Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ann Powers on "Do You Want to Know a Secret"

Earlier today at Pop & Hiss, Ann Powers wrote about her favorite song off of Please Please Me. It's the first entry in an ongoing series that will list and detail the one track she enjoys most from each of The Beatles' 13 canon albums (i.e., the albums that will soon be released in digitally remastered form). For The Beatles' firecracker of a debut, she went with "Do You Want to Know a Secret," a modest song she generously describes as "the perfect entryway into the Beatles."

Now it would be unfair to fault Powers at all for designating "Secret" her favorite. I'm almost certain it's an entirely separate matter what she considers the best track off of Please Please Me. While whimsical and charming, "Secret" probably still occupies the lower part of the album's second tier. Powers, though, finds value where others might not, and writes, "Do You Want to Know a Secret" is about beginnings, and it is a beginning; thus the perfect place to start."

I honestly question how much conviction is in this claim. In other words, how serious is Powers about elevating "Secret" to the status of "the perfect entryway into the Beatles?" If she had to play one song for someone who had never before heard the Fabs but wanted the "perfect" introduction to their body of work, would she hold to these words? Let's further stipulate that the selection would have to come from Please Please Me. This would likely make the hypothetical more in line with the spirit of her post (i.e. that "Secret" is "the perfect entryway into the Beatles" off that album). With those 14 songs at her disposal, would she actually play "Secret" instead of the title track or "I Saw Her Standing There" or "Twist and Shout?" "Secret" is just such a non-starter, and it isn't terribly representative of The Beatles' early style and quality. Where's the youthful vigor and excitement?

I'm not trying to engage flippantly in a game of "gotcha." It's just that Powers' "perfect entryway" remark strikes me as a clear-cut overstatement and not at all consistent with her usually perceptive commentary on pop music. Having said that, I'm very much looking forward to the rest of her selections.

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