Song of the Day #3,429: ‘Dear Life’ – Beck

It’s crazy how artists quietly put together careers that start to feel like legacies. Take Beck, who still has the impish charm of the nerd-punk who crashed MTV with “I’m a Loser,” yet somehow is entering his 25th year as a recording artist.

This year’s Colors is Beck’s 13th studio album, released three years after the unlikely Album of the Year Grammy winner Morning Phase. Somehow, this is the first traditional pop album he’s recorded. Or at least as traditional as an oddball like Beck can get.

I’ve gotten used to the unexpected from Beck, whether it’s the tear-soaked orchestral bliss of Sea Change and Morning Phase, the electronic folk-funk of Guero or the psychedelic party mix of Midnite Vultures.

So Colors threw me for a bit of a loop just by sounding so (relatively) normal. Can a Beck album be great if it doesn’t have that left-field otherness that defines his work?

I don’t want to oversell the regular-ness of Colors. It certainly has its share of Beck-ian flourishes. Early single ‘Wow’ would fit right in on his breakthrough Odelay. Several songs blend folk and hip-hop sounds with the dominant pop-rock. You’d never mistake this for an album by anybody else.

While Colors isn’t as distinctive as Beck’s previous work, it is as accomplished. Strong melodies, thick beats, infectious grooves. After 25 years, he’s a master of his craft, no question.

Also: Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

[Verse 1]
You sang your swan song to the dogs
’Cause they made mincemeat of the dreams you hung your hopes on
So you counted out what your sins cost
While money talks to your conscience, looking like a fool for love

Dear life, I’m holding on
Dear life, I’m holding on
How long must I wait
Before the thrill is gone

[Verse 2]
You drove your Rolls into the swamp
You stole away like a thief, reeling from the sticker shock
Of the price they put upon your soul
You buy it back from the burning ashes of the devil you know

Dear life, I’m holding on
Dear life, I’m holding on
How long must I wait
Before the thrill is gone

Dear life, come and pick me up
Dear life, I think the button’s stuck
Dear life, I think it’s gone too far
Dear life, please lower the bar
Lower than the stars

Dear life, I’m holding on
Dear life, I’m holding on
How long must I wait
Before the thrill is gone

One thought on “Song of the Day #3,429: ‘Dear Life’ – Beck

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I think an artist’s greatest work often occurs when the eccentricities and complexities are wrangled into a more “normal” and accessible package. It’s a bit like eating a meal that has unique and complicated ingredients and preparation, but tastes delicious to everyone, not just a few discerning pallets.

    Elvis Costello comes to mind as an example. While some hardened fans may be detractors (just as some Beck fans might be less enamored by this more commercial effort), I think a pop album like Punch the Clock or traditional Americana album like King of America excels because it is both immediately accessible and, upon repeat listening, reveals the unique complexities of the songwriting.

    Today’s song is a well crafted pop song, but the lyrics are far from banal and listen to the multiple chord changes and tone shifts between major and minor. Good stuff. Makes me want to hear more.

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