Beck, one of the great masters of genre hopping, returns with his 12th record “Hyperspace”, a mixture of alternative rock via pop music. Many of his familiar traits are there. The record is brave, unflinchingly uncompromising and well produced. But, the record dares test your willingness to accept trap beats and vapor wave synths.
What is the trait that most defines Beck Hansen’s music? On surface level, for those that have ventured past the folk-rap hit that was “Loser”, Beck is a man that is ready to take on any genre. What’s more, for those invested in his work, Beck turns out, relatable, well-designed versions of a myriad of various genres.
Synth trap beats and mellow reflection
Beck’s album “Hyperspace” on first glance is no different. The philosophy is the same. The artist is fearless, willing tackle musical styles at will. The only difference is that the record asks even more of fans that past releases. The premise is not only that Beck will release a wildly eclectic album and fans will have to accept. It’s that fans will have to have been listening to the pop charts in recent years if they’re really truly going to enjoy the record.
If it is very much the case of “modern pop album” that’s no surprise given Beck’s original intentions. Working with Neptunes masterming and renowned producer Pharell, Beck considered embracing the newest tendencies in trap, hip hop and pop music. Post Malone and Lil Uzi Vert, the artist says, were considered as collaborators for the record.
Make no mistake, Beck seems genuinely enamored with these pop sounds. Does the earnestness transfer to great music? That may largely depend on your opinion of the merits of genres like trap music to begin with.
The record opens with the track “Hyperspace”, where Beck’s vocals are superimposed over what feels like could well be the vaporwave soundtrack to a youtube video.
“Uneventful days” sets up the tone of the record. Reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “HIStory” era, but with a more poduction sheen, the song develops the albums main lyrical themes, loss and hope.
“Saw Lightning” mixes some Pharell’s familiar sounds with a slide guitar riff that listeners may identify as sharing some of its DNA with Beck’s early 90s records.
The first half of the record is mainly devoted to Beck’s modern pop take, which some may see as an updated version of his “Midnite Vultures” release. The latter part of the record is largely dedicated to an introspective, easy listening experience.
“Chemical” serves both as a confession about matters of the heart, yet would not feel out of place on a Maroon 5 release. “Hyperspace” is a pretty ballad that, we re it not for the production, could have fit on Beck’s esteemed “Sea Change” record. “Stratosphere” and “Dark Places” tread similar ground under a neo-soul polish.
The record ends with “Everlasting Nothing”, a track that resembles more of what some, myself included, may expect of Beck given his famed courageous artistic reputation. It’s not exactly a smartass song the way “Devil’s haircut” or “Loser” may have been. But, it does juxtapose a glitzy synth gospel number with morose, yet hopeful lyrics.
Overall, this is an interesting record, from one of the most esteemed artists in alternative music. How much you’ll enjoy it and whether you return to it will, however, largely depend of how willing you are to follow Beck’s creative wims and how willing you are to invest in the music being played on the radio.