Robert Bunter: I'm going to out on a limb and call this the first sophisticated song in the illustrious Lennon-McCartney catalogue. Sure, there were other tracks that hinted to listeners that this was more than some primitive shagheads who wanted to hold some girl's clammy hand, but when those melancholy jazz vocal harmonies come out of nowhere on "This Boy," we all found out that we were dealing with geniuses.
Richard Furnstein: I'm not going to deny that it is a unique pleasure in the early catalog. I am slightly insulted by the idea that many of the early highlights weren't sophisticated (I think we can both cite moments of genius in the early Beatles, dear friend). Clearly, this song gets a lot of attention due to the restraint shown by these fiery pillheads and the angelic stackings pouring from their middle class mouths.
Robert Bunter: I know! Where did they learn how to sing like that? How did they do it? It surely wasn't from the choirmaster at Quarry Bank grammar school, I'll tell you that. I'll tell you how they did it: by standing around and practicing singing all day and having that be their main deal in life, man!
Richard Furnstein: Like many early ballads, the release is key here. Lennon breaks out in full on wail mode. He steps out of the groovy harmony background to directly plead with the young lady. It's the one moment that really unifies this song with many of the early ragers. Oh, and I've always loved that George Harrison outro: a little island flavor to clear the air of some heavy teenage emotions. A little splash of warm pineapple juice in your tearing eyes. Speaking of tears, the "Ringo's Theme (This Boy)" scene from A Hard Day's Night will get me every single time. Pure beauty.
Robert Bunter: I would hate to be the other boy in this song, or the girl. Her betraying heart and his thieving Casanovery are about to receive a smooth, jazz-inflected beatdown by a melancholy man I like to call The Beatles. Watch out, jack! He's going to punch you in the skull and walk into the future with his beloved. Get out of the way if you know what's good for you.