Hot off a Grammy win from his 2014 album Morning Phase, Beck collaborates with Adele’s “Hello” producer Greg Kurstin for an off-the-wall leap into pop. Colors has a playful range of Beck’s strong suits: rock and hip-hop, and the combination will have listeners on their feet.
The synths, flute loop and vocal embellishments on the title-track play off of a dance beat for an explosive beginning. “Seventh Heaven” follows up with an ‘80s dance-pop vibe and guitar riff that parallels a sound similar to Two Door Cinema Club. Nirvana undertones collide with rap to create funky alt-rock on “I’m So Free.” The overlapping chain of “nobody’s gonna keep me down” at the bridge and the prevailing echo of “I”m so free from you” get the stamp of grunge approval. The most straightforward single, “Dear Life” leads with Elliott Smith-styled wonky piano for an overall sound reminiscent of The Beatles.
Beck has been teasing his 13th album for the last two years. The first single, “Dreams” was released in June 2015 and was ranked on several ‘Best Of’ year-end lists. The single gets a Colors mix that adds an extra minute and fifteen seconds of MGMT-inspired electronic funk. The original mixing is a feature on the deluxe album. The second single, “Wow” was released one year after “Dreams.” Beck describes the whistle tones and hip-hop fused stoner jam as an album “outlier” in an interview with KROQ Radio. The wacky lyrics (“Standing on the lawn doin’ jiu-jitsu / Girl in a bikini with the Lamborghini Shih tzu”) turn “Wow” into an album highlight.
The acoustic strum of the latest single, “Up All Night” does not deter from the fact that it’s arranged in the most pop-forward way. The chorus is a bland repetition of “Just wanna stay up all night with you,” which is only a disappointment considering the prior shift from the traditional. The album concludes with the lullaby “Fix Me.” It’s a mix of light and dark; Beck’s clever use of triangle and keys are bright against a strong bass that does not dip too far into the melancholy musing, “I don’t mind if the sea washes over the city tonight / tonight I’m set free.”
Colors is Beck at his very best. It’s organized chaos produced like a crisp pop album — which in the wrong hands would have simply been a disaster. Beck and Kurstin show off their capabilities for an alternative-pop grand slam.