Artist – The Beach Boys
Album – Pet Sounds
Year – 1966
Genre – Classic Rock/Baroque Pop
For the record, I think “Baroque Pop” has to be one of the coolest genre titles I’ve encountered.
“God Only Knows” comes from Pet Sounds, not only the most lauded of Beach Boys albums, but also one of the most praised albums of all time. It’s arguably the Sgt. Peppers of the Beach Boys, if you’ll forgive the analogy to that other band. Beautiful sound quality and melodic structure of the record aside, this particular song personifies everything amazing the Beach Boys have to offer. It took frontman and main songwriter Brian Wilson only 7 minutes to write, and the song is a testament to incredible beauty and musical complexity in a minimal structure.
The opening of this song is heaven. The first thing you hear is that beautiful melody of strings and twelve-string guitar overlapping and creating this gorgeous wall of sound. The bass kicks in and takes the song right to the beginning of Wilson’s lyrics.
The unique chords used in the song come into play at the beginning of the verses. As Wilson sings, his voice weave around that simultaneously sound out of place and perfect at the same time. The best part is that he resolves each verse impeccably, despite the initial melodic uncertainty. It’s really great songwriting on his part.
The next verse is more of the same in terms of melody, but Wilson’s voice is the star. It’s emotive and open to you, and his earnestness is so clear you can touch it. This is the peak of his singing ability, so there’s really no note he can’t bend to the emotional tone of the song here.
The little “breakdown” in the middle of the song is a playful little bridge that has some more really neat chords and note runs in it that really build anticipation for the vocal overlaps right after. The other members do The Beach Boys thing and play off each other in each of their vocal parts and make sweet, sweet music with their voices. They even do the “buh buh buh” thing! What more do you want?
It’s not over yet, because this is where the song kicks it into high gear. Wilson’s emotion builds as the song comes to a close, and his sentiment becomes all the more palpable, until the final, famous, “God Only Knows” vocal interplay section. This is the true triumph of the song, and simply needs to be heard to understand the beauty of it. The melody is not only catchy, but truly (I know I say this too much) beautiful.
The simple phrase “God only knows what I’d be without you” is so simple, yet profound in it’s ability to take a snapshot of a lover’s thoughts. Wilson’s lyrics throughout the song do the same thing. There is nothing said that is truly “profound” in a general sense, but in truth, everything in this song is profound. At least to me, and I hope to most of you out there, too.
It doesn’t matter how simple or complex a song is, every new song about love and feelings of love is an experience waiting to be heard. It just so happens that Wilson wrote a song that is so elegant in it’s construction and lyrical simplicity and beautiful in it’s melody that it stands the test of time. There’s just as much beauty in simply saying “I love you” than there is a a complex tone poem of a song, and Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys can prove it to you right here.
Thanks for listening! Likes, comments, follow, and shares are always appreciated! Get out there and listen to the music 🙂