Multi-faceted and enigmatic troubadour Beck just revealed the details surrounding the forthcoming release of his much anticipated 11th studio album, Song Reader.
Guess what? It isn’t exactly what people expected. And that’s par for the course when it comes to Beck’s musical oevre, a veritable smorgasbord of genres that has evolved to defy categorization and carve a niche of it’s very own.
It’s no secret the music industry isn’t what it used to be. Album sales are down significantly and artists across all genres, united in their struggle against the threat of widespread Online piracy, are responding to the challenge with innovative and experimental alternate distribution methods. Mos Def released his latest album as a downloadable code attached to a T-Shirt. The Flaming Lips released their latest psychedelic collection on USB drives embedded in edible gummi skulls. Even mega stars like Justin Bieber and Lady GaGa can relate–they’ve both partnered with Playbutton to release their albums as wearable mp3-player buttons.
Beck’s Song Reader is no exception from the rule. Though while other artists seem to be overtly leveraging tech gimmicks to help drive record sales, Beck, in characteristic fashion, has essentially zigged while others have zagged.
As the title implies, Song Reader will be not be issued on CD, vinyl or MP3 – but in the form of sheet music which other musicians can play for themselves. The collection, comprised of 20 booklets replete with illustrations and a foreword by the artist, will be housed in a lavishly-produced hardcover case, an appropriate dossier for what ultimately translates to a grand artistic experiment.
Moreso, Song Reader represents a unique social experiment. Fueled by the hyper-connectivity of Beck’s technology-empowered fanbase, the albums songs will inevitably be performed and shared by amateur and professional alike, inspiring not only listenership but creation, conversation and idea exchange, essential strands in the DNA of Social media.
In 1994 Beck’s slacker folk-rap anthem, “Loser”, hit the top of the charts, and for a moment, embodied the era. Nearly two decades later, Beck’s latest offering (while admittedly, likely to never reach the Top-40) just might come closer to defining the voice of a generation. Lee Brackstone, director of McSweeny’s, Song Reader’s publisher adds that along the way, it will certainly “reinforce the value and importance of performed and recorded music at a time when these very things are under threat”.