Twenty years after award-winning artist told us he was a loser baby (soy un perdedor), one has to wonder if the multi-talented performer still relevant in 2014.
Who is Beck?
Even from the start of his career, pinning down just who he’s has always represented something of a difficulty. However, for the sake of simplicity, let’s go with the facts.
He was born in Los Angeles on July 8, 1970. He dropped out of school after junior high. Around the age of 19, he moved to NYC where he played the local scene for a stretch before moving back to LA. He made music of all types in his late teens but mostly of the folk variety.
In the early 90s he released the single “Loser,” often called a slacker anthem filled with nonsensical lyrics and a simple but catchy chorus. “Soy un perdedor, I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” and “Falling on a termite, Who is choking on the splinters.” It charted, and the rest, as they say, was history. Which kind of brings us to the first conundrum about who him.
He thought of “Loser” as mediocre. He doesn’t identify with slacker or slacker culture. Yet, this was the song that launched his career, threw him into the limelight and got him his record deal twenty years ago.
Since then, he has released ten studio albums. And you would be hard pressed to put a finger on exactly what style of song he makes. His songs cross genre lines and there are many that you wouldn’t even know came from him. His fans love it and his detractors find fault in it. But those are the emotions that make a superstar a superstar. So who is he? He’s a musician. Pure and simple.
Why He Mattered Then
Once he got into full swing, he released Mellow Gold. It went platinum twice over in the US and established him as a certified pop act. His next big album was Odelay, which went platinum four times over.
Although he continued to release and continued to chart, his heyday was mostly over in the early 200s. However, for Beck, that means that he had to trade in multi-platinum sales for single platinum and gold numbers. Even the releases that didn’t garner extreme sales, still managed to impress critics.
He mattered because he proved that you didn’t have to try to fit in to make a hit. You didn’t have to conform to sell a million. He showed that there was still room for experimentation.
At a time when music was getting more and more compartmentalized, he did something unique and different. And it worked. It attracted people to him and continues to do so, since he continues to make new and interesting compositions for his fans.
He took what many thought of as lo-fi, garage band type sound and turned it into something you could love. He continued to defy musical stereotypes and continues to do so to this day.
Why He Matters Now
Twenty years later, it’s safe to say that he isn’t exactly a household name. He has a following but younger people may have no idea about him, despite probably having heard his sound. His influence still exists though.
After his success in the past, other genres started to figure out that they didn’t have to be just one thing. They could experiment, branch out, and add influences from other genres as well. No, he wasn’t the first one to do it, but he definitely had an impact.
He has only gotten better with age. His most recent LP, Morning Phase has received critical acclaim from critics. Unfortunately, the numbers are nowhere near his past successes. It still has charted in many countries and it still has the distinction of being his second highest charting release to date.
It’s important to remember the musical landscape has changed a lot since 1994. A charting album isn’t really the litmus test of a musician’s success anymore. Now we have digital downloads and the single is king, not the LP. His previous release, Sea Change, also received high praise.
Any search through his catalog will bring you sounds that range from mellow folk to edgy rock. His range is incredible. That same search will show you just how much he’s influenced the scene.
But Does Any of That Make Him Relevant Today?
It’s hard to say if he’s still relevant. He has a large fan base, many of whom will follow him to the grave. He continues to chart, which means that many people still listen to and purchase his tracks. He continues to innovate and make unexpected albums that go against everything you thought a particular “type” of music was about.
You may think that all of that means that he’s still relevant. But that’s not necessarily true. He’s relevant to those that he’s relevant to. There’s much to learn from listening to a Beck LP or going to see a Beck concert. However, it’s easy to see that he’s already done all the things to spread his influence.
He’s like the old thing that created the new thing that you now know and love. His relevancy exists in the ether, in what we listen to, in the genre mashing and the experimentation. Remember, it’s a long way from the scene of 1994, but he’s still making music.
He’s still doing shows. He still receives love for his art. That means that there’s a chance for him to infect our mines anew. Even if you don’t believe he’s completely relevant today, you can listen to some of his timeless productions. He may just become relevant to you for the first time, or all over again.
So yes, he’s still relevant in 2014. His relevancy isn’t chart numbers or how many albums sold; he’s till creating his legacy. He proved that being a loser can turn into being a winner.