Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Beck

Can a one-hit wonder be an obvious snub for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?  Absolultely, if you’re talking about Beck.  A stylistic chameleon who kept on seeking to show diverse facets of his complex musical persona throughout a career that has gone on for nearly three decades and is still going strong, Beck has had a devoted fan-base (mostly, though not entirely, in the United States) and has managed to sell consistently well with album after album and receive a high degree of critical praise but has simultaneously not been an artist that appealed to mainstream pop tastes.  Does his lack of pop success matter?  I don’t think so myself, and there are a lot of people who are likely to agree.  There are plenty of artists in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame who had modest at best success in releasing pop hits and whose recognized critical success and sheer quirkiness have been enough to ensure a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Beck clearly belongs in this category, not least for demonstrating the viability of an alternative and independent musician unwilling to stick to a narrow genre but still able to produce worthwhile music over the long haul.

The Influence Of Beck

Beck’s influence, as makes sense for an artist as diverse as his is, is remarkably multi-layered.  For one, Beck’s art–both visual art as well as his interest in musical collages, was immensely influential upon the release of his Odelay album in 1996.  Yet the influence of Beck has shown itself most in a refusal to become stale and cliched and in a desire to switch up styles and approaches with every album, which has made Beck’s career very satisfying in its sheer fecundity.  Other artists who have appreciated Beck’s diversity, ranging from .fun’s Nate Ruess to Forest For The Trees to Pink, Air, Sia, Childish Gambino, M83, and the Chemical Brothers have either collaborated with Beck or shown obvious influence from him, and that is a sign that shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.  This sort of diverse appeal demonstrates the fact that Beck has been a noteworthy figure in not only rock and alternative and indie music but also dance music and among singer/songwriters.  All of this diversity demonstrates a degree of fertility in Beck’s music that blends high culture (his use of a 43-tone scale developed by Harry Partch in a song by that name, or his work compiling music by Philip Glass) with low culture (“The Boat Is Full” or his only hit, “Loser”).  That sort of diversity deserves appreciation and respect.

Why Beck Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

If one does not consider the sheer stylistic diversity of Beck or the album of the year success of his “Morning Phase” album [1], one has to deal with the fact that he has shown consistent critical and popular success with a slew of albums that have been certified as gold or greater released since the early 1990’s, including Mellow Gold, Odelay, Mutations, Midnite Vultures, Sea Change, Guero, The Information, and Morning Phase, and showing no sign of stopping yet.  While only “Loser” has been a pop top 40 hit (it hit #10 in 1994), he has repeatedly had hits in the UK as well as on the Alternative charts, with top tens on the latter chart including “Where It’s At,” “The New Pollution,” “E-Pro,” “Girl,” “Dreams,” “Wow,” “Up All Night,” and “Colors,” including numerous lesser hits on that chart [2].  That sort of mix of critical and popular appeal and clear strength on the alternative and adult alternative charts (where his songs like “Blue Moon” regularly hit #1) is something that merits recognition.

Why Beck Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

In many ways, Beck might fall into a bit of a divide between those acts that are judged as being massively influential that have had very little popular appeal and are considered more worthwhile for that and those acts which are judged on their number of hits, which Beck does not have in terms of mainstream pop.  Popular enough but also hipster enough to have a great deal of critical popularity, though, Beck is one of the few contemporary rockers who have managed to stay cool for decades while making music that a substantial number of people actually like listening to, and that is no mean feat.

Verdict:  Put him in.  You know you want to hear him sing any two dozen of his amazing and quirky songs.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beck

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beck_discography

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Beck

  1. Catharine E. Martin says:

    As you have pointed out multiple times, there really isn’t any rhyme or reason in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s selection criteria. The subjectivity of it all is enough to drive a fan crazy if he or she doesn’t have a socially acceptable outlet for the frustration it engenders.

    • Yes, that’s right. Fortunately, writing makes for such a socially acceptable outlet for me (and for those who comment on these posts. I am confident that there are more than enough acts to write about twice a month for the foreseeable future, as I am continually reminded of ones I have not written about yet.

  2. Pingback: Half-Life | Edge Induced Cohesion

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