Beck Says New Album is 'Uplifting,' But Won't Include a 'Happy' Pharrell Collabo

Lauren Dukoff
Beck

In a new interview with the The New York Times weekend T Magazine, Beck describes the vibe of his long-awaited upcoming "simple and uplifting" album, describing a session in which he almost recorded a "really happy" song with Pharrell... until, that is, he heard Pharrell's "Happy." The piece in the paper's style supplement, "Three Iconic Musicians on Artistic Creation -- and Its Importance Now," features profiles of Beck, Tom Waits and Kendrick Lamar talking about how they find inspiration

The section with Beck opens with the singer pondering how some songs "inexplicably" connect with you in a way that is so visceral it makes him wonder if there is some "deep memory of music" embedded in our DNA that act as "forgotten melodies" that we already knew without knowing it. "Before I make a body of music or a record or a song," Beck explained, "sometimes there’ll just be a feeling for a number of years — something that’s just building or incubating. And I’ve noticed that if I get sidetracked or if I’m not really focused on the music as much, eventually some version of that feeling will come out in somebody else’s music."

Case in point: during sessions for his long-simmering follow-up to 2014's Grammy Album of the Year-winning Morning Phase, Beck said he hopped in the studio with Pharrell a few years ago after getting a strong feeling about wanting to work with the superstar writer/producer. “Ten years before wouldn’t have been the right time. This was the right time," he said. "And as I was walking in there, my manager asked me, ‘So what do you want to do? Do you have any songs?’ I was like, ‘I have nothing. Clean slate. All I know is I want to do something that’s really happy.’ I literally walk in, ‘Hey, how are you,’ and we sit down. Pharrell says, ‘I just finished mixing this song, you gotta hear this.’ And he put on ‘Happy.’ It was one of those moments where you laugh to yourself and think, ‘O.K., so maybe we’ll do something else because I think you kinda nailed this one.’”

It's unclear if any of the results of those sessions will end up on Beck's upcoming 13th studio album, which he said will be out in the spring and on which he's finally nailed a "really happy" collection of songs after the somber Phase. Don't get him wrong, it's happy, but it was hard work. “It’s much easier to go out and get really down," he said. "There’s a multitude of things that will oblige you in misery in the culture and there’s only so many that will produce true happiness." So far, we've heard the rubbery pop bombs "Wow" and "Up All Night." 

The writer said the 10 songs he listened to don't sound like anything we've heard from Beck before, with a "huge, dance floor-ready exuberance and a whole new sonic range." The singer himself described them as "simple and uplifting and galvanizing." 

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