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“Oh Yeah: ‘Die Waiting’ is Probably about Beck’s Kid”

I got into a discussion about Beck at the bar with this dude about a month ago and he told me something pretty amazing: apparently Beck can hear six different songs in his head at the same time — the separate rhythms, the distinct melodies, sounds and everything. He had some term for this uncanny skill and it’s since escaped me but still it’s just the stuff to boggle the mind. Actually I always kind of felt like a freak because I can hear two in my head at once. 

Anyway, the guy and I shared a mutual respect for and general amazement of the artist, but differed on one key point: I really can’t stand anything he’s done since The Information, with the exception of this new one, and the guy I was talking to liked Modern Guilt, Morning Phase and Colors. Something just clicked for me on this Hyperspace expedition and in looking at the credits I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Pharrell is responsible for much of the songwriting thereon, a man who’s basically singlehandedly holding up mainstream American pop music.

Lots of the songs made it onto my playlists, like “Star”; “Chemical”; “Uneventful Days”; etc., my favorite by far being “Stratosphere,” which just has this celestial escapability factor like something that jettisons you straight onto a cloud of privacy and bliss. I think for my last playlist I snagged “Die Waiting” and again, the overall musical infrastructure just seems more purposeful and meaningful and like less of an insipid stab at radio play that Colors (2017) I think is, by and large. 

Basically, at first the sheer shock of a new Beck album being enjoyable and something I’d want to routinely listen to was considerable to the point of all my analysis being pretty much sublimated into a childlike glee before the fresh musical landscape I was observing. As my naivetee and aw-shucks adoration begin to temper into coherent digestion, though, “Die Waiting” has started to bother me. I mean, just listen to it: it’s about waiting your whole life for someone. Just with me, that is, I don’t know how many times I think to myself, boy, I’m really glad I’m not in a relationship right now, and I’m not responsible for the happiness of another person, because that kind of thing can be really burdensome. 

But then I remembered Beck has a kid. That’s what we learned about “New Round” back in the The Information days: that song was dedicated to the same tike. That would put the young one at about middle teenage years, the throes of adolescency, by my count, a very formative, meaningful time (a stage that might have even helped add some potency to Beck’s songwriting… who knows?). In truth, there seems to actually be fairly little of the romantic theme on Hyperspace, and ultimately I think this is to its advantage: its worldly, balanced scope of subject matter makes it refreshing and distinctly vital. Also, amusingly, in what I think is the only song to mention a love interest, “Star,” we get a reference to an old Beck song with the line “She’s walking crooked down the hall” (whereas the venerable “Girl” had featured the line “Walkin’ crooked down the beach”), almost as if Beck’s feeling is so intense that it’s occluded by other times in his life when he’s felt the same thing. But it’s funny: we just think of every pop song or mainstream radio hit as in some way dealing with a potential or current significant other, while it can be just as rewarding or even more, meanwhile, to get expansive, everyday and human types of themes, like “Drops of Jupiter,” which Train’s Pat Monahan wrote about his mother and a near-death experience she incurred. 

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