So this guy named Beck beat Beyonce and Sam Smith to win the 2015 Grammy for album of the year. If you don’t know who he is, there’s a good chance you’re under the age of 25 or don’t follow alternative music much.
But that’s fine! And trust us, we’re just as surprised as you are (and probably Beck too) that he won. That’s why we’re here to fill you in for when you discuss the Grammys and you want to know what you’re angry about.
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Morning Phase is Beck’s first album to get real Grammy love, but he’s nothing new. The hushed 2014 LP is his 10th major label studio album to date, and even though it also won the 2015 Grammy for best rock album, it’s not much of a rocker at all. It’s more of a delicate, moody folk album that’s beautiful at times and maybe a snoozer for those who aren’t fans of the genre. Check out its lead single “Blue Moon”:
But as we said, Beck (44 years old, born Bek David Campbell) is nothing new. He’s a wacky, artsy dude whom you might call a “hippie” or a “hipster,” depending on how you define those terms. Sometimes he looks like a mix of that and Amish. He’s definitely cooler than you and probably a lot weirder too. He’s married to actress Marissa Ribisi. For what it’s worth, he’s also a Scientologist.
After a string of independent releases, he was scooped up by Geffen and released Mellow Gold in 1994. Its lead track, “Loser,” was a huge Billboard Hot 100 hit — it peaked at No. 10, his only to crack the top 40 — and became a bona fide Generation X anthem because it talked about how he was a slacker and featured wacky, stream-of-consciousness white boy rap. Check it out below:
In 1996, he delivered arguably his most beloved album, a banger called Odelay, which featured left-field, sample-heavy dance jams such as “Where It’s At” and “Devil’s Haircut.” It was co-produced by The Dust Brothers (of Beastie Boys fame), who had a lot to do with its awesomeness. It was nominated for album of the year, as was 1999’s Midnite Vultures. Both lost. Check out “Where It’s At”:
In 2002, Beck released another fan favorite (albeit a polarizing one) called Sea Change. If you’re into Morning Phase, it’d be a good idea to check it out since many have likened the two over their somber mood and heartbreak themes. Since this early career boom, Beck’s never released a bad album, but most would say his overall quality has dipped a touch. 2005’s Guero, another accessible, Dust Brothers-produced LP, is probably the best pre-Morning Phase album of latter-day Beck, though 2006’s The Information and 2008’s Modern Guilt have their moments. Check out “Girl” from the Guero album:
Once known for being prolific, it’s worth noting that Morning Phase was his first proper album since 2008. We say proper because in 2012, he released an album called Song Reader in sheet music form, assuming fans would record their own interpretations. (Two years later, a Song Reader compilation surfaced featuring different musicians covering the tracks.)
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So that’s Beck for ya. In beating Beyonce, he’s probably just as surprised as you are but very unlikely to send her a patronizing, humble-bragging e-mail a la Macklemore. He’s been a weird guy for a while, and even with this Grammy win, he’s probably going to remain weird for a while longer.
This story first appeared on Billboard.