Thursday, November 19, 2009

"She Loves You"

"She Loves You" is so familiar, and its appeal so firm and intuitive, that to summarize it in writing seems a step too far. The music itself is all that matters; it does the important work. When "She Loves You" is playing, and you hear the rumbling intro, or the comforting harmonies, or the ecstatic and thoroughly Americanized cries of "yeah, yeah, yeah," you can feel the song exercising its power. It's in the moment. To comment on elements of the backstory, like what George Martin's contributions were or why the major sixth chord at the end is important, might help to refine someone's perspective on the song, but it's unlikely to enhance the music's fundamental appeal. I can say from a personal standpoint that, while it's very pleasurable and rewarding to write about the Beatles' music, there are moments when a sense of futility sinks in and it registers that, yeah, timeless art is just fine on its own.

Not to launch into a tangent, but there is also a problem with how tired and overcooked Beatles commentary can be. Despite the staggering amount of ink that has been spilled in their honor, it's still hard to find truly original and penetrating insights about their music, history, and influence. A fair amount of consensus dwells within the broader discourse about the group, and even if it's there justifiably, it can still be irritating. Even contrarian critics pay deference to a lot of the received wisdom.

I think a similar criticism also applies to the lexicon that writers use in discussing different aspects of the Fabs, especially their music. Regrettably, it seems there isn't much variety in the way we describe, say, "Hey Jude" ("warm," "comforting"), "I Am the Walrus" (something about "psychedelic" and something about "acid-induced"), "Strawberry Fields Forever" ("nostalgic," "impressionistic"), and so on. To be sure, common terms like these exist because they're usually accurate and because there's a limit on language's ability to capture how music sounds and feels. The issue is that when you encounter them (or close approximations of them) so often, it gives rise to a sense of diminishing, nay, diminished, returns.

For whatever reason, these are some of the thoughts that came to me as I listened to "She Loves You," and they convinced me not to write about the song in detail. Again, I couldn't shake the feeling of "what's the point." So, in line with these scaled-back ambitions, I'll just say that "She Loves You," released as a single in 1963, is rightly one of the Beatles' most well-loved songs. Emphatic and efficient, it demonstrates how magnetic pop can be when invested with urgency and conviction. All of the exclamatory "yeah yeah yeahs" sound so momentous; they have the feel of history-in-the-making. It's also significant that, with this lyric, the Beatles step outside of their traditional role as the masculine half of a male-seeking-female twosome and take on the part of relationship mediator or go-between. In this position, they fulfill a more adult purpose: They calm tensions, they offer advice, and they seek the reconciliation of others (unlike some, I've never detected any sinister intentions). It's a function that requires a certain level of maturity, and yet the Beatles still find themselves able to act like the normal Beatles, giddily belting out a propulsive, love-affirming chorus.

But enough with my words. How about the object of their affection?

(If the video is removed, go here.)

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