Perhaps no modern musician has dabbled in more musical genres than Beck Hansen. The edgy performer first rose to fame with his breakthrough single “Loser” in 1994. Though praised as a musical genius from the start, critics thought this young musician might just be a flash in the pan. Twenty years and sixteen million record sales later, it’s clear that this performer is more than a one-trick pony.
2014 has already proven to be a busy year for the versatile performer. The highly-anticipated studio album, Morning Phase, was released this spring. Shortly thereafter, Morning Phase shot to #3 on the Billboard 200 charts. The album was years in the making, following the 2008 release of Modern Guilt. Whereas reviews of Modern Guilt remain mixed, professionals and casual listeners alike have hailed the artist’s latest creation as a new testament to Hansen’s brilliance as both a singer and lyricist.
Masterfully walking a fine line between wistfulness and contentedness, the tracks found on Morning Phase have a more enlightened tone than that found in Hansen’s earlier work. The artist likes to experiment with new sounds; even 1994’s “Loser”, though primarily regarded as an alternative rock piece, contained elements of hip-hop, rap, blues, and folk music. Morning Phase is no different, and contains an assortment of lyrically and acoustically brilliant pieces. The performer’s new-found self-awareness shines through the album’s lyrics, illuminating the soul of the pieces rather than the artist himself. The music featured on the artist’s twelfth studio album is a mellow mix of stylistic schools, blending acoustic rock with folksy lyricism and moving classical strings. The album has been compared to the popular 2002 album Sea Change, which diverged from the performer’s earlier work and proved that he could, indeed, write meaningful, non-ironic lyrics. Since then, he has branched out even further, revealing the truth breadth of his talents.
Beck has worked hard in the years since his since his 2008 album release, recording a number of singles, collaborating with various musicians, and, most notably, releasing the sheet music “album” Song Reader in late 2012. The artist, inspired by the Great American Songbook, had had this project in mind for years. The “album” contains no recorded music; rather, Song Reader is a collaborative project amongst performers. Every-day people are encouraged to make their own recordings of the 20 pieces included in Song Reader. Musicians are then given the option to post these contributions on SongReader.net, where numerous amateurs have already posted their renditions of the pieces.
This project is still alive and well in 2014. The artist, in fact, plans to release an official recording of the tunes, entitled Warby Parker Presents Beck Song Reader. The project is unusual, however, due to its collaborative nature. Hansen sings only one piece on the entire album. The additional 19 tracks are covered by such renowned performers as Fun., Jack Black, and Norah Jones. As if the project weren’t ground-breaking enough, the album’s artists are committed to contributing album proceeds to 826 National, a charity involved in promoting creative writing programs in schools across the United States. Dedicated fans following the project might also like to purchase a pair of Beck Hansen glasses frames. For every purchase made, a pair of frames will be given to someone in need. This album goes where no album has gone before. This collaborative, grass-roots project has reached everyday youths through its sheet music, and will continue to make an impact through its record sales and charitable efforts.
In short, the world of Beck Hansen is a busy one. In addition to Morning Phase, he plans to release another, more upbeat album later in 2014. Though the distant future of this artist remains to be seen, one thing is for certain: this lyrical genius is here to stay.
Summary: This article is an overview of performer Beck Hansen’s concerts and projects for 2014. The performer’s latest album, Morning Phase, is assessed in-depth. The artist’s recent projects and upcoming work are also highlighted in this piece.