No doubt about it: When the time comes, it will be strange to see Beck‘s name listed alongside rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry and ’60s pop crooner Gene Pitney. But, despite the likely protest of fans who believe music died in 1979, Beck is an obvious pick for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
And it’s frankly shocking that his first nomination didn’t arrive until 2022.
His credentials are obvious: He’s a household name and critical favorite who’s gone platinum numerous times, released era-defining singles, played some of the world’s biggest stages and, crucially, never stumbled through a real creative dry spell. Sure, only some Beck albums appear on the best-of circuit (Odelay, Sea Change, Midnite Vultures), but even his most minor efforts are driven by a rare sense of curiosity — always striving for something different.
Below are five (of many) reasons Beck should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
He’s Obliterated Every Genre Barrier
Beck is the ultimate anything-goes artist — at this point, it’s a cliche to describe him as “unpredictable.” But each of his albums has introduced some new (or at least fresh) element, broadening a musical palette that he essentially remixes and remolds each time out. Beck started his career as an anti-folk slacker with a flair for the experimental, fusing mumbly hip-hop and lo-fi noise on his 1994 breakout, Mellow Gold. From there, the twists and turns have often been violent: the sample-fueled sprawl of Odelay; the tongue-in-cheek, hi-fi funk of Midnite Vultures; the heartbroken folk-rock of Sea Change; the electric, psychedelic cloud-gazing of Modern Guilt; the pillow-y synth-pop of Hyperspace. His next project could be a rap opera or a black metal concept LP — neither would be surprising.
He Wrote the Ultimate Alt-Slacker Anthem
There is no ultimate Beck song — he’s simply navigated too much territory, had too much success in too many styles. But even if he’d stopped recording music after “Loser,” he’d still be beloved by Gen-X slackers once bewitched by the song’s surreal junkyard-pile rapping (“Don’t believe everything that you breathe / You get a parking violation and a maggot on your sleeve”), bluesy slide guitar lick, self-loathing chorus and random bursts of Spanish. In what other time but the mid-’90s could this song have been a hit? Still, unlike many other alternative singles released during the Clinton administration, “Loser” holds up as a definitive marriage of hooks and nonsense — an ideal launching pad for an artist only following the trends in his head.
No One Better Balances Silliness and Seriousness
“Loser” really did become a loose blueprint for Beck’s artistic pendulum swing — between tongue-in-cheek and smirk-on-face, between low-brow playfulness and high-art studiousness. Sometimes he bridges the gap throughout an album, or even a song (see: everything on the collage-like Odelay). But Beck has a knack for balancing the scales from album to album — for example, following Midnite Vultures’ futuristic, neon-tinted funk with one of the ultimate break-up folk LPs, Sea Change, or pivoting from more acoustic vibes of Morning Phase into the lighthearted, danceable pop of Colors.
Decades in, He’s Still Relevant — and Hungry
Beck is years removed from his peak of hipster cool and multiplatinum sales, but he’s reached that coveted ladder rung where he can do whatever he wants — no bad review or lukewarm single is going to tank the guy with a catalog this robust. No one would blame him for packing it in, album-wise — but he’s still out there doing his Beck thing, following in the footsteps of artists like Prince and David Bowie, both of whom continued to experiment past middle age. He even seems to be relishing the pop mainstream, yet another twist in his story: With 2017’s Colors, he collaborated with mega-producer (and former Beck touring member) Greg Kurstin on his sleekest, shiniest songs. And for 2019’s Hyperspace, he worked heavily with fellow genre-hopper Pharrell Williams.
He’s Sold Millions of Albums
Huge sales don’t equal huge quality — or should they alone prompt induction into any hall of fame. But selling millions of albums is an obvious measure of cultural impact, and Beck’s resume on that front speaks for itself. Eight of his albums have reached gold status, and two (Mellow Gold and Odelay) have been certified platinum by the RIAA. Plus, if you want to rope in another controversial music institution, the Grammys, Beck’s had plenty of success there: earning nearly two dozen nominations and eight wins since 1995.
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