Grammy Smackdown: Kanye's Right About Beck's Snoozer of an Album

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Beck watches Kanye West, who pretended to take the stage after Beck won album of the year for "Morning Phase," at the 57th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

When Kanye West approached Beck the other night to steal his best album Grammy and give it to Beyoncé, it seemed some kind of divine justice was being served. Not that I don't think West is a fop and a fool, but from the sound of Beck's limp and languid Morning Phase album, nary a bead of perspiration was shed in the making, while Beyoncé burns beaucoup calories just thinking about singing—not to mention while shaking a lethal tail feather.

Put some coins in the diner jukebox and punch up a couple of songs from Beck's unjustly celebrated album and see if you can stay awake through your dinner salad. Then wonder who in the name of Yeezus are the voting members of NARAS and what senior-citizen tranquilizer cocktail they were sippin' when they decided they preferred Beck to anyone else in the category. They'd likely go into cardiac arrest listening to Beyoncé.

Mind you, I used to be a huge admirer of Beck, back when the Dust Brothers put a little rhythmic shimmy behind his waiflike murmur, back when the young surrealist could coin such acidulous phrases as, "Spray paint the vegetables/Dog food stalls with the beefcake pantyhose." Compare such daring imagery with a few opaque lines from his Grammy winner: "A keepsake in a dresser drawer from who knows where/A symbol of your exegesis and a full-length mirror." Try singing that line to yourself and you will long for the days of Alan Jay Lerner or even Little Richard.

That's a time-stamped couplet from a song called "Blackbird Chain," one of a baker's dozen of molasses-slow Beck ditties backed by dreamy strings and bathed in buckets of reverb, the better to disguise the lack of affect or memorable melodies on the album. The string charts are courtesy of Beck's father, David Campbell, a life-long Scientologist who ought to be sued for filling his son's head with such Xenu-hogwash at such an early age.

The fact that Beck is a knee-jerk defender of the spiritual Ponzi scheme has little to do with his musical acumen, or lack thereof, but when he goes on the record spouting the company line about Narconon's success rate with drug addicts ("It has a 90-something percent success rate," he once said), the buck must perforce stop somewhere, preferably here. High doses of niacin and marathon sauna sessions never cured anyone of anything, and in fact have been associated with several deaths. Just ask Brian Williams!

But even more irksome than a putatively hip, counter-culture figure like Beck promoting a storefront religious hustle is the fact that he also defended Kanye West for stealing his thunder at the Grandma Awards ceremony. "I still love him and think he's genius," Beck said afterward. "I aspire to what he does." Which is what at this point? Using Auto-tune to pull off a tuneless vocal performance on a live telecast? Or looking miserable every time the camera landed on him and his up-talking bride?

My dark twisted fantasy? Beck grips the Grammy for dear life and thumps Kanye Twitty upside his ego-scrambled skull, leaps onto Ms. Dim Bartrashian's backside and rides into the sunset with one of his lazy, hipster-cowboy ballads standing in for Roy Rogers's "Happy Trails to You." Put that "symbol of your exegesis" in your corncob pipe and smoke it!