Beck Hansen, often referred to just as Beck, is a storied and accomplished alternative multi-instrumentalist and singer with a long list of quality releases under his belt. Since 1993, Hansen has released a whopping 13 studio albums, all of which have varied greatly from one another. Hansen has dipped his toes into a variety of genres over his career including traditional folk, modern rock, blues and even hip-hop. It was just a matter of time before he attempted to branch out into the world of pop music, and that is exactly what his most recent album “Colors,” released on Oct. 13, aims to do. The main draw of pop music is that it is catchy, but unfortunately for Hansen, “Colors” does not consistently deliver that catchiness. What it does deliver is a mediocre 44-minute pop record that sounds repetitive.
While the record is generally watered down and uninteresting, some cuts do shine through and make it a little more bearable, including the first two lead singles for the record.
The first, “Dreams,” released in June 2015, features an energetic and jagged guitar lead with some nice panning and mixing effects. The vocal performance from Hansen carries its usual folky charm and delivery. The songwriting on the other hand is a little less impressive, especially when it comes to the chorus. “Dreams, dreams, she’s making me high” over and over again doesn’t come off as catchy or interesting, and with no variation in any of the chorus breaks along with the initially interesting but incessantly repetitive guitar leads and percussion, the song just becomes annoying halfway through.
Unfortunately, weak songwriting, with weak choruses in particular, is a consistent problem across the entire album. “Wow,” the album’s second lead single released in June 2016, is arguably the best and most interesting cut on the record in terms of its instrumentation. It’s the only cut on the record that really sounds like a Beck track. It uses some interesting sound combinations including high-pitched whistles, animal roars, string fills and some modern trap-flavored percussion. Towards the end of the cut, the instrumentation does a complete 180 and melds into an upbeat piano melody with some clapping in the background before layering on the percussion again and riding it out to the end of the track. Unfortunately, the songwriting and vocals still present a problem. Hansen seems to go with rap-inspired vocals on this track where the lyrics make absolutely no sense, reminiscent of his 1994 classic “Loser.” However, while “Loser” was funny, catchy and overall entertaining, Hansen comes off as almost bored and tired on “Wow.” It’s almost as if he thinks that replicating “Loser” will work for him without any effort. Not to mention the hook sounds like it was written by a 3-year-old: “It’s like wow, it’s like right now, it’s like wow, it’s like right right now.”
The only other track worth mentioning on the record is the intro track “Colors.” It puts forth a vibrant array of funky percussion, jazzy guitar fills, harps and a delightfully rhythmic flute. While the songwriting here is still weak, Hansen’s vocal performance is much more energetic and attentive than the other cuts and it marks a good starting point for the record. Unfortunately, what follows is almost 44 minutes of mostly similar low-effort instrumentation and lyrical projects.
Beck Hansen is no stranger to the music scene, which is why “Colors” comes as such a surprise and disappointment. Beck’s foray into modern pop music seems too half-baked and misinformed to even be relevant among today’s newest releases. Whether Hansen will continue to experiment with this new pop sound on future projects or revert to his roots is uncertain. One sure thing, however, is that “Colors” fails to provide the vibrant layered record its name suggests and instead resembles a shade of dull gray.