Thursday, September 12th, 2019

for KING & COUNTRY + Dolly Parton – God Only Knows

Sadly, not a Beach Boys cover; fortunately, not a Kid Rock cover…


Thomas Inskeep: On Aussie CCM duo for KING & COUNTRY’s Burn the Ships album, “God Only Knows” is basically an EDM/pop record (as is their stock in trade these days); for this reworking, the instrumentation is a bit more country, at times somewhat acoustic (especially its strummy guitar). And then there’s the vocals: fK&C invited Dolly Parton to take over some verses and add some stunning harmonies (that story can be found in this video). Like with their previous single, 2018’s “joy.,” in theory, nothing about this should work — and just as with “joy.,” it works perfectly. I’ve not even mentioned the lyrics of “God Only Knows,” which are about having hope in the face of hopelessness, especially when the possibility of suicide is staring you in the face. Let’s just say this hits home for me and leave it at that. I’m grateful for this song, and especially for this new version. I mean, when you get right down to it, what is the voice of Dolly Parton, if not the voice of hope? 

Alfred Soto: Of course Dolly Parton appears as the ministering angel — imagine Kate Bush reciting table scraps to a frat boy Peter Gabriel wearing a cross around his neck. Whatever its spiritual aspirations get stifled by the 2013-era production.

Joshua Lu: On the original “God Only Knows,” for KING & COUNTRY sang of God’s love but with an imposing and threatening chorus, and while religious piety entails both loving and fearing your creator, that principle felt incompatible with the song’s message. That disparity still comes through in the remix when Joel and Luke Smallbone take the reins of the chorus, but Dolly Parton’s soothing voice offsets their harshness, providing a comfort that better transmits the song’s intent.

Ian Mathers: Even if you kept the production exactly the same, there is no conceivable way this is an improvement over a Dolly-only version (as the bits where you can hear her clearly indicate; stop sing-shouting over her, damnit!). Also, fuck you for making me think we might get her covering one of the very few good Beach Boys songs.

Alex Clifton: God only knows what Dolly did to deserve a credit on this song, but she should not be put on an elevator-music track that makes me wish I were listening to Ed Sheeran instead.

Katie Gill: Dolly’s such a sweetheart she’ll do a verse for anybody that asks her, no matter the quality of the song. And this is not quality. Her chorus is lovely, at least before the overproduced drop kicks in, but that has nothing to do with the song itself. The mixing is kind of awful, the song is repetitive and unadventurous, and the lyrics are annoyingly downplayed in the way that only Christian acts desperately trying to claw their way onto a non-K-Love radio station can achieve.

Jessica Doyle: “Christian rock finally got its ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This‘” is snark–but useful snark, as I try and imagine the person who loves “God Only Knows” as much as I love “What Have I Done to Deserve This.” And why not? Dolly’s more restrained voice balances the bombast, but the bombast is meant to cut through the layers of self-hatred and self-negation being addressed. It’s not a song for me, but I’m glad it exists.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: More church service-friendly than the original (mostly because of the acoustic guitar’s prominence, really), and Dolly Parton provides more warmth than Echosmith and Timbaland did on their remix. That half-completed “there’s a kind of love that/there’s a kind of love” bit is still unnecessary, but I’m still drawn to this song and its message of God’s approachability (or, rather, His willingness to approach you). It’s a song for when your pain feels impossible to share with others. It’s a song for Christians who feel isolated by the church. It’s a song for when you feel incredibly small. At the time of writing, it’s a song for me.

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