Today is a the perfect day to revisit the glory that was '90s-era Beck
From his “Loser” beginnings to last night’s winnings, we’ve loved Beck at every stage of his career. And while Kanye may be up in arms about Beck snagging “Album of the Year,” we think his Grammy win for the Morning Phase was well deserved.
Having beat out Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams and Sam Smith, Beck was the least expected winner for Album of the Year, but surely one of the most honorable. Morning Phase brought home three other awards last night, including “Best Rock Album,” “Best Engineered Album” and “Best Non-Classical Album.” Unlike his competitors, Morning Phase wasn’t full of headbangers or contemporary chart-toppers; it was instead a testament to Beck’s impeccable songwriting, instrumentation and engineering. Certainly, this is no reason to surrender his “Album of the Year” award to Beyoncé for the sake of “artistry” (but that’s Kanye’s suggestion, not ours)!
Aside from his work on Morning Phase, Beck has a lifetime of work to be proud of. Twenty-one years and 12 albums later, we’re still enamored with that charmingly monotone voice we’ve come to know and love. From his disjointed raps in “Loser” to dreamy rock bits like “New Pollution,” we think we ought to give a nod to the good ‘ol ’90s Beck. And while we’re basking in the glow of his Grammy wins there’s no better time to give that nod than now! Let’s revisit, shall we?
Can you believe Beck was actually reluctant to release “Loser” back in ’93? Thanks to a little convincing from independent label partner Tom Rothrock, “Loser” hit the airwaves in Los Angeles. The song quickly traveled up and down the west coast, eventually reaching national attention. Before long, major labels were vying for Beck’s attention. “Loser” features a slew of disjointed, funny raps with the famous opening lyrics: “In the time of chimpanzees, I was a monkey.” I think this qualifies as proof that he was a risk-taker from the start.
“Pay No Mind (Snoozer)” (1994)
On the folksier side of his debut album Mellow Gold, Beck had an irreverent little ditty called “Pay No Mind (Snoozer).” Filled with angst and lyrics that reflect more than a few qualms about the music industry (“The sales climb high through the garbage pail sky/ I sleep in slime, I just got signed”). “Pay No Mind” serves as a testament to the budding artist he once was, and the humble genius he became.
“Where It’s At” (1996)
His first single from the now-legendary album Odelay, “Where It’s At” was still in keeping with Beck’s hip-hop influenced work. Beck being the genius “genre chameleon” he is, he incorporated an alternative rock sound with old-school hip hop samples from Mantronix (i.e. “We’ve got two turntables and a microphone”) and The Frogs (“That was a good drum break”). Beck brought home a Grammy Award for “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance,” solidifying his impact on the alternative rock world.
“Devils Haircut” (1996)
This song used to scare the living crap out of me when I was a kid. I kept thinking of a scary guy with horns for hair . . . or hair for horns . . . I don’t know. Despite my 6-year-old assessment, I’ve grown to appreciate “Devils Haircut” in all its poetic genius. Also off the Odelay album, the song was a mesmeric electric-rock ballad that reigned supreme in the ’90s.
“The New Pollution” (1996)
That melodic chorus is enough to get stuck in your head all day. Equal parts groovy and jazzy, Beck gave a nod to the ’70s with a drum sample from Gus Poole’s 1970’s soul song, “Hallelujah, Alright, Amen” and that oh-so-gorgeous saxophone sample from Joe Thomas 1976 hit, “Venus.” A little ’70s-infused alternative rock set to the ’90s? This is why we love Beck, so.
Congratulations on all your victories last night, Beck! We are so ride ’til we die with you.