If You Look Closely, Beck and Kanye Aren't So Different After All
By now, you've probably heard all the brouhaha surrounding Beck and Kanye's showdown at the Grammys.
In case you need a little refresher, Beck beat out Beyoncé for Album of the Year for his record Morning Phase.
This did not sit well with Kanye West, so he rushed the stage in apparent protest.
While Kanye restrained himself and didn't speak his mind on the Grammy stage, he did share his thoughts with the world after the show.
This is what he said:
While Kanye doesn't seem to respect Beck's artistry, Beck has no issue with Kanye. Beck said in response,
I was just so excited he was coming up. He deserves to be on stage as much as anybody. How many great records has he put out in the last five years right? I still love him and think he’s genius. I aspire to do what he does.
Beck may have been so nonchalant about this whole thing because he realizes what Kanye clearly does not: Both of these artists are incredibly alike. Sure, on the surface, they couldn't be more different.
But, when you take a look at their histories and their approaches to music, similarities begin to take shape.
First of all, both Beck and Kanye are chameleons in the way their styles are constantly changing and evolving. It's almost impossible to pinpoint how their work will progress from album to album.
Take, for instance, Kanye's Graduation and 808s & Heartbreak. These records were released only a year apart and yet sound as if they were created by two different men.
The same could be said for Beck's Sea Change and Guero. Listen to and compare "The Golden Age" from the former and "E-Pro" from the latter to hear what I mean.
But, it's not just that both men are so adept at switching up their styles. It's those styles themselves.
Both artists cull from a vast array of eclectic influences. The influence of The Beatles is undeniable in Kanye's most recent work with Paul McCartney. And in Beck's "Where It's At," there's a sample of Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony No. 8 in B Minor."
What's more, the song that made Beck a household name back in the early 90s is essentially a hip-hop track, albeit twinged with a bit of country music.
Listen to "Loser." That's not a rock song. It's not a folk song. It's a rap song.
To see some hard evidence of the musical similarities between Beck and Kanye, it's probably most instructive to compare Kanye's album Yeezus with Beck's Odelay.
Both albums are radical departures from the artists' earlier works. They're both masterpieces seamlessly transitioning from hip-hop to pop to punk. And they're both highly experimental.
Neither of these avant-garde albums could really be categorized as easy listening. They're alternatively aggressive and angsty and combine a ton of cobbled together samples and atonal elements that probably shouldn't work together, but somehow amount to more than the sum of their parts.
Take Kanye's "New Slaves" and Beck's "High 5 (Rock the Catskills)." Both are deeply weird songs managing to coalesce into cohesive, danceable tracks. They both include digressions into strange sonic territories and both let loose with some wild distortion.
In any other artists' hands, these songs would be total messes. With Beck and Kanye at their respective helms, these tracks are classics.
The point of all this is Kanye should take a step back before he disparages an artist like Beck. While Kanye might not appreciate Beck the man, I highly doubt he doesn't appreciate Beck the musician.
They're both weirdo outsiders who forever changed the face of music in strikingly similar ways.
How could anyone seriously disrespect their artistry?