The Information, Beck's ninth studio album, began production around the same time as Guero, in 2003. Working with producer Nigel Godrich, Beck built a studio in his garden, where they wrote many of the tracks. "The idea was to get people in a room together recording live, hitting bad notes and screaming," said Beck, adding that the album is best described as "introspective hip hop". Beck described the recording process as "painful", noting that he edited down songs constantly and he perhaps recorded the album three times. For the release, Beck was allowed for the first time to fulfill a long-running wish for an unconventional rollout: he made low-budget videos to accompany each song, packaged the CD with sheets of stickers so buyers could customize the cover, and leaked tracks and videos on his website months ahead of the album's release. Digital download releases automatically downloaded the song's additional video for each single sale, and physical copies came bundled with an additional DVD featuring fifteen videos.
Modern Guilt (2008)
In 2007, Beck released the single "Timebomb", which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance. For his next studio effort, his tenth, Beck tapped Danger Mouse to produce, and the two first met in December 2007 to record. The duo knocked out two tracks in two days, but the notion that the album would be finished in a timely fashion soon evaporated. Beck had known Danger Mouse casually before, as many of his former musicians ended up working with Danger Mouse's side project, Gnarls Barkley. Still, the musicians were surprised at how well they got along. Following the grueling recording schedule, Beck was exhausted, calling it "the most intense work I've ever done on anything", relating that he "did at least 10 weeks with no days off, until four or five in the morning every night." Beck's original vision was a short 10-track burst with two-minute songs, but the songs gradually grew as he fit 'two years of songwriting into two and a half months."Modern Guilt (2008) was "full of off-kilter rhythms and left-field breakdowns, with an overall 1960s vibe."
Record Club, Song Reader, production work and non-album singles (2009–13)
Modern Guilt was the final release in Beck's contract with Geffen Records. Beck, then 38, had held the contract since his early 20s. Released from his label contract and going independent, Beck began working more heavily on his own seven-year-old label, which went through a variety of names. His focus on smaller, more quixotic projects, Beck moonlighted as a producer, working with artists such as Charlotte Gainsbourg, Thurston Moore and Stephen Malkmus. Beck worked for five or six days a week at the small studio on his property in Malibu, and founded Record Club, a project whereby an entire classic album—by The Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, INXS, Yanni—would be covered by another singer in the span of a single day. Beck provided four songs for the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), each attributed to the title character's fictional band, Sex Bob-Omb. Beck also collaborated with Philip Glass,Jack White,Tobacco of Black Moth Super Rainbow, Jamie Lidell,Seu Jorge,Childish Gambino, and The Lonely Island.
Song Reader, a project Beck released in December 2012, is 20 songs presented only as sheet music, in the hopes that enterprising musicians will record their own versions. The idea of Song Reader came about nearly fifteen years prior, shortly after the release of Odelay. When sent a book of transcribed sheet music for that album, Beck decided to play through it and grew interested in the world before recorded sound. He aimed to keep the arrangements as open as possible, to re-create the simplicity of the standards, and became preoccupied with creating only pieces that could fit within the Great American Songbook. In 2013 Beck began playing special Song Reader concerts with a variety of guests and announced he was working on a record of Song Reader material with other musicians as well as possibly a compilation of fan versions.
In the summer of 2013, Beck was reported to be working on two new studio albums: one a more self-contained acoustic disc in the vein of One Foot in the Grave and another described as a "proper follow-up" to Modern Guilt. Beck expected to release both albums independently, and released two standalone singles over the course of the summer: the electro ballad "Defriended" and the chorus-heavy "I Won't Be Long". A third single, "Gimme", appeared on September 17.
Morning Phase, Colors, and Hyperspace (2014–present)
In October 2013, Beck signed to Capitol Records. On January 20, 2014, Beck released the track "Blue Moon", which was to be the lead single for his twelfth studio album, Morning Phase. On February 4, second single "Waking Light" was released, just prior to the official release of Morning Phase on February 21, 2014. For the recording of the album, Beck reunited with many of the same musicians with whom he had worked on the critically acclaimed 2002 album Sea Change, and likely because of this, it has been noted that the two albums have a similar genre.
On February 8, 2015, at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, Morning Phase won three Grammys: Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical; Best Rock Album; and Album of the Year. Upon receiving the Album of the Year award, the album beat out Pharrell Williams's G I R L, Beyoncé's self-titled album, Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour, and Ed Sheeran's x.
In the time after Morning Phase's release and general critical success, Beck mentioned that he had been working on another album at around the same time, but that the new album would be more of a pop record. Shortly after Morning Phase's Grammy wins, on June 15, 2015, Beck released the first single titled "Dreams" off this upcoming thirteenth studio album. "I was really trying to make something that would be good to play live," he said shortly after its release. However, no further word was heard from Beck pertaining to the release of the album. On June 2, 2016, almost a year after the initial release of "Dreams", Beck released a new single titled "Wow", along with a lyric video of the song and an announcement that his still untitled album would be released on October 21, 2016. In September 2016, the album was delayed with no new release date announced and, on September 24, Beck said he did not know "when it's coming out. It's probably in a few months." Once again, however, no further singles were released and no new release date was scheduled for the album.
On September 8, 2017, Beck released the single "Dear Life", which was quickly followed up with the official release of "Up All Night" on September 18.Colors was released on October 13, 2017. It was recorded at co-executive producer Greg Kurstin'sLos Angeles studio, with Beck and Kurstin playing nearly every instrument themselves. The experimental pop-fused record received generally positive reviews from critics. On July 18, 2018, Beck performed the title track Colors, and the first single "Wow" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
On April 15, 2019, Beck released a single co-produced with Pharrell Williams titled "Saw Lightning" from his fourteenth studio album, titled Hyperspace. The song "Dark Places" was released on November 6, with the album being released on November 22. Beck was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. In May 2020, Beck cancelled his 2020 tour dates due to the COVID-19 crisis, rescheduling them for a later date.
Collaborations and contributions
In 1999, Beck contributed to a tribute album for Bruce Haack and Esther Nelson and their label Dimension 5 Records. The album, Dimension Mix, released in 2005, was a benefit for Cure Autism Now that was produced by Ross Harris, an early collaborator who designed the artwork for Mellow Gold.
On June 20, 2009, Beck announced that he was starting an experiment called Record Club, in which he and other musicians would record cover versions of entire albums in one day. The first album covered by Beck's Record Club was The Velvet Underground & Nico. Starting on June 18, the club began posting covers of songs from the album on Thursday evenings, each with its own video. On September 4, 2009, Beck announced the second Record Club album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. Contributors included MGMT, Devendra Banhart, Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother and Binki Shapiro of Little Joy. In the third Record Club venture, Wilco, Feist, Jamie Lidell and James Gadson joined Beck to cover Skip Spence's Oar. The first song, "Little Hands", was posted on Beck's website on November 12, 2009. The Record Club has since covered albums by INXS and Yanni.
On June 19, 2009, Beck announced Planned Obsolescence, a weekly DJ set put together by Beck or guest DJs. Soon after, on July 7, Beck announced that his website would be featuring "extended informal conversations with musicians, artists, filmmakers, and other various persons" in a section called Irrelevant Topics. Then, on July 12, he added a section called Videotheque, which he said would contain "promotional videos from each album, as well as live clips, TV show appearances and other rarities". Also in 2009, Beck collaborated with Charlotte Gainsbourg on her album IRM, which was released in January 2010. Beck wrote the music, co-wrote the lyrics, and produced and mixed the album. The lead single, "Heaven Can Wait", is a duet by Beck and Gainsbourg.
In late February 2010, it was announced that electronic artist Tobacco of Black Moth Super Rainbow had collaborated with Beck on two songs, "Fresh Hex" and "Grape Aerosmith", on his upcoming album Maniac Meat. Tobacco revealed that in making the album, Beck sent the vocal parts to him, and that they had never actually met. In March 2010, Beck revealed that he had produced songs for the new Jamie Lidell album, Compass. In the summer of 2010, Beck contributed songs to both The Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack, with "Let's Get Lost" (a duet with Bat for Lashes), and True Blood (HBO Original Series Soundtrack, Vol. 2), with "Bad Blood". He also contributed songs to the soundtrack of Edgar Wright's film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which was released in August 2010.
In 2011, he collaborated with Seu Jorge on a track titled "Tropicália (Mario C. 2011 Remix)" for the Red Hot Organization's most recent charitable album Red Hot+Rio 2, a follow-up to the 1996 album Red Hot + Rio. Proceeds from the sales will be donated to raise awareness and money to fight AIDS/HIV and related health and social issues. He also contributed on the song "Attracted to Us" on Turtleneck & Chain, the second album from The Lonely Island. Also in 2011, Beck produced a solo album by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth called Demolished Thoughts. An album he produced for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Mirror Traffic, was released in August 2011.
In October 2011, it was widely reported that Beck and producer Hector Castillo were collaborating with American composer Philip Glass to produce a remix album of the composer's works in honor of his 75th birthday. The album, Rework Philip Glass Remixed, was released on October 23, 2012, to critical acclaim, and featured Beck as both a curator and a performer. In particular, Pitchfork described Beck's 22-minute contribution to the album, "NYC: 73–78", as "a fantasia ... the most startling and original piece of music with Beck's name on it in a while, and the first new work to bear his own spirit in even longer." Reflecting on Beck's contribution to the album, Glass remarked that he was "impressed by the novelty and freshness of a lot of the ideas". Beyond his work as a performer, Beck acted as the album's curator, bringing together a diverse collection of artists—including Amon Tobin, Tyondai Braxton, Nosaj Thing, and Memory Tapes—whose work had also been influenced by Glass. In December 2012, an interactive iPhone app titled "Rework_" was released to complement the album.
Beck has contributed three new songs—"Cities", "Touch the People" and "Spiral Staircase"—to the video game Sound Shapes for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita. Beck collaborated on two songs for Childish Gambino's "Royalty" mixtape in 2012. In 2014, Beck collaborated with Sia for the song "Moonquake Lake", which is featured in the soundtrack for the 2014 Annie film.
In 2015, Beck collaborated with former Fun. frontman Nate Ruess on the single "What This World Is Coming To", which was one of the Grammy-winning artist's many works featured on his debut solo album Grand Romantic released in June 2015. He also collaborated with electronic dance music duo The Chemical Brothers on their most recent album Born in the Echoes, providing lead vocals and also credited in writing for the track "Wide Open", released in July. In 2016, Beck collaborated with French electronic music band M83, providing vocals for the song "Time Wind" from their album Junk. He was also featured on "Tiny Cities" by Flume. He also collaborated with Lady Gaga on the song "Dancin' in Circles", from her 2016 album Joanne.
In 2017, Beck appeared in the multiple award-winning film The American Epic Sessions, directed by Bernard MacMahon. He recorded "14 Rivers, 14 Floods" backed by a full gospel choir, live onto the first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s.
In 2019, Beck worked with Jenny Lewis on the song "Do Si Do" from her album On the Line. He also collaborated with Cage the Elephant on the song "Night Running" from their album Social Cues.
In 2020, Beck collaborated with virtual band Gorillaz to create the song "The Valley of the Pagans" which appears on Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez.
In 2021, Beck collaborated with Paul McCartney to make his hit single "Find My Way" on the album McCartney III Imagined. As for festival stages the artist was inter alia part of the Newport Folk Festival in July.
Beck's musical style has been considered alternative and indie. He has played many of the instruments in his music himself. Beck has also done some remixes for fellow artists, notably David Bowie and Björk. He has been known to synthesize several musical elements together in his music, including folk, psychedelia, electronic, country, Latin music, hip hop, funk, soul, blues, noise music, jazz, and many types of rock. He has also taken music from Los Angeles as a reference point in his songs.
Pitchfork Media applauded Midnite Vultures, saying, "Beck wonderfully blends Prince, Talking Heads, Paul's Boutique, 'Shake Your Bon-Bon', and Mathlete on Midnite Vultures, his most consistent and playful album yet." The review commented that his mix of "goofy piety and ambiguous intent" helped the album. A Beck song called "Harry Partch", a tribute to the composer of the same name and his "corporeal" music, employs Partch's 43-tone scale.
During 1998, Beck's art collaborations with his grandfather Al Hansen were featured in an exhibition titled "Beck & Al Hansen: Playing With Matches", which showcased solo and collaborative collage, assemblage, drawing and poetry works. The show toured from the Santa Monica Museum of Art to galleries in New York City and Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Canada. A catalog of the show was published by Plug in Editions/Smart Art Press.
Beck's nine-year relationship with designer Leigh Limon and their subsequent breakup is said to have inspired his 2002 album, Sea Change. He wrote most of the songs for the album in one week after the breakup. In April 2004, shortly before the birth of their son Cosimo Henri, Beck married actress Marissa Ribisi, the twin sister of actor Giovanni Ribisi. Their daughter, Tuesday, was born in 2007. Beck filed for divorce from Ribisi on February 15, 2019. Their divorce was finalized on September 3, 2021.
Beck has described himself as both Jewish and a Scientologist. Through his parents, he has been involved in Scientology for most of his life; his estranged wife, Marissa, is also a second-generation Scientologist. He publicly acknowledged his affiliation for the first time in a New York Times Magazine interview on March 6, 2005. Further confirmation came in an interview with the Sunday Tribune in June 2005, where he stated, "Yeah, I'm a Scientologist. My father has been a Scientologist for about 35 years, so I grew up in and around it." Despite this, Beck disavowed previous reports of his being a Scientologist in a November 2019 interview with the Sydney Morning Herald and said, "I think there's a misconception that I'm a Scientologist. I'm not a Scientologist. I don't have any connection or affiliation with it." He added that "I was raised celebrating Jewish holidays, and I consider myself Jewish."
Beck suffered a spinal injury while filming the music video for 2005's "E-Pro". The incident was severe enough to curtail his touring schedule for a few years, but he has since recovered.
Appearances in media
The 1986 punk rock musical film Population: 1, starring Tomata du Plenty of The Screamers, features a young Beck in a small nonspeaking role. Beck also appears in Southlander (2001), an American independent film by Steve Hanft and Ross Harris.
Beck has performed on Saturday Night Live seven times. During his 2006 performance in the Hugh Laurie episode, Beck was accompanied by the puppets that had been used onstage during his world tour. He has made two cameo appearances as himself on Saturday Night Live: one in a sketch about medicinal marijuana, and one in a VH1 Behind the Music parody that featured "Fat Albert & the Junkyard Gang".
Beck performed a guest voice as himself on Matt Groening's animated show Futurama, in the episode "Bendin' in the Wind". He performed in episode 11 of the fourth season of The Larry Sanders Show, in which the producer character Artie (Rip Torn) referred to him as a "hillbilly from outer space". He also made a very brief voice appearance in the 1998 cartoon feature film The Rugrats Movie, and guest-starred as himself in a 1997 episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast titled "Edelweiss".
On January 22, 2010, Beck appeared on the last episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien as a backup guitarist for a Will Ferrell-led rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" alongside ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, Ben Harper, and O'Brien himself on guitar. On March 1, 2014, Beck was the musical guest on a Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Jim Parsons. Beck also appeared, as himself, in the 2017 film The Circle, giving a musical performance of the song "Dreams".
Main article: Beck discography
Awards and nominations
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Beck
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The Horrible Fanfare / Landslide / Exoskeleton
Ghost Range (E-Pro) - Remixed by Homelife
Qué Onda Guero - Remixed by Island
Girl (Recluse Street Remix) - Remix by Octet
Heaven Hammer (Missing) - Air Remix
Shake Shake Tambourine (Black Tambourine) (Smallstars Remix by Adrock)
Terremoto Tempo (Earthquake Weather) - Remixed by Mario C
Ghettochip Malfunction (Hell Yes) - 8Bit Remix
Broken Drum - Remixed by Boards of Canada
Scarecrow - Remixed by El-P
Wish Coin (Go It Alone) - Diplo Remix
Farewell Ride - Remixed by Subtle
Rental Car - Remixed by John King
Emergency Exit - Th’ Corn Gangg
Clap Hands - Non LP Version
Nobody's Fault But My Own
High 5 (Rock the Catskills)
He's a Mighty Good Leader
Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods
I've Seen the Land Beyond
F...in With My Head (Mountain Dew Rock)
Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997
Truckdrivin Neighbors Downstairs (Yellow Sweat)
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Every Beck Album, Ranked
Photo: Maya Robinson and Photos by Getty
This list was first published in 2014, and has been updated to include Beck’s latest music.
Describing Beck’s vast catalogue with an adjective — or even five — is a fool’s errand. He broke through during the early ’90s “anything goes” alt-rock boom, hitting big with the slacker-hop anthem “Loser” and carrying that song’s momentum through downcast freak-folk and feedback-drenched jitters on his major-label debut, Mellow Gold. The albums in its wake have followed Beck’s musical flights of fancy to wherever they might lead: amped-up funk, breezy tropicalia, even (gasp!) serene, meticulously arranged rock.
On his 13th album, Colors, he follows up his 2015 Album of the Year victory for Morning Phase with another unexpected move: He embraces his pop-star status, leading the way through songs that supplement his musical fastidiousness and boundless curiosity with precision-grade polish and big hooks. Here, Vulture ranks Colors and his other 12 albums, and throws in Song Reader, his 2012 book of sheet music, for good measure.
13. Golden Feelings (1993)
Beck’s first album is a cassette-only 1993 release that opens with him slurring, “I’ve got the fucked up bluuuuuues.” The rest of it pretty much proceeds along that path — his voice wavers around its lowest register and the music lurks underneath layers of sonic gunk. The occasional grappling-hook-strong riff bubbles up, but there’s so much else going on that digging through to find them isn’t all that appealing a prospect.
12. Stereopathetic Soulmanure (1994)
Released a week before Mellow Gold, on a label associated with the L.A. punk zine Flipside, this album delivers on its title’s promise: It’s a sliced and diced trip through the bowels of Beck’s brain, with glitched-out electronics and up-from-the-mud guitars jostling for space with relatively straightforward folk tracks. Johnny Cash covered the glum, slide-guitar-accented “Rowboat” as part of his American Recording series, and it’s easy to hear why; even though Beck’s slightly strangled vocal performance has half a wisecrack lurking within, its simple melodies and unabashed heartbreak reveal just how well Beck can operate within the crying country form.
11. One Foot in the Grave (1994)
What’s an oddball troubadour to do after rocketing to fame on the strength of a left-field hit? Beck’s answer was “Head to Olympia, Washington,” which at the time was a hot spot for playfully defiant independent music. Beck teamed up with Calvin Johnson, the buzz-saw-voiced founder of the storied label K, for this aggressively minimalist, genially sloppy collection. Loose-limbed tracks like “Outcome” and “Asshole” sound right at home on K, a bastion of lo-fi, although that label has been contractually barred from putting out the record in recent years; Beck rereleased it (with some extra tracks) on his own label in 2009.
10. Sea Change (2002)
Can a musician notorious for his genre-melding playfulness get serious and stripped down? In the case of Sea Change, the answer is “Yes, but.” Recorded with Radiohead engineer Nigel Godrich, who also worked with Beck on Mutations, this album has expert players (Beck’s longtime guitarist Smokey Hormel is joined by half of the cult-beloved power-pop act Jellyfish and session lifer Joey Waronker) and quite a few moments of beauty. But those snatches rise out of a morass that seems too deliberately restrained and at times unfocused; songs like “Guess I’m Doing Fine” and “The Golden Age” could have as much as a minute chopped off their mid-tempo chugging and be somewhat improved.
9. The Information (2006)
A solid if relatively unexceptional effort from someone whose catalogue is made up of high points, this lengthy 2006 release had a sticker-book cover, voice-over work from Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers, and a battery of videos crafted for simultaneous viewing. The muscular, sweet “Think I’m in Love” is perhaps Beck’s most straightforward expression of being besotted.
8. Mellow Gold (1994)
Beck’s 1994 breakthrough cleans up much of the gunk that clouded the songcraft of his earlier releases. Sure, the end result isn’t entirely spit-shined, but hints of griminess were essential to Beck’s initial appeal; the way the slide guitar on “Loser” isn’t played so much as it is attacked, the bong-water burble that powers the head rush “Beercan,” and the quit-your-McJob middle-finger of “Soul Suckin’ Jerk” all contribute to a Portrait of the Artist As a Devoted Slacker. “Pay No Mind,” with its surreal expressions of impending-success angst, serves as the flip side of that attitude.
7. Morning Phase (2014)
Beck’s Album of the Year-winning 2014 full-length was heralded as a return to the form he found on Sea Change, although its brooding restraint feels less forced than its predecessor’s. The hazy vocals and sad strings on “Wave” recall Spiritualized at their most blissfully bummed-out, while the guitar-solo coda of “Waking Light” provides a fitting end to the record, its sun-dappled solo fading into an ending that is literally a screeching halt.
6. Colors (2017)
Beck’s first in-depth on-record collaboration with pop guru Greg Kurstin (Tegan & Sara, Kelly Clarkson) is a loose-limbed yet gorgeously detailed collection of sparkling pop songs that calls back to Beck’s earlier breakthroughs. His vowel-marveling verses on the woozy “Wow” recall the spaced-out wordplay of “Loser,” while “Up All Night” grooves like “E-Pro.” But the taut, slick Colors also dives headfirst into crates of New Wave and power-pop 45s, with the shuffling barroom ballad “Dear Life” and the punchy “No Distraction” sounding like freshly minted Shrieks of the Week.
5. Modern Guilt (2008)
Possessing the sharp yet loose feeling of a jam session between people who have been playing together all their lives, Beck’s 2008 Danger Mouse–produced album is an easy-breezy listen that throws in just enough curve balls to catch the ear on a regular basis, with the floating “Chemtrails” and fuzzed-out, fidgety “Replica” among its highlights. The guitars on “Youthless” pop like pistons, while the strutting “Gamma Ray” is almost like a grown-up “Devil’s Haircut,” trading in that song’s maximalized cool for a little bit of walking on air.
4. Guero (2005)
Opening with the storming singalong “E-Pro” and barreling along from there, Beck’s confident 2005 album is filled with some of his best late-era tracks — the rave-up “Black Tambourine,” the future-sex dystopia “Hell Yes,” the twisted Western “Farewell Ride.” The bleepy, breezy “Girl” is one of Beck’s catchiest songs, although its blackly left-field lyrics give it an unnerving edge.
3. Mutations (1998)
If Sea Change was Beck’s attempt to grow up, 1998’s Mutations — also recorded with Nigel Godrich — was the sign that he already had, twinning weary lyrics with some of his most impressive songcraft. True, he didn’t keep the mood quite as somber as he eventually would, dipping playfully into different styles here and there; “Tropicalia” showed the Lollapalooza set how to blame it on the bossa nova. But there are plenty of moments of genuine beauty: The regretful “We Live Again” shimmers like a slow dance at a ghost prom, and “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” is a stunning lament.
2. Odelay (1996)
Mellow Gold was Beck’s breakthrough, but from the storming first note of “Devil’s Haircut,” it’s clear that Odelay was his flag-plant, his signal to the world that he was going to transcend the fate of many alt-rock-radio peers and be more than “that ‘Loser’ guy.” The details on Odelay only serve to animate the songs, many of which rank among Beck’s best; the fuzzed-out screams of “Minus,” the effervescent electronics ornamenting the groovy “The New Pollution,” the weary guitar solo on “Where It’s At.” None of the experiments seem superfluous. Instead, they sound like the end result of a thrilled-with-his-powers scientist finally mastering his formula.
1. Midnite Vultures (1999)
Irreverent, riotous, and intoxicated by its author’s ability to bend funk and soul to his will, Beck’s cusp-of-the-millennium release isn’t quite perfect, but the way it brings together his artistry, his willingness to crate-dig, and his penchant for sticking Easter eggs inside his already jam-packed music makes it the entrant in his catalogue that’s the most fun to revisit. “Sexx Laws” sets the tone (and proves just how tame things were back in 1998 compared to our sex-tape-littered present), juxtaposing his out-of-this-world imagery with just enough vulnerability to pack the chorus’s “cryyy-yyyyy” with a bit of self-laceration. From there, the party continues. Tracks like “Get Real Paid” and “Mixed Bizness” sound like the bleepy, melted end result of someone sticking a bunch of soul 45s into a modem bank and turning the air conditioning off. And then there’s “Debra,” where Beck lets his freaky falsetto fly while propositioning a girl and “only” her … well, and her sister, too.
* Song Reader (2012)
Beck’s attempt to emulate the Great American Songbook is a bit difficult to evaluate in the context of his catalogue — the rest of which is a testament to the fact that melodies on paper only tell part of the story. Covers of various tracks are all over the web, however, and some approaches show how plainly lovely the tracks are — the Portland Cello Project’s in toto re-creation of the album has a couple of spellbinding Tin Pan Alley moments, while Bradley Dean Whyte & the Perfectly Violent Dream’s fuzzed-out take on “Do We? We Do” [NSFW] samples Beck’s 2005 song “Go It Alone.”
RelatedA Guided Tour of Beck: Making Sense of His Canon
Beck performing in 2006
The discography of Beck, an American rock musician, singer-songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist, consists of 14 studio albums, one compilation album, one remix album, four extended plays (EPs) and 50 singles. With a pop art collage of musical styles, oblique and ironic lyrics, and postmodern arrangements incorporating samples, drum machines, live instrumentation and sound effects, Beck has been hailed by critics and the public throughout his musical career as being amongst the most creative and idiosyncratic musicians of 1990s and 2000s alternative rock.
Beck released his debut album Golden Feelings through independent record label Sonic Enemy in 1993. Later that year, his first singles, "Loser" and "MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack", helped to quickly gain the attention of major record labels. In early 1994, after issuing Stereopathetic Soulmanure on Los Angeles-based independent Flipside Records, Beck made his major label debut with DGC Records, releasing Mellow Gold on March 1, 1994. The album's lead single "Loser" (previously available only as a standalone single on Bong Load Custom Records) reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped introduce Beck to a mainstream audience. That year, he released a third album, One Foot in the Grave, on indie label K Records, which included appearances by members of Beat Happening, The Presidents of the United States of America and Built to Spill.
Beck released his breakthrough album Odelay on June 18, 1996, which included the successful singles "Where It's At" and "The New Pollution". In addition to critical acclaim, Odelay would go on to see double platinum certification in both the US and Canada. His next two albums, Mutations (1998) and Midnite Vultures (1999) maintained the eclectic sound Beck had become known for and saw favorable reviews with continued chart success. In 2002, Sea Change was released to considerable praise from both fans and critics, becoming Beck's first US Top 10 album, supported by a tour that featured The Flaming Lips as his backing band. Beck issued Guero on March 29, 2005, which would become his most successfully charting album to date, reaching No. 2 on the US Billboard 200. The album's first single "E-Pro" topped the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, a feat not achieved by any Beck song since "Loser", over a decade earlier. Two additional US Top 10 albums followed, including The Information (2006) and Modern Guilt (2008), the latter of which gave Beck his first ever Top 10 placing on the UK Albums Chart. His next album, Morning Phase (2014), won him the 2015 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
Other charted songs
The following releases include contributions from Beck as a producer, songwriter and/or performer.
|1992||Black Fag||Parerga Y Paralipomena||Producer of EP|
|1994||The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion||Orange||Co-writer and vocals on "Flavor"|
|The Geraldine Fibbers||Get Thee Gone||Writer, guitar and vocals on "Blue Cross"|
|1995||Caspar and Mollüsk||Caspar and Mollüsk||Vocals and noise on "Twig"|
|Black Fag||11 Harrow House||Producer of album|
|1997||Forest for the Trees||Forest for the Trees||Backing vocals on "Infinite Cow", Harmonica on "Fall"|
|1998||Kahimi Karie||Kahimi Karie||Harmonica on "Lolitapop Dollhouse"|
|Various artists||The Rugrats Movie soundtrack||Vocals on "This World Is Something New to Me" which includes The B-52's, B-Real, Gordon Gano, Iggy Pop, Lisa Loeb, Patti Smith and a variety of other artists|
|Amnesia||Lingus||Harmonica on "Drop Down"|
|1999||Forest for the Trees||The Sound of Wet Paint||Co-writer and vocals on "Jet Engine"|
|Beck and Emmylou Harris||Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons||Duet with Emmylou Harris on "Sin City"|
|2001||Air||10 000 Hz Legend||Co-writer and vocals on "The Vagabond" and "Don't Be Light", Harmonica on "The Vagabond"|
|2002||Marianne Faithfull||Kissin Time||Producer and writer on "Sex With Strangers", "Like Being Born" and "Nobody's Fault"; guitar, synthesizer, percussion and backing vocals on select tracks|
|Pearl Jam||"Don't Believe in Christmas" single||Vocals and guitar on "Sleepless Nights"|
|2003||Macy Gray||The Trouble With Being Myself||Guitar and backing vocals on "It Ain't the Money"|
|Pink (with William Orbit)||Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle soundtrack||Co-writer on "Feel Good Time"; later appeared on non-US versions of Try This|
|2004||Sia||Colour the Small One||Co-writer on "The Bully"|
|2005||Various artists||"Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?" single||Vocals on all versions of "Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?" which includes members of Arcade Fire, Rilo Kiley, Wolf Parade and a variety of other artists and celebrities|
|2007||The White Stripes||"Conquest" maxi-single||Co-producer and co-writer on "It's My Fault for Being Famous", "Cash Grab Complications on the Matter" and "Honey, We Can't Afford to Look This Cheap"|
|2008||Sia||Some People Have Real Problems||Backing vocals on "Academia" and "Death by Chocolate"|
|2009||Charlotte Gainsbourg||IRM||Producer and writer of album; guitar, bass, drum programming, synthesizer, percussion, piano, marimba, keyboard bass and vocals on select tracks|
|2010||Jamie Lidell||Compass||Co-writer on "Coma Chameleon"; guitar, synthesizer and backing vocals on select tracks|
|The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion||Now I Got Worry deluxe edition||Synthesizer on "Roosevelt Hotel Blues"|
|Tobacco||Maniac Meat||Vocals on "Fresh Hex" and "Grape Aerosmith"|
|2011||The Lonely Island||Turtleneck & Chain||Co-writer on "Attracted to Us"|
|Thurston Moore||Demolished Thoughts||Producer of album; synthesizer, bass and backing vocals on select tracks|
|Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks||Mirror Traffic||Producer of album|
|2012||Philip Glass, Various Artists||Rework: Philip Glass Remixed||Beck served as both a curator and a performer on the album, providing original remix content and working with American composer Philip Glass and producer Hector Castillo to locate musicians—including Amon Tobin, Tyondai Braxton, Nosaj Thing, and Memory Tapes—whose work had also been influenced by Glass|
|Childish Gambino||R O Y A L T Y||Vocals, co-producer and co-writer on "Silk Pillow"|
|2014||Various Artists, including Moses Sumney, Fun., Tweedy, Norah Jones, Lord Huron, Bob Forrest, Jack White, Juanes, Laura Marling, Jarvis Cocker, David Johansen, Jason Isbell, Marc Ribot, Eleanor Friedberger, Sparks, Swamp Dogg, Jack Black, Loudon Wainwright III, and Gabriel Kahane||Song Reader||Beck wrote the songs on the album and originally released them in the form of a book of sheet music. He produced the album with Randall Poster and performed the song "Heaven's Ladder".|
|2015||Nate Ruess||Grand Romantic||Vocals on "What This World Is Coming To"|
|The Chemical Brothers||Born in the Echoes||Vocals and co-producer of the song "Wide Open"|
|2016||M83||Junk||Vocals on "Time Wind"|
|Flume||Skin||Vocals on "Tiny Cities"|
|Lady Gaga||Joanne||Co-writer on "Dancin' in Circles"|
|2019||Cage the Elephant||Social Cues||Vocals on "Night Running"|
|2020||Gorillaz||Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez||Vocals on "The Valley of the Pagans"|
The following releases feature songs that have been remixed by Beck.
Main article: Record Club
In 2009, Beck founded Record Club, an informal meeting of various musicians with the goal of recording an album in one day. To date, albums covered include:
The following is a list of Beck songs that have appeared on film and television soundtracks.
The following is a list of non-album tracks by Beck that have appeared on compilations, including tributes and samplers.
Video albums and TV Broadcasts
- ^The Information was deemed ineligible to enter the UK Albums Chart by the Official Charts Company due to its special packaging, which the company considered to give the album an unfair advantage in sales.
- ^"MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack" was released as a split single with "Privates on Parade" by Bean.
- ^"Pay No Mind (Snoozer)" did not enter the UK Singles Chart, but peaked at number 50 on the UK Physical Singles Chart Top 100.
- ^"Jack-Ass" was deemed ineligible to enter the UK Singles Chart by the Official Charts Company, as it exceeded the maximum track length for a release to be considered a single; it did, however, peak at number five on the UK Budget Albums Chart.
- ^"Hell Yes" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at number seven on the US Hot Singles Sales chart.
- ^"Timebomb" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at number three on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, which acts as a 25-song extension to the Hot 100.
- ^"Blue Moon" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at number nine on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, which acts as a 25-song extension to the Hot 100.
- ^"Blue Moon" did not enter the Flanders Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 34 on the Ultratip chart.
- ^"Waking Light" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at number 43 on the BillboardRock Songs chart.
- ^"Waking Light" did not enter the Alternative Songs chart, but peaked at number 23 on the Alternative Digital Songs chart.
- ^"Heart Is a Drum" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at number 18 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, which acts as a 25-song extension to the Hot 100.
- ^"Heart Is a Drum" did not enter the Alternative Songs chart, but peaked at number 17 on the Alternative Digital Songs chart.
- ^"Heart Is a Drum" did not enter the Flanders Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 54 on the Ultratip chart.
- ^"Dreams" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at number 6 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, which acts as a 25-song extension to the Hot 100.
- ^"Dreams" did not enter the Flanders Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 12 on the Ultratip chart.
- ^"Dreams" did not enter the Netherlands' Single Top 100 but peaked on the Netherlands' Single Tip Chart at number 29.
- ^"Dreams" did not enter the UK Singles Chart, but peaked at number 16 on the UK Physical Singles Chart.
- ^"Wow" did not enter the Flanders Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 8 on the Ultratip chart.
- ^"Wow" did not enter the Netherlands' Single Top 100 but peaked on the Netherlands' Single Tip Chart at number 30.
- ^"Dear Life" did not enter the Alternative Songs chart, but peaked at number 19 on the Alternative Digital Songs chart.
- ^"Dear Life" did not enter the Flanders Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 46 on the Ultratip chart.
- ^"Up All Night" did not enter the Flanders Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 4 on the Ultratip chart.
- ^"Colors" did not enter the Flanders Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 29 on the Ultratip chart.
- ^"Super Cool" did not enter the Flanders Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 46 on the Ultratip chart.
- ^"Uneventful Days" did not enter the Flanders Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 33 on the Ultratip chart.
- ^"No Distraction (Khruangbin Remix)" did not enter the UK Singles Chart, but peaked at number 8 on the UK Physical Singles Chart.
- ^"Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime" did not enter the Ultratop 50, but peaked at number 23 on the Flemish Back Catalogue Singles chart.
- ^ ab"Beck – Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
- ^ abPeak chart positions in Australia:
- Top 50 peaks: "Discography Beck". australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- Top 100 peaks to December 2010: Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (PDF ed.). Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. p. 27.
- "Pay No Mind (Snoozer)": "Response from ARIA re: chart inquiry, received May 24, 2016". Imgur.com. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
- "Beercan": "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles Chart – 09 Oct 1994". ARIA. Retrieved March 20, 2016 – via Imgur.com. N.B. The HP column displays the single's highest position.
- "Where It's At": "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles Chart – Week Ending 04 Aug 1996". ARIA. Retrieved April 16, 2020 – via Imgur.com.
- "Devil's Haircut": "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles Chart – Week Ending 27 Oct 1996". ARIA. Retrieved June 2, 2016 – via Imgur.com.
- ^"Discographie Beck". austriancharts.at (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^Peak chart positions for albums in Canada:
- ^"Discographie von Beck". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
- ^ ab (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
- ^ ab"Discografie Beck". dutchcharts.nl (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Discography Beck". norwegiancharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Discography Beck". charts.nz. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Beck"(select "Albums" tab). Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- ^ abcdefghiCaulfield, Keith (July 18, 2008). "Ask Billboard: Beck, Blind Melon, Danity Kane". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^ abcdefghij"American certifications – Beck". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^ abcdefgh"Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
- ^ abcdefghi"Canadian certifications – Beck". Music Canada. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
- ^"ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1997 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on May 28, 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Rianz Charts – Top 50 Albums". Radioscope. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- ^"20 Years Of Beck"(PDF). American Radio History (Billboard Archive). February 22, 2014. p. 25. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
- ^"New Beck Album Denied U.K. Chart Eligibility". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^Harding, Cortney (January 24, 2009). "Going Their Way"(PDF). Billboard. p. 17. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
- ^"Beck's 'Morning Phase': Grammy Album of the Year Spotlight". Billboard. February 6, 2015. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
- ^Caulfield, Keith (October 22, 2017). "Pink's 'Beautiful Trauma' Bows at No. 1 on Billboard 200 With 2017's Biggest Debut for a Woman". Billboard. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
- ^ ab"Chart Log UK: Darren B – David Byrne". zobbel.de. Tobias Zywietz. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Beck – Chart History: Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
- ^"Beck – Chart History: Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
- ^ abcdefghijk"Discografie Beck". ultratop.be (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^Peak chart positions for singles in Canada:
- ^"Discographie Beck". lescharts.com (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
- ^"Beck". hot100nz. Archived from the original on June 20, 2015. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- ^"Discography Beck". swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^Peak chart positions for singles in the United Kingdom:
- ^"MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack [Split Blue Vinyl 7" Single]". Amazon.com. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Steve Threw Up 7". Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles 1994". Australian Record Industry Association Ltd. Archived from the original on October 25, 2015. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- ^"Rianz Charts – Top 40 Singles". Radioscope. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- ^"Official Physical Singles Chart Top 100 – 19 April 2009 – 25 April 2009". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- ^"Cold Brains – Beck". AllMusic. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Nobody's Fault But My Own – Beck". AllMusic. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Beck Guess I'm Doing Fine (323778)". EIL. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Hell Yes". Amazon.com. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Beck – Chart History: Hot Singles Sales". Billboard. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
- ^"Cellphone's Dead [Digital] – Beck". AllMusic. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^ abcd"Beck – Chart History: Bubbling Under Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- ^"Chemtrails – Beck". AllMusic. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Beck / Bat For Lashes / Record Store Day – Let's Get Lost". Beggars Banquet Records. Archived from the original on February 19, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Looking for a Sign – Single by Beck". iTunes Store. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"I Just Started Hating Some People Today – Single by Beck". iTunes Store. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"Defriended – Single by Beck". iTunes Store. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- ^"I Won't Be Long – Single by Beck". iTunes Store. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- ^"Gimme – Single by Beck". iTunes Store. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
- ^"Beck | Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- ^ abcd"Beck – Chart History: Alternative Digital Songs". Billboard. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
- ^"Netherlands Single Tip Chart – June 27, 2015". Mega Charts. June 27, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
- ^"Official Physical Singles Chart Top 100 – 11 December 2015 – 17 December 2015". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
- ^"Netherlands Single Tip Chart – July 9, 2016". Mega Charts. July 9, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
- ^"Beck – Dear Life RadioDate". Radio Airplay. September 8, 2017. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
- ^"Triple A Future Releases". All Access. Archived from the original on September 11, 2017.
- ^"Alternative Future Releases". All Access. Archived from the original on April 10, 2018.
- ^"Beck feat. Robyn & The Lonely Island – Super Cool". Ultratop. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- ^Minsker, Evan (April 15, 2019). "Beck Announces New Album Hyperspace, Shares Song With Pharrell". Pitchfork. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
- ^Todd, Nate (October 23, 2019). "Beck Shares 'Uneventful Days' Video". JamBase. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- ^"Khruangbin Remix Beck's "No Distraction": Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
- ^"Official Physical Singles Chart Top 100 – 30 October 2020 – 5 November 2020". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
- ^"Beck – Chart History: Adult Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
- ^"Beck – Chart History: Rock Songs". Billboard. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
- ^"Beck – Chart History: Canadian Digital Songs". Billboard. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
- ^"Billboard.biz". billboard.com. Retrieved February 3, 2018.[permanent dead link]
- ^"Beck – Chart History: Mexico Ingles Airplay". Billboard. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
- ^"ultratop.be - Beck - Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes". ultratop.be. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
- ^Kathy DeSalvo, Palomar Inks Deal With Fullerene Prods, Shoot, vol. 41, issue 40 (October 6, 2000)
at Olympus Auburn Lakes
Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and producer Beck has had a long career experimenting with genres and never staying in one place for long. In this career retrospective, we take a look back at Beck’s 14 studio albums and rank them. Of course this is all subjective – and with an artist as versatile as Beck, every fan likes his work for different reasons. With that said, let’s get to it!
Golden Feelings (1993)
Beck’s first album is a collection of curiosities. Lofi and at times abrasive, Golden Feelings offers an early glimpse into Beck’s anti-folk, blues, and country leanings. Long out of print, the record surely has its charms, but Beck would later perfect the sound on his major label debut Mellow Gold.
Standouts: “No Money No Honey,” “Gettin' Home,” “Totally Confused”
To follow up on his Grammy-award winning album Morning Phase, Beck teamed up with producer Greg Kurstin – known for his work with Adele, Sia, Kelly, Clarkson, and Ellie Goulding. Despite sounding overtly pop, Colors never quite lives up to the promise of the album’s second fun, goofball single, “Wow.” Curiously, Beck wasn’t even sure he wanted to release the song – he credits his children for convincing him otherwise. Beck seemed to take criticism of this “sanitized” sound to heart, as his next album saw him experimenting once more.
Standouts: “Colors,” “Seventh Heaven,” “Wow”
Two years after the release of Colors, Beck teamed up with Pharrell to release his latest album, Hyperspace. While the album lacks the punch many of his best records do, fans welcomed the veteran artist’s return to a more experimental sound. Indeed, songs like “Saw Lightning” are reminiscent of early Beck classics, combining blues and hip-hop – all the more noticeable when stripped to its bare essentials.
Standouts: “Uneventful Days,” “Saw Lightning,” “Hyperspace”
Morning Phase (2014)
At the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, Morning Phase won three awards, including Album of the Year. As a spiritual successor to Beck’s 2002 album Sea Change, the two albums share a similar folk-rock sound and feature many of the same personnel. A more mellow affair, Morning Phase is a showcase for Beck’s mature vocals – particularly on ballads like “Unforgiven” and “Wave.”
Standouts: “Blue Moon,” “Unforgiven,” “Country Down”
Modern Guilt (2008)
Modern Guilt’s first three tracks are perhaps Beck’s most impressive pairing of any of his albums. From the shimmering opener “Orphans” (featuring guest vocals by Cat Power), to the surf-rock delights of “Gamma Ray,” to the career highlight psych-rock meltdown “Chemtrails,” Modern Guilt truly impresses. Outside of the breathtaking album closer “Volcano,” the other songs don’t quite reach those same heights. Yet, the album is tightly sequenced, with just 10 tracks and a runtime under 34 minutes, and Danger Mouse’s production plays to Beck’s retro sensibilities, giving the album a unique ’60s rock vibe.
Standouts: “Orphans,” “Gamma Ray,” “Chemtrails”
Stereopathetic Soulmanure (1994)
Where Golden Feelings’ meandering occasionally feels tedious, it somehow becomes a defining strength in Stereopathetic Soulmanure. Sprawling, unfocused, heartfelt, and hilarious, Beck’s second studio album sounds like a mess in all the best ways. Notably, the album also features “Rowboat,” which would be covered by the legendary Johnny Cash.
Standouts: “Rowboat,” “Satan Gave Me a Taco,” “Modesto”
Morning Phase isn’t the only “sequel” in Beck’s discography. Once again teaming up with Dust Brothers, Beck created what many consider to be a return to his sample-heavy Odelay sound. While it’s true the album does similarly freely jump between genres, it would be unfair to paint Guero as a mere retread. “Girl” hides its dark lyrics behind a fun beach vibe and “Black Tambourine” brings a cool, sedated jam. Meanwhile, the second half of the album leans heavily on Beck’s blues and folk roots – particularly underrated deep cuts like “Scarecrow,” “Farewell Ride,” and “Emergency Exit.”
The Information (2006)
Produced by Nigel Godrich (known for his work with Radiohead), The Information sees Beck deeply exploring existential themes surrounding what was then-burgeoning technology (see “Cellphone’s Dead”). Much like Guero, the album leaps between genres, though is heavily influenced by hip-hop and alternative rock. Sprawling and bleak, the album ends with an eerie conversation between author Dave Eggers and director Spike Jonze.
Standouts: “Elevator Music,” “New Round, “Dark Star”
Mellow Gold (1994)
“Loser” was a runaway hit – an ironic slacker anthem so ubiquitous it threatened to turn Beck into a one-hit wonder. Yet, somehow, Beck defied expectations and created an album that distilled his unique blend of anti-folk, country, and hip-hop into a sound that could appeal to a much wider audience than his earlier recordings ever did. And he was only getting started.
Standouts: “Loser,” “Pay No Mind (Snoozer),” “Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997”
One Foot in the Grave (1994)
If Mellow Gold is a distillation of all the ironic, humorous tendencies Beck showed early on in his career – One Foot in the Grave is surely its more earnest counterpart. Released three months after Mellow Gold, this album is mostly Beck and an acoustic guitar, drawing heavily from Beck’s early blues and country influences – including a reworking of a Skip James tune.
Standouts: “Sleeping Bag,” “Cyanide Breath Mint,” “Hollow Log”
Midnite Vultures (1999)
Closing out the ’90s with a record determined to make people dance, Midnite Vultures is a vibrant anomaly in Beck’s discography, melding funk, soul, R&B, and, yes, banjos, to create songs that are impossible to ignore. The album marries playful compositions with strangely alluring, surrealistic lyrics, conjuring images like “Brief encounters in Mercedes Benz/Wearing hepatitis contact lens” that put commercialism on blast. From the gender-bending “Sexx Laws” to fan-favorite concert staple “Debra,” Midnite Vultures is a party from beginning to end.
Standouts: “Nicotine & Gravy,” “Mixed Bizness,” “Get Real Paid”
Sea Change (2002)
For an artist known for left turns, Sea Change surely stands as Beck’s sharpest. Following the zany Midnite Vultures, Sea Change is a total 180 – featuring melancholic folk songs with cinematic string arrangements by Beck’s father, David Campbell. Reportedly written following a breakup, the lyrics discard Beck’s trademark ironic lyrics for direct, simple language. The harrowing songs chronicle Beck’s difficulties dealing with heartache, eventual acceptance, and moving forward. The album would mark the second time Beck would collaborate with producer Nigel Godrich.
Standouts: “Paper Tiger,” “Lost Cause,” “It’s All In Your Mind”
In 1996, Beck released his most successful album to date, Odelay. Produced by Dust Brothers, the album makes extensive use of samples and genres – ranging from folk and punk to hip-hop and bossa nova. At a time when rock was still emerging from grunge, Odelay felt like a revolution, boundless in its breadth, and endlessly fun and filled with life and geeky musical references. It remains the definitive Beck album, and for good reason. But it’s not the No. 1 album on our list.
Standouts: “Devils Haircut,” “Lord Only Knows,” “Where It’s At”
From spacey folk rock opener “Cold Brains” to harpsichord-led “We Live Again” to the desolate country ballad “Sing It Again,” Mutations sees Beck play around with all things Americana. Perhaps a surprising follow-up to listeners who first caught on with the sample-heavy Odelay, Mutations sees Beck exploring his traditional roots with plenty of acoustic instrumentation, while adding some synths and international influences such as the esraj played in “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” and the Brazilian-influenced “Tropicalia.” The lyrics play a pivotal role in the album’s appeal as well, pairing Beck’s penchant for inconspicuously dark, surrealist imagery with an understated sincerity. Produced by Nigel Godrich, the album was recorded in two weeks. In an interview with a robot, Beck mused the album could be enjoyed during a nice evening bath – how could we not celebrate an album like that?
Standouts: “Cold Brains,” “Canceled Check,” “Sing It Again”
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