Song: “Love” (John Lennon cover)
Album: Sweetheart 2014 (Starbucks Compilation), out February 4th
Label: HearMusic / Concord Music Group
Beck Hansen finally emerged from his creative hibernation last year, releasing a handful of eclectic stand-alone singles (like the spacey, vaguely tropical “Gimme”) and announcing an acoustic-oriented LP, Morning Phase, his first since 2008. If that album is even half as beautiful as “Love,” his new John Lennon cover, he’s sitting on his finest work in over a decade.
The track, recorded for the upcoming Starbucks compilation Sweetheart 2014, finds Hansen submerged in blissful melancholy and reverb — a vibe sonically reminiscent of his 2002 masterpiece, Sea Change. “Love is real / real is love,” he sings in his bleary-eyed tenor over simple acoustic strums. “Love is feeling / feeling love.”
Lennon’s original track (from 1970’s John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band) speaks about love at a primal, conceptual level: The former Beatle (fresh from, fittingly, primal scream therapy) sounds completely engulfed in sadness, overcome by the fleeting nature of “love” itself. Beck’s take is still enormously sad, but the storm clouds are receding. The uncertainty of Lennon’s seventh chords are smoothed into majors; the stark piano template brightened by a simple drum pattern, choral harmonies, and the distant, psychedelic sigh of a slide guitar.
Back in November, Beck talked to Rolling Stone about Morning Phase and its overall themes: “There’s this feeling of tumult and uncertainty, getting through that long, dark night of the soul — whatever you want to call it,” he said. “These songs were about coming out of that — how things do get better.” With “Love,” he’s accomplished the exact same thing.