I have to admit, when Beck announced his Song Reader album, I was undoubtedly disappointed. It felt like a bit of a copout, making an album you don’t play yourself and ask other people to make. It just feels incredibly lazy. But once you really think about what all a decision like this entails, it becomes much more interesting. So here are three reasons this is a brilliant idea.
1. This is a very 21st century/digital age idea pulled from an early 20th century concept.
Beck has used the form of releasing music popular before recorded music (back in the days of John Phillip Sousa), releasing music via sheet music in a way that perfectly fits the 21st century digital age. Releasing sheet music today hands over your creative property to this new social world for people to recreate these songs as both they interpret they personally and as they think Beck might interpret them. So if you go to YouTube and search Beck’s Song Reader, you will stumble on several really interesting as well as some not so interesting versions of each of Beck’s new songs. This is a very democratic idea, and for this I salute Beck.
2. You get to hear several versions of each song before the originally intended one.
Nothing sparks your curiosity like hearing several of versions of a song but consistently wondering what the original was intended to sound like. Take “Old Shanghai” for example, this version plays more like something off of Beck’s Sea Change, but then there is this piano version, to this trip-hop version and several other versions that really explore what this song was intended to sound like. It causes you to wonder what Beck wanted this song to truly sound like which you will find out on…
3. The first time you will hear Beck’s version of these songs is on tour.
Talk about a great reason to catch a tour. It’s one thing to hear songs you have already heard an artist do on record in a live session, and entirely differently thing to hear an artist do their own song or the first time in the live setting. Because of this, this is a must see tour, and you really can’t say that about many tours these days.
For more on this Song Reader project, check out Beck’s interview with NPR explaining the project.