The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

19 April 2003


Rachel Lucas may think she's released her Inner Dork by listening to Lionel Richie, but in reality, she's simply responding to that easiest-to-spot, hardest-to-explain part of every good pop record: the Hook.

And she says so herself:

The whole song [Richie's "My Love"] is good, but the best part is one little syllable. After the little instrumental part with the flute where he says "anymore" three times, Lionel goes, 'oh' just before launching back into the chorus.

That little 'oh' is just awesome. He says it like he means it. Listen to it if you can — you'll see what I mean.

I know what she means. Every great 45 of the last 60 years or so has one part that's just a little bit greater, a section that reaches out and grabs you by the ear. In, for instance, "Give Him a Great Big Kiss", the Shangri-Las' best record (if not their biggest), the hook is in the second call-and-response, where the music, except for the rhythm, fades away and the most important question of them all is dealt with directly:

"Whaddaya mean, is he a good dancer?"

"Well, how does he dance?"

You can practically see the sigh: "Close. Very, very close."

And sometimes the hook is there because it isn't there. Toward the very end of "Turn! Turn! Turn!", the Byrds intone, "A time for peace / I swear it's not too late," and suddenly the song is grinding to a halt — except that you're counting, two, three, four, filling in the space before the return of the drum and the beginning of the outro.

Self-important artistes scorn the hook. And they wonder why their CDs sit on the shelf.

Posted at 8:28 AM to Tongue and Groove