Beck is awesome. (Is that enough for a post? I’m tempted to stop right there and let the music speak for itself…)
No, I’ll go on. I think Beck is on a par with Prince in terms of being a musical genre-bending mastermind — in fact, I would say that while Prince may have the higher peaks in his career, Beck is the more consistent of the two. I have yet to be disappointed with a Beck album (merely a few lesser songs here or there); the same can’t be said of Prince — since the early ’90s in particular, listening to his music has become a very haphazard affair. But enough of the comparison with Prince: the two aren’t really that similar, other than that both have made great music by being a melting pot of musical styles. Arguably, Beck’s palette is even more diverse than Prince’s; but both certainly know how to incorporate funk into the mix.
And such is the case on Beck’s “Girl,” from his thoroughly excellent 2005 album, Guero. It’s an organically funky song, due to its combination in equal parts of blips-and-bleeps and acoustic slide-guitar sounds, not far removed from the sounds that brought him such great success on Odelay, on songs like “New Pollution.” Beck’s inclination to remove the barriers of genre has always served him well; he isn’t hindered by any limitations of what’s “allowed” in a given genre. He’s certainly not the first to blend styles seamlessly, but he does it so well and naturally that every song feels like it should have already been an obvious combination.
“Girl” is a deceptively upbeat-sounding song. A quick scan of the lyrics tells a different story: depending how literally you take it, it’s either someone darkly fantasizing about a goth girl, or a serial killer plotting out his next victim. The chorus is hard to figure in, as Beck is either singing “My cyanide girl” or “My sun-eyed girl” (frustratingly, he leaves that mystery word out of the lyrics in the CD booklet: “My ____ girl” — he apparently wants us to work a little to get the song’s intent). Whatever the case, lyrics like “With a noose she can hang from the sun/And put it out with her dark sunglasses” are masked with a nonstop groove that would otherwise make you think it was a happy love song. And that groove carries you along so well that you won’t even notice the darkness unless you’re looking for it. (Seems like that might be true about life in general much of the time, no?) So my advice: just enjoy it the way it sounds.
Oh, and Happy New Year as well…here’s to more great tunes for 2012!