The Beatles, “You Really Got A Hold On Me”

With the Beatles

It is the ultimate hook. Covers of this song transcend every genre era. And we have the Beatles to thank for that. Motown artists, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and She & Him (mostly Zooey Deschanel) have all done wildly successful covers. The lyrics and rhythm have a hold on us, and our culture. We are the eager fish who have taken the bait. And we’re happy about it. As if the lyrics didn’t spell it out clearly enough (I think “You treat me badly, I love you madly” is pretty clear), the Beatles’ seductive, angst-y guitar lets you know that you will get/are getting hurt by the lover. The song endears itself to the current generation of young adults, who are achingly desperate for security; so much so, that we they willingly accept abuse and pain. The song’s longevity and popularity give us permission and encouragement to not only seek out, but also to remain in unhealthy, possessive relationships, be it with friends, lovers, workplaces, food, lifestyle choices (looking at you, Netflix binges), or even family. It strips the listener who identifies with the song of any agency, replacing the hurt with a sweet heartache. The doo-wop, the sex appeal, and the consistency of each of the covers lull the listener into a popular music stupor that continues to glorify possessive relationships. But the media/time/mind control(?) has us convinced that we like it; if you’ve ever found yourself singing along, knowing the words perfectly to a song you hate (oops, “Blurred Lines”), you know what I’m talking about. And it’s always followed by the “But it’s just too damn catchy” moment and I continue bopping along. It’s really got a hold on me.

—Elizabeth Doyle

Beatles version

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles version