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Music: Beck
He's upset because someone misplaced his Becktionary...

Beck (a.k.a Beck Hansen, born in 1970 as Bek David Campbell) is an American Alternative Rock musician and singer-songwriter with two turntables and a microphone. He first rose to popularity with his underground works, gaining a hit with his breakthrough single "Loser" in 1993. Afterwards, he earned great critical acclaim and commercial success with the album Odelay, escaping the threat of becoming a One-Hit Wonder.

Since then, he has released seven more albums, his latest being 2014's Morning Phase. During this time, he had become noted for the large variety of genres his work takes in.

Please don't confuse him with Jeff Beck, Glenn Beck, or the anime.


Home Recorded / Indie Label Albums:
  • Banjo Story (1990)
  • 1992 Demo (1992)
  • Beck, Like The Beer (1992)
  • Don't Get Bent Out Of Shape (1992) - A complete demo album that has two different variations.
  • ''Fresh Meat And Old Slabs" (1993)
  • Golden Feelings (1993) - A home recording that is widely considered his first album because it was sold at early Mellow Gold era shows. Very strange experimental material, and a cult classic. Briefly released on CD by the record label in 1999, before being withdrawn due to Beck not being consulted on the rerelease.
  • A Western Harvest Field By Moonlight (1994) - his first 10" EP. Although it has 12 tracks, it's considered an EP because there are only four actual songs on it - "Totally Confused", "Gettin' Home", "Lampshade" and "Pinefresh". The remaining 8 tracks are noise experiments.
  • Stereopathetic Soulmanure (1994) - these first two albums comprised largely lo-fi, country- and folk-influenced material, quite different from what he made his name with. This was the earliest album of his to be released on CD, a week before Mellow Gold came out. Most of the songs on here are from 1992 and 1993. Despite being an obscure album it's known for the song "Rowboat" which Johnny Cash heard and covered.
  • One Foot In The Grave (1994) - another lo-fi, folky album. This album is most representative of the types of songs Beck used to perform during radio sessions, of which he did many that year. The album was reissued in 2009 with 16 bonus tracks.

Studio Albums:

Tropes demonstrated by Beck include:

  • Arc Words: While they're more used in pre-Odelay albums, a few words are unusually common in his Word Salad Lyrics, such as:
    • Plastic
    • Cyanide
    • Whiskey
    • Mayonnaise
    • Taco
    • "Aw, my goodness," usually delivered in a falsetto faux-country accent (this one appears mostly on Mellow Gold).
    • "Hollow log" has always seemed to be one of his favorite phrases, especially in his bluesier songs.
    • His song "Whimsical Actress", known only from a performance on a radio session (though a home demo is supposed to be in Beck's vaults), is loaded with his favorite words at the time, such as "mango", "hoffy dog" and "squeegee". These words also appear in other songs, but their use in Whimsical Actress is particularly funny.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Known for being quite an eccentric guy (especially in his younger days ), but also has gone through so many genres and styles, being called a "musical chameleon", he's well respected in the alternative/indie music community.
  • Bonus Material: Deluxe versions of The Information included a DVD containing music videos for every song on the CD.
    • "Diamond Bollocks" is a bonus track on Mutations (hidden on the US release but separate on others) because Beck couldn't find a way to fit it in the tracklisting. He described it as "the wayward son at the Thanksgiving dinner who just doesn't really fit in with the family anymore, is the black sheep. So you put him at the end of the table..." Other versions of Mutations also include bonus material - UK, German and Japanese versions add Runners Dial Zero, German Limited Edition has Halo Of Gold and Black Balloon in addition to the usual German tracks, Japanese version has the re-recorded version of Electric Music And The Summer People inserted in the main tracklisting.
  • Careful With That Axe: "Lord Only Knows", which begins with a startling scream that is either terrifying or comical. Also the end of "Minus".
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Swearing was rather common on Mellow Gold and other early albums. As of late, though, he's been cutting down on the amount of swearing in his lyrics. Special note to the song "Mutherfuker" which is this deliberately abrasive on purpose.
  • Corpsing: The end of "Corvette Bummer," in which Beck starts listing random items until breaking into a fit of laughter.
    • He also cracks up on the song "Bogusflow", as well as several radio sessions.
  • Creator Backlash: "Satan Gave Me a Taco" is one of his more popular early songs. When fans request him to play it live at concerts, he more often than not refuses to play and says he considers it some silly song he wrote in a few minutes that he only expected to perform once and was genuinely surprised at how many people like it.
    • He's also been this way with "Loser" and "Debra", feeling they were stupid songs, but continues to play them because his audiences love them (especially "Loser")
  • Creator Breakdown: Averted on Odelay—Many of Beck's friends, and later his grandfather had died recently and he had recorded some predictably depressing material with Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf, but shelved it. Instead, he did some upbeat stuff with the Dust Brothers and Caldato.
    • A B-Side that dates from this shelved material, Brother, is said to be Beck's saddest song. It predates Sea Change by a number of years.
    • In full force on Sea Change, which was inspired by his breakup with his girlfriend.
      • Mutations contains the powerful "Nobody's Fault But My Own" and "We Live Again", which revealed emotional depth many didn't know Beck had. The more ballad and folk-oriented Mutations is commonly regarded to be the catalyst for Sea Change - the album Midnite Vultures that came between was originally meant to be a fun side-project.
  • Crossover: He once did a crossover performance with The Flaming Lips.
    • The Flaming Lips also toured with him on his Sea Change tour in 2002.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: A lot of newer fans of Beck feel this way when they hear his early demo work. The album "Golden Feelings", which is widely considered his first album, is a completely bizarre collection of home recordings, filled with mutated blues, country and soundscape experiments. A lot of people got into Beck thinking he was a rapper.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Chemtrails"
    • "Fume" seems to come to a natural conclusion after about two minutes... then we get a Studio Chatter snippet of Beck's friend Steve Moramarco jokingly singing a bowdlerized version of the chorus, followed by a complete Genre Shift into Noise Rock with Harsh Vocals, which then goes on for another two minutes.
  • 555: The number 555-4552 is seen on a payphone in the video for "Nausea."
  • Genre Roulette: Mutations is a good example, with its combination of influences from all over the world - the Indian influenced Nobody's Fault But My Own, the Brazilian influenced Tropicalia, the blues-influenced "Bottle Of Blues", the Eastern European waltz of "We Live Again", the folky "Lazy Flies" and the straightforward indie-pop of "Cold Brains", just to name a few.
    • His early albums, especially "Golden Feelings" have this.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: "Loser".
    • Also appears on "Hotwax".
    • "Que Onda Guero" has this in spades.
    • "Burro" (an alternate version of "Jack-Ass") is entirely in Spanish.
  • Hidden Track: All his pre-Sea Change albums (sans One Foot In The Grave) have one at the end:
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: The vocals to "Sweet Sunshine" are so distorted that even 15 years after the fact, many fansites have different interpretations of the lyrics.
    • Fans still disagree as to what the chorus of "Girl" is. It's either "my cyanide girl," "my sun-eyed girl," or "my sonar girl".
  • Intercourse with You: Pretty much every song on Midnite Vultures.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Earthquake Weather", arguably.
  • Lighter and Softer and Darker and Edgier: Mutations and Sea Change are musically more laid back but lyrically more somber compared to their predecessors Odelay and Midnite Vultures.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Girl", which sounds like a cheery pop song unless you listen closely to the lyrics.
    • "Lost Cause" is a milder case, with fairly depressing lyrics set to upbeat acoustic guitars.
  • Mind Screw: "The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton", the final track from The Information. Starts off as a song, becomes a British-accented weather report, and ends up with Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers talking like two really baked college sophomores.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The Information... well, at first. Each CD comes with a sticker sheet, allowing you to customize the album cover as you see fit. Four different sticker sheet editions were made and randomly inserted into the CDs. Word Of God was that he wanted some kind of interactivity in the packaging, with no two covers ending up looking the same.
    • The front cover of Stereopathetic Soulmanure is actually an upside down, cropped version of a stock image that appeared on many private presses, usually for school bands, in the 60s.
  • Miniscule Rocking: His more "indie" albums like One Foot in the Grave and all his pre-Mellow Gold releases are mostly made up of songs two minutes or shorter.
  • Mood Whiplash: The Mutations secret track "Diamond Bollocks" is heavier and darker than "Static" or any other song on the album. It's even more pronounced on some foreign copies on which it isn't a secret and occupies its own track after "Static" without the buffer of silence. Whiplash also occurs within the song as it changes styles abruptly.
    • Many of his albums (Odelay and Mellow Gold especially) end with 5-10 minutes of silence followed by a frightening "bonus noise" that can sometimes be frightening. See Hidden Track above.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Rollins Power Sauce", "Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997", "Beercan", "Cyanide Breath Mint", "Atmospheric Conditions", "Minus", "Sissyneck", "E-Pro", "Earthquake Weather", "Emergency Exit" and "Movie Theme" among many others.
  • Older Than They Look: Does he look like he's 42? Also, he was 23 when "Loser" was popular, but looked 19 at most.
    • His voice is the opposite, especially in early songs, in which he sounds like a gruff, hoarse old man.
  • One Woman Song: "Debra" is a subversion—the song is sung to Debra's sister Jenny.
  • Perishing Alt Rock Voice
  • Piss-Take Rap: According to the guy himself, "Loser". The story goes like this: Beck and Carl Stephenson decided to record a song in Stephenson's kitchen. He decided to start rapping, made up lyrics as he went, and the two got a laugh out of how terrible it sounded. When they listened, Beck started sarcastically singing "I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me." The song took all of six and a half hours to record and produce, and only released it because his record label, Bong Load, pressured him to. And so, Beck got his first big break.
  • Pungeon Master: When they're not Word Salad Lyrics, chances are the lyrics are a Hurricane of Puns.
  • Rearrange the Song: "Soul Suckin' Jerk". Originally appearing on the Loser EP under the title "Soul Suckin' Jerk (Reject)", the first and second verses switched places when it was re-recorded for the Mellow Gold album. Musically, the two versions are pretty distinct too - the Loser version is slower and primarily based around drums and bass, and it's a few minutes longer due to a lengthy instrumental outro.
    • "It's All In Your Mind" was originally a One Foot In The Grave outtake, which saw official release as a standalone single in 1995, though the better-known version was a re-recording done for Sea Change around ten years later. The original recording was very much in the Three Chords and the Truth style of One Foot In The Grave: Just Beck backing himself up on a slightly out of tune acoustic guitar, with the only other instrumentation being a brief overdubbed guitar solo at the end. The re-recording was done with a full band and had a more complex arrangement including keyboards and cello.
    • The B-Side "Got No Mind" is "Pay No Mind (Snoozer)" with alternate lyrics and the acoustic guitar replaced with electric.
  • Recycled Lyrics: In general, Beck seems to pick a certain turn of phrase he likes and use it in multiple songs written around the same time - for instance "Ziploc Bag" and "Corvette Bummer" both include the line "yellow cat laying flat on the road", while "The Spirit Moves Me" has "Phony lady laying flat on the road". Also, numerous lines in "Diamond Bollocks" are originally from the B-Side "Erase the Sun".
  • Refrain from Assuming: "Where It's At" is often mislabeled as "Two Turntables and a Microphone."
  • Retraux: Beck's 2012 "album" Song Reader was released not as a record, or a CD, or a collection of MP3 files, or as any kind of recorded performance at all—it was published as printed sheet music. 20 tracks worth. If you can read traditional music notation and you have a piano or guitar, knock yourself out. Or you can listen on the Internet to lots of different people performing the tracks from Song Reader. (Beck himself has performed "I'm Down" and "Sorry" from Song Reader in live shows.)
  • Sampling: A big part of his style, to the point that he complained that due to crackdowns and massively inflated sampling fees he would be unable to do an album like Odelay again without having to pay huge sums of money for clearance. There's a noticeable reduction in the amount of sampling on his 2000s albums compared to the ones from The Nineties.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist
  • Shrug of God: Not even Beck can confirm what the actual lyric in the chorus of "Girl" is. The official lyrics simply read "Hey, my... girl" (see Indecipherable Lyrics).
  • The Slacker: At first categorised as such because of the success of "Loser". Beck was quite annoyed by this, pointing out that at the time the song was recorded, he was trying to make ends meet working various minimum wage jobs and had previously been homeless trying to make it in New York.
  • Something Completely Different: This being Beck, not only will this occur from album to album, but sometimes in the middle of a song itself.
  • The Stoner: His early folk stuff. It is less evident on later work.
  • Subliminal Seduction: At one point in "Loser," the chorus is sung backwards.
  • Surreal Humor: Frequently.
  • Surreal Music Video: Plenty.
  • Take That: His first single, "MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack."
  • Take That Me: "Loser". Also, "Hotwax"'s Gratuitous Spanish chorus translates to "I'm a broken record/I've got chewing gum in my brain". And we can't forget his Futurama appearance.
  • Textless Album Cover: Sea Change.
  • This Is a Song: "Title of This Song" from Song Reader.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Depends on the album, as his more recent output seems more polished and albums like Odelay hide it under attention-deficit-style Sampling and genre-mixing, but his earlier albums and basically any of his folk, blues, or punk influenced songs fall under this.
    • Most of Sea Change fits this trope, mixing fairly simple song arrangements and direct lyrics about heartbreak.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Though now it's over a decade in the past, "Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997" was recorded in 1994.
  • Uncommon Time: The chorus of "Blackbird Chain" jumps all over the place.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Looks very baby-faced even to this day, but his voice is very deep.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: In his earlier material.

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