“God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys (1966)

I’m not on board with the typical rock-crit crowning of Brian Wilson as a genius. Sure, he’s written some good songs. But I’ve listened to Pet Sounds over and over, across various editions and formats, and the taste I’m left with is “I like this, but not as much as I feel like I should like this.” And while part of my ambivalence towards Wilson’s genius is due to the fact that I came to know The Beach Boys in the ’80s via “Kokomo”, “Getcha Back” and that Fat Boys duet, I came to know the Beatles in the ’80s too and there’s no doubt in my mind that they (at least John, Paul and maybe George) were geniuses. It’s all relative, anyway. If you think Brian Wilson is a genius, kudos to you. The Beach Boys just-generally-leave me cold.

Anyhow, I’m not trying to be a Negative Nancy. After all, this is a list of songs I think are perfect (or damn close, anyway). “God Only Knows” is by far my favorite Beach Boys song. It’s an absolutely beautiful love song that feels like it comes from a very pure, almost childlike place. Arrangement? Perfect. Harmonies? Perfect. I can hear “God Only Knows” played at weddings for the rest of my life (and probably will) and won’t ever get sick of it.

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