Sonic experimentalist Beck, born Bek David Campbell on July 8, 1970, has built a truly impressive body of work. Each album in his innovative and individualistic catalog has gone places the one before didn’t, from early indie efforts via the Mellow Gold breakthrough all the way to 2019’s Hyperspace.
That’s before you factor in countless collaborations, guest appearances and the 2012 book of sheet music, Song Reader, in which he brilliantly encouraged the creativity of musicians around the world to interpret his compositions in any way they saw fit.
From a joke to a singular career
From the moment that his sonic exploration went spectacularly overground, Beck has been the outsider with his finger almost unfailingly on the pulse of the cutting edge. When it happened with his breakthrough song “Loser,” no one was more sceptical than the artist himself. “At first I thought it was a joke,” he told Option magazine in 1994.
“So I just ignored it for a while. But when the commercial stations started playing it, and the thing started getting on the charts, I figured it must be for real. It was so freaky. I spent about seven months trying to decide if I wanted to have any part of it or if I should just ignore it.”
Thankfully, he didn’t ignore it, and instead has built one of the most distinguished workbooks in modern music. In the wake of the triple Grammy-winning success of Morning Phase, Beck teased his next project with the singles “Wow” and “Dreams,” as well as the appearance of “Up All Night” in the FIFA 2017 video game.
He was also in fascinating collaborative form with his great admirer Lady Gaga, on “Dancin’ In Circles” from her Joanne album, before unveiling Colors in October 2017. After a tour to support that, and an early 2019 pairing with Cage The Elephant, Beck unveiled the characteristically inventive “Saw Lightning,“ for which he teamed with Pharrell Williams.
‘A daring new era’
“You might go so far to describe it as Beck at his most yeehaw,” wrote NPR, “with plenty of slide guitar and harmonica spiked with a little N.E.R.D. rap-rock.” It whetted the appetite even further for Beck’s next promised album adventure Hyperspace, released in November 2019. “The superstar singer-songwriter enters a daring new era,” wrote NME of that set. The Pitchfork review noted that Beck “roams across a pleasant, gently psychedelic landscape looking for something new.”