If you’re like many people, you watched the Grammy Awards on CBS last Sunday night. If you’re like even more people, you paid attention as the Internets blew up about some media-fueled spontaneous feud that may or may not lead directly to causing World War III.
Long story short: on Sunday, in a huge upset, alternative rock musician Beck’s Morning Phase won the coveted Album of the Year trophy over Beyonce’s self-titled silver lion of death that was widely expected to take home the tiny record player.
And then something strange happened…
KANYE THA GOD. https://t.co/8x42pDTmWT
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) February 9, 2015
Chaos erupted. Twitter retweeted that above tweet at least…well, 8,600 times, but it was pretty fly. For a minute there, the Grammys were interesting.
The next day, conversations erupted. Was West right? (Yes. Beck as much as said so.) Was this the right way to go about it? (Yes. Because television + Internet = demand. MEET THE SUPPLY) Do the Grammys actually matter? (Nope. Definite nope.)
But the conversations continued on the next day, and as America tried to get back to work, one conversation seemed to dominate (my office):
Who is Beck?
The fact that the most asked question in my office, a collective of young twentysomethings working in the video department, was “WHO IS THIS TINY BLONDE MAN?” should make everyone who even faintly remembers the cultural zeitgeist of the 90’s:
A) grotesquely sad that nobody knows who Beck is anymore.
B) that’s about it, actually, I’m just thoroughly sad right now.
To help with the better understanding of popular culture, I’ve decided to delve into the history of this so-called “BECK” person, to see what he really is “all about”, and if he really does “need to respect artistry”.
Note: For reference’s sake, we’ll be grading Beck’s artistic output in Sad Beck Faces, as I’ve represented here:
The Early Years – Birth to 1993
Beck was born in 1970, which is pretty dope. Dude’s like 45. Good for him for living through the 1990’s – although it seems like most serious artists like Kurt Cobain passed away early on, leaving only clowns and jokers to tell the tales of the greatest alt-rock movement ever. Beck was a young folkie in New York who worked his way out to LA after a time, only hinting at the pure Beck-ness that was to come. Apparently, there’s two albums out from this time period, but they’re not on Spotify, so one can only assume that these albums are trite and devoid of meaning.
Grade: One Sad Folksy Beck Face
Mellow Gold (1993)
And then came the real 90’s, a magical time when men wore flannel, girls wore flannel too, and the Spice Girls were a thing that happened. Beyonce was still hanging out with Destiny’s Child and guesting on “Smart Guy”, and Iggy Azalea was an afterthought in just about nobody’s mind because nobody even bothered to think of something like her ever happening.
Anyway, Beck. So, apparently, one day Beck was hanging out with his producer friend, who may or may have not told him that his hip hop skills resembled those of a skinny white boy. Beck, in response, did his best Chuck-D from Public Enemy impression. The result was this:
The rest of the album is Beck coming out as an artist to be respected. It should also be noted that a rather prominent rapper would later pay respect by dropping the following line in his song “Get ‘Em High” on acclaimed album The College Dropout:
My teacher said I’m a loser, I told her why don’t you kill me
One Foot in the Grave (1994)
This album is also not available on Spotify. This shows the utmost disrespect to the artistry of Beyonce, who’s albums are available on Spotify.
Odelay represents Beck at his utmost Beck-ness. Mixing it up with the Dust Brothers, Beck draws samples from roughly the entire musical canon of Western culture. It’s one of the greatest albums produced in the 1990’s. This album is, in fact, where it’s at.
This album is where Beck decides to go all ‘Sad-Bastard Beck’ for the first time, though not as sad as he’d go later. It’s a bit more folksy, a bit more mellow, a bit less full of turntables and samples and fat beats being rocked out by a skinny white boy from LA. It’s good. But it’s not where it’s at.
Midnite Vultures (1999)
Beck can also get funky. I’m not really sure whether or not a white boy getting funky is respecting the artistry, but then again, Kanye West has a baby named after a compass point, so I suppose that anything is possible.
Sea Change (2002)
And then he went and released the saddest break-up album ever, an album so sad it’s literally inscribed with baby seal tears. This album is the greatest thing to happen to break-up albums since somebody gave a bunch of coke to five white hippies and told them that sleeping with each other while playing in a classic rock band was a good idea. This album is so sad and depressing and captures break-ups so perfectly that it’ll be what Yeezus is listening to when Kimye inevitably self-destructs in a fireball of chaos and upheaval.
Grade: Five Sad Kanyes (seriously, we’re off the charts here, this album is so friggin dope #respect):
I did research for this column. Did you know that Guero is Spanish slang for ‘white boy’? It’s that kind of ironic self-awareness that Beck helped popularize, and which in no way fuels similar subtle self-awareness as artists in modern performers.
Grade: Three Hipster Beck Faces:
The Information/Modern Guilt (2006-2008)
These albums are good. But they don’t respect Beyonce. Want proof? Go listen to ’em. NOWHERE DO THEY SAY THAT THEY RESPECT QUEEN BEY. I CHALLENGE YOU TO FIND WHERE THEY SAY ‘I RESPECT THE ARTISTRY CURRENTLY KNOWN AS QUEEN BEY’.
Grade: Two Disappointed Beck Faces:
Celebrity Deathmatch (2001-2002)
Oh, yeah. In the early 2000’s, this happened.
Grade: One Nostalgic Beck Face:
Song Reader (2012)
Oh, and this! Back in 2012, Beck released 20 songs as plain sheet music, with the intention of people buying it and playing themselves. Which is terrible – writing songs for other people to play and sing is not respecting artistry.
Grade: No Beck Faces. Respect the Game, Dude.
Morning Phase (2014)
And now we’re back to Sad Bastard Beck. If it were up to these rankings, Morning Phase would be AT BEST the fourth or fifth best Beck album. It’s fine, but doesn’t really cover any ground Beck’s already trodden on Sea Change, and lacks none of the usual lyrical pep from albums like Guero or Odelay. But that’s not why we’re here – Beck has FAILED TO RESPECT THE ARTISTRY.
Never mind that the politics of the Grammys inherently slant towards out-of-touch and/or white people music year after year. Never mind that the four pop albums up for the award probably split the vote, leaving the single rock album free to sweep in. This was clearly Beck disrespecting Beyonce.
Grade: All the sad Kanye faces.
(Editor’s Note: Actual quality of albums may or may not reflect amount of Emotive Beck Faces assigned for satiric value. Also, Beck is thoroughly dope, but so is Bey and Yeezus. #Respect)