When Beck burst into the limelight in 1994 with Mellow Gold, he was dubbed everything from the new Bob Dylan to the spokesman for the slacker generation. Combining hip-hop, folk, and lo-fi indie rock, he offered an arch alternative to "alternative," ultimately taking his place as an MTV-monopolizing, Lollapalooza-headlining icon alongside Sonic Youth, Henry Rollins, et al. But over the years, his music continued to evolve, showing Beck to be as much of a pop chameleon as David Bowie or Prince.

Beck Hansen was born in L.A in 1970, into an offbeat, artistic family, and by the late '80s he was a part of the "anti-folk" scene in New York City, where he began honing his idiosyncratic style. By the start of the '90s he was back in L.A., busking, playing low-profile gigs, and making music for lo-fi, limited-edition releases. In 1993, his indie single "Loser" ignited major-label interest and earned Beck a deal with Geffen. The next year, the label unleashed "Loser" on the world at large as part of Mellow Gold, rocketing the artist to stardom. 1996's Odelay was more elaborately produced and brought Beck an even bigger audience.


Over the course of his next few albums, though, he showed more interest in pursuing his muse through widely varied stylistic approaches than pursuing commercial success. Mutations incorporated Brazilian Tropicalia influences, helping spark a revival of interest in the genre. Midnite Vultures was full of funky, Prince-like, party fodder, while the downcast Sea Change was a mellow, moody album of earnest folk-rock ballads. While nothing he's released since then has journeyed quite as far off the beaten path, Beck has continued doing pretty much whatever the hell he pleases, simultaneously managing to gain more and more popularity and acclaim as he goes along.

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