It's the day after the GRAMMYs, which means it's the day after Kanye did or said something outlandish, which means the internet is now inundated with hyperbolic headlines and articles titled, "18 Ways Your Ex is Like a Kanye Rant."
This is the word of the based lord in 2015...
I promise this won't be one of those click-bait articles, but I still have to reiterate what Kanye said last night about Beck's win over Beyonce for Album of the Year.
"At this point, we tired of it. What happens is, when you keep on diminishing art, and not respecting the craft, and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you're disrespectful to inspiration. We, as musicians, have to inspire people who go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyoncé album, and they feel like it takes them to another place. Beck needs to respect artistry, and he should have given his award to Beyoncé."
Now, I'm sure Kanye wasn't alone in his thinking, he just happened to have an E! microphone in hand. A ton of hip-hop heads, myself included, let out a collective shrug. I wasn't nearly as mad as Kanye, but it was hard for me to have an opinion since I haven't heard a Beck song since "Loser." Maybe Kanye was right, maybe he was wrong, but either way, not one single piece of internet "journalism" today discussed or anaylized the actual music.
Again, I have no particular feelings on Beck one way or the other, but I was a little taken aback when Kanye mentioned "artistry" as though a guy who plays 14 instruments, including the glockenspiel and a few others I've never even heard of, is some corporate shill. Also, who is he to say that Beck's album doesn't take listeners to another place? Shit, I wonder if he has even heard the album? I wonder if anyone commenting has actually heard it. Who has time for music when you need to create a GRAMMY-themed, clevage-driven slideshow? Click bait bait bait bait.
So today, instead of writing the same piece you've read 4,000 times already, instead of ranking Kanye rants, I simply dropped the proverbial needle on Beck's GRAMMY-winning album, Morning Phase. Kanye rants aside, this was a GRAMMY winning album and I wanted to see what it sounded like. Kanye not-aside, I wanted to see if this album had more artistry than "Ride it with my surfbort."
*Unplugs and listens*
Well shit. Beck's throwing heat.
Ok, not "heat" per se, but a really interestingly engaging and diverse album. Now, I need drums. I'm all about that bass and treble and this album doesn't have much for a hip-hop head in those terms, but what it does offer is a vast array of experiences and certain, hypnotic flow. I went track by track, jumping around, but when I really came to enjoy this album was when I listened from start to finish; the way it flows and progresses is very well done. I was really impressed at the way Beck linked all of the tracks together. The vocals are often what dominate the listener's attention, that's true for any genre, but here it felt more like the Beck behind the mic was working with Beck behind the boards to create a cohesive experience.
I love Kanye because his production is cinematic. Especially on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Ye's best album production-wise - there are so many sounds coming together to form an incredible, powerful feel. The attitude and excess of the beats really hammers home the essence of the album. This Beck album is very similar in terms of the amount of sounds, but he creates a whole different atmosphere. In fact, sounding so minimal might even be more difficult. Imagine trying to create a understated, slower feel using 15 instruments. Not an easy task, yet MorningPhase has this effortless, fluid feel to it. Frankly, it turns out I was sleeping on Beck. I still thought he was the same "Loser" from 1993, but what I heard on this album was a developed artist. Morning Phases is a good album. Period.
More than the artistry though, the most frustrating thing Kanye said was that this album doesn't move people's like Beyonce's. Who is he to say what moves people and what doesn't? Well, this Beck album moved me. I woke up fighting a cold, head pounding, and though I tried to cure myself through music, everything I tried, including Kanye, wasn't working. I bumped this Beck album and by the end of the day I really did feel better. Maybe it was the three doses of Airbourne and downing Tylenol like Action Bronson downing tukery burger sliders with bleu cheese, but I'd like to think Beck had a role in it. It didn't move me, shaking my musical foundation, but it made me feel a little better and, more importantly, I enjoyed the time spent with the album. I can't predict the future, but I could see this album playing much more of a role in my rotation than Beyonce's. Sure, I'll hear (and enjoy) "Drunk In Love" forever, I'll get a thirst the largest Sprite couldn't quench when I watch that "Partition" video, but in terms of albums, this one can go 12 rounds with Beyonce's and it might even end up knocking her out.
Of course, that depends on who's doing the judging. I can't say which album is better because ultimately that's up to each individual listener, but to say some major injustice was done is simply not true. Beck's album is good enough that even an outsider listening in for a few hours, I can already appreciate it. If that isn't GRAMMY worthy I don't know what is.
That's not the point, though. Comparing these albums, comparing how many co-writers there were on "Drunk In Love" or how many instruments Beck did or didn't play shouldn't be what we take away from the GRAMMYs. The takeaway should be both Beyonce and Beck made great albums. Sure, the GRAMMYs are flawed, I'll be the first one to admit that, but so are our reactions. Music is subjective and yet we continue to force it into an objective discourse. The conversation is around the music, but what's being said has nothing to do with the music. It becomes a race for pageviews and retweets instead of a night to celebrate two really cool yet completely different albums. Instead of celebrating great artists, we put them against each other and rip them apart to prove one is better than the other. When that happens, even the winners lose.
Hopefully Kanye will listen to Morning Phase with the same open mind. I've got a feeling there's some real artistry in it that he'll relate to.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]