On every camping trip at some point we sit around the campfire and sing our favorite songs. They range from Bob Dylan to Motley Crue and our versions of them range from horrible to passable with occasional moments of actual music. On one trip we were joined at the campfire by a group of young guys who were camping nearby. One of them poked the fire angrily with a stick and said, “You know what I hate most? Being f*cking bored!” I remember one of us slightly-older-somethings saying, “Yeah, well that one’s on you.”
If you’re bored for even a second of your blip of a life, then you just aren’t trying hard enough — not thinking, wondering, doing, or making hard enough.
Beck is an artist who never succumbs to boredom. Starting with his alt-folk-hip-hop major label debut Mellow Gold on to the Dust Brothers’ influenced years (Odelay), he took a sharp left to sexy-funky (Midnight Vultures), U-turned to soulful-trippy (Sea Change) and sprinted through Summer Anthem Rock (E-Pro/Guero), brit-pop (Modern Guilt). Then took a spin as an uber-producer, with a couple more stops along the way. Beck never churns out the same old, same old.
His latest release Song Reader is experimental even by Beck standards. It only exists in old timey sheet music form. That’s right, twenty songs that weren’t available to download until we the people picked up our instruments and plunked those notes to life. In essence Beck has invited all of us to sit around the campfire and cover his songs before he’s recorded them himself.
“There’s something different that happens when you’re writing a song for your own record that you know you’re going to sing. I felt like I had a certain license with these songs.” Beck said in an interview with NPR. “The idea that young people, old people, men, women, all different types of people would be possibly singing and playing these songs … It made me think of that abstract notion of an American songbook … you know, all these songs that people know and love, the kind of songs that you play around a campfire or at a gathering.”
In this era of YouTube pop song cover gluttony (Call Me Maybe anyone?) it seems like the perfect formula. Musicians worldwide, of various pedigrees, are recording the Song Reader tracks and posting videos of their interpretations.
Song Reader is the antidote to the idea that “interactive” means the level at which we’re clicking our digital weapons of mass distraction, it brings us back to when interactive meant engaging, conversational, absorbing…you know, the opposite of f*cking bored.
Now, check out our playlist of some of the most remarkable Song Reader numbers, and just to be extra geeky, it’s in track order of the album with a few extra favorites thrown in at the end.
There’s also a massive collection of Song Reader covers at the project’s official website.
Now stop being bored and go record your own version. Be sure to send us a link.