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Beck’s ‘Dear Life’ Kind Of Sounds Like An Elliott Smith Song

Elliott and Beck

 

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’.

6 Comments

  1. Erica on November 6, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Totally agree. The first thing I thought of when I heard Dear Life was how much this song reminded me of Elliott Smith. Sadly, Smith did not get the recognition in life that Beck has. Beck could at least credit Smith for his influence on him.

  2. Catherine on December 5, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Yup. Heard it right away and was drawn in because I miss Elliot Smith (not that I knew him), but his death left a big hole in the music world. And I do remember reading somewhere that Smith was listening to a lot of Beatles when he wrote his last album, so that could be the connection.

  3. Caz Harris on January 16, 2018 at 7:40 am

    I agree totally. I know they were friends and influenced each other but I thought Beck could have mentioned this when the album was released – at least to publicise Elliott Smith’s work to people who haven’t heard of him yet.

  4. Caz Harris on January 16, 2018 at 7:42 am

    ps I do like Beck’s song but he could share this influence more

  5. Scott Craig on February 13, 2018 at 12:12 am

    Totally sounds like Elliot to the point that I Googled it….I disagree with about 90% of your article, but oh well we can agree on the fact that it definently sounds like a Elliot Smith song.

  6. Casey on September 21, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I think it sounds a lot like Elliott Smith’s “Son of Sam,” particularly the beginning of each song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afeAUndotas&list=PLP02sRgldWRZSUZWM3lVg6kuaCBf5iDQP

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