Beck’s ‘Dear Life’ Kind Of Sounds Like An Elliott Smith Song
I haven’t really listened to Beck’s new album because I wasn’t really too fond of the cuts I had heard so far. ‘Wow’ was imaginative and colorful, but a bit too MGMT for my taste and honestly, I hated ‘Up All Night’ when I tried to listen to it. Other songs had been released, but either I hadn’t bothered or I hadn’t had the chance to listen to them.
However one track of the new album, ‘Dear Life’ — which could actually be heard as early as August as the third single of ‘Colors’ — got me by surprise with its bastringue piano, because it sounds so much like an Elliott Smith song. Think about ‘LA’ or ‘Junk Bond Trader’ of Smith’s 2000 album ‘Figure 8’. It’s difficult to exactly pinpoint which song(s) it’s trying to imitate, but it certainly has that same vibe. Of course, many critics have cited the Beatles to describe the song, but the fab four are always the obvious connection when it comes to Elliott. However, I keep hearing Smith and not McCartney.
Beside this immediate familiar feel, the song is not as great as its possible inspiration, and doesn’t seem to bring any catchy chorus or melody, or evolve into anything too creative . ‘Dear life, I’m holding on/Dear life, I’m holding on/How long must I wait/Before the thrill is gone’ says the chorus, and the thrill of hearing an electrifying Beck song seems to be long gone.
The funny thing is that Beck discussed the process of writing ‘Dear Life’ with Vulture, about a month ago, but he never mentioned Elliott. ‘The first day Greg [Greg Kurstin who produced ‘Colors’) and I started working together, in January or February of 2013, we talked about the music we both love, from Prince to the Beatles to the Clash to the Pixies. Then we got up and jammed, and ‘dear Life’ was what just came out, ‘Beck explained…. ‘It was like the equivalent of putting on your favorite shirt and just hanging around the house.’
I surely got the same feeling of familiarity, without having the need to listen to it many times. As for the lyrics, Beck had this to say: ‘I do have an affection for those kind of bemused, sardonic lyrics — Scott Walker, Jarvis Cocker, Leonard Cohen, back to Noël Coward. ‘Dear Life’ is about how you can go through really rough periods and there’s a certain point where you say, ‘Life, just take me, show me what I’m supposed to do. I surrender.’’
As for Beck and Elliott, they obviously knew each other, I am not saying they were close, but I remember Beck saying at Elliott’s memorial that they wanted to write music together. Who knows what would have happened? May be a better song than ‘Dear Life’.