Since the early ’90s, Beck has traveled a decidedly idiosyncratic path—and it has taken him from slacker-pop iconoclast to genre-melding elder statesman. Born in 1970, Beck Hansen got his musical start in New York’s anti-folk scene; his relocation to Los Angeles led to him incorporating hip-hop-inspired sounds, a combo that helped “Loser,” his chugging yet surrealistic breakthrough, go from college-radio oddity to one of 1994’s defining singles. Over the ensuing years, Beck became known for defying any expectations “Loser” had placed on him; he went back to his indie roots on 1994’s One Foot in the Grave before getting maximalist on 1996’s ambitious Odelay, exploring bossa nova and blues on Mutations two years later, and reveling in grooves on the following year’s Midnite Vultures. All the while, his high-energy live sets became the stuff of Lollapalooza legend, and his eye-catching videos were staples of MTV. In 2002 he released the stripped-down Sea Change, an introspective album that, to great acclaim, showed off the sensitive side of someone previously pegged as an ironist. Beck settled into being a pop explorer after that, releasing sterling singles—the sun-dappled “Girl,” the breezy “Gamma Ray,” the stadium-ready “E-Pro”—that anchored hook-filled albums. He put his songwriting prowess forward on Song Reader, which was released as a book of sheet music in 2012, and on Morning Phase, which called back to the Sea Change era with its subdued vibes. As the decade progressed, Beck incorporated ideas borrowed from big-ticket pop, working with producers such as Pharrell Williams and Greg Kurstin on his albums Colors and Hyperspace—but he retained the wide-ranging approach that’s made him one of the alt-rock boom’s most enduring stars.
HOMETOWNLos Angeles, CA
BORNJuly 8, 1970