Ask any audiophile about her or his musical “guilty pleasures,” and you will likely get some spiel about how they never feel guilty about music, even if it’s not cool.
It’s come to the point where accepting a term like “guilty pleasure” is just admitting the fact that you are subject to the musical influences of society (AKA “the man”).
To these people I offer a test: have a song from “The Music Man” come up on shuffle at a party and just TRY not to be embarrassed. It’s impossible. The situation will inevitably cause trouble – with a capital T and that rhymes with P and and that stands for pool! (shout-out to my musical nerds.)
So while I agree that you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about whatever it is that makes you happy in music, I am also realistic that you will anyway. Most of us experience moments when our actual, gut-level musical tastes venture outside these socially acceptable spheres.
To make things more confusing, there is yet another factor in this equation – the ever growing role of irony. Songs that were once banished to the Land of the Lame are now reclaimed and enjoyed for the very quirk and novelty they found there. It can get to the point when it’s hard to tell where the layers of irony end and true enjoyment begins. I have often even agreed with someone’s “ironic” enthusiasm with “actual” praise for music, only to be met with an awkward moment when you realize that the other person doesn’t actually like the song. Rather they are just mocking the sort of person who would (i.e. you) and say something like-,“Wait, you ACTUALLY like Hall & Oates??”
So, to be clear: Here is a list of songs I love from genres that 1. I do admit might be slightly embarrassing to enjoy in public. Let’s just say, if I play them in my car, my windows are probably rolled up. And 2. Despite this fact, I still like the songs without a shred of irony. These three of my personal picks for songs are from genres that, though they may not be considered hip, can still beg to be repeated again and again.
Artists: Dolly Parton and Kenny Loggins
Song: Islands in the Stream
Embarrassment Genre: Full Cheese Country Glam
Yes, it’s sentimental. Yes, Dolly might have the big hair and rhinestones of a country diva. On top of this, Kenny Loggins is at the apex of his hokey bearded glory. But despite all these possible points for judgement, this song has an undeniably beautiful melody. And you know what – I unabashedly love all things Dolly Parton. (There I said it!)
File with: John Denver, Neil Diamond
Artist: Dave Matthews Band
Song: Ants Marching
Embarrassment Genre: Bro Jams
The first concert I ever went to was a DMB show in sixth grade. And though I rarely listen to them anymore, I will always cheer up listening to this song. Through all of Dave’s scrunchy-faced signing and past the fiddle-jams, this band has made some solid tunes that I might just turn on during long road trips and still remember every lyric.
File with: Jack Johnson, Sublime
Song: Gagnam Style
Embarrassment genre: K-pop/Undeniable Danceability
A lot of people feel no guilt about this one, but I’m including it because it is the best recent example of the kind of “guilty pleasure” song that – even if you claim to hate – can still access your dance-gene and make you want to move. You might as well follow its creator’s motto: “dress classy, dance cheesy.”
File with: Flo Rida’s “Low,” Missy Elliot’s “Lose Control”