Anyway, take a look.
1. The Beach Boys: "God Only Knows"
(Tony Asher/Brian Wilson)
Chart info: U.S. (#39), UK (#2)
Available on Pet Sounds
I'm sure you've read these: "the world's greatest song," "Brian Wilson's masterpiece," "the most beautiful piece of music ever recorded." Yes, the initiation into the Museum of Western Popular Music is always rough, as credible historians rush to summarize our collective experiences in short phrases. But for better or worse, "God Only Knows" is the kind of song that's almost impossible for me to talk about divorced from the way it makes me feel: sad, in love, honestly grateful, but also a little hopeless. Even in mono, it's like being swept up by a wave of compassion but still getting bruised.
The first words Carl Wilson sings, "I may not always love you," are already uncertain, so if you need a tie into the legacy of 1960s youth culture, glance no further than the naïve but strained optimism locked inside this song. Yet, Carl made this uncertainty sound gorgeous. The voices that sail behind his might just as well be a quartet of violas and cellos playing counterpoint that'd already been obsessed over a few times before they got it. "God Only Knows" is so ideally conceptualized and realized, critics can't help but support it. Somehow, even that can't turn it into an art exhibit; its humanity resists the attempt. To me, this song is a goodbye to being a kid, and hoping that love actually is the answer. And almost nobody knows if it is. --Dominique Leone
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