Have you ever eaten a sundae from Baskin Robbins (which has so many calories, it’s two or three days’ worth of food) and thought, “this is so fantastic, but… I shouldn’t be eating this” (meanwhile, licking that peanut butter-y hot fudge-esque sauce from the pink plastic spoon)? Well… come on. Of course you have.
Guilty pleasures are a huge part of life. In fact, there are books written about them, listing hundreds of common guilty pleasures, from Baywatch to romance novels. There’s something wonderous about sitting down in a nice quiet spot, away from prying, judging eyes, and enjoying that special, magical pleasure that’s soooo good but makes you feel sooooo bad.
For me, the best way to cleverly disguise a guilty pleasure is an ipod. The screen goes black and you can enjoy a cheesey, over-the-top boyband ballad like O-Town’s All Or Nothing in the privacy of your own head and if you’re wearing a flannel shirt, a chunky knit toque, plastic-framed glasses and Converse sneakers, everyone will assume you’re listening to The Stills. It’s like magic, oui?
Yes, for me, the best guilty pleasures are of a musical nature. I love music, and that true love comes at a price — sometimes you come across a song so catchy, you first hear it and revile its glitzy image and scantilly clad, talentless “singer”, parading around in her high heels, slathered in makeup and auto-tune. And then you hear it again, and it sticks. And soon, it’s on your playlist entitled “jogging” (which you listen to while power-walking to work in the morning). I am freely admitting to you now, 10 of my guiltiest musical pleasures (hold the hot fudge-esque peanut butter sauce and pink plastic spoon… I’m dieting).
Disclaimer: I’m leaving out the ‘classic’ guilty pleasure songs and only focusing on newer releases. Otherwise, I could never make a list of just ten.
10. The Jonas Brothers – When You Look Me in the Eyes. *Squeal* Who’s your favourite Jonas? The ugly one, or the one with the solo album who dissed Bob Dylan’s lack of vocal talent while on Jimmy Kimmel Live? Um… to me, there’s no difference. But when I hear this song, I am transported into a world of virtual high school nostalgia, of incredibly awkward slow dancing with a boy (who is dancing a mile apart from you but doing his best white-boy sway nonetheless) andd wearing one of those peasant dresses that was ever-so-popular in the 90s, complete with pacifier necklace and jean jacket. This song is the return of the s0-bad-it’s-good boy band ballad. It even has the empassioned rise-up bridge.
9. Miley Cyrus – Party in the USA. Everything this song stands for is an absolute nightmare. Ever see the video? Miley ‘Disney Dollars’ Cyrus parading around in short shorts and skanky cowboy boots in front of a dusty American flag, shaking her hips like ‘yeah’, high glossy production value, sexed-up imagery, party people kickin’ it into high gear during the chorus… FML… that chorus. It was the death of me from the first time I heard it. So catchy… so very, very catchy. Irresistably so. Hypnotically so. “You know it’s gonna be okay… yeahhhh… it’s a party in the USA…” On Much Music’s Video on Trial they raised a point about how offensive it is that Miley’s singing about a party in the United States admist all the crises, economic and socio-political. Okay, okay… as Canadians we’re inclined to point out these sorts of things, right? But… American musicals of the 1930s did the same thing, and were people offended by those? Hell no – they were at the movies as much as possible, soaking up bright colours and attractive starlets. This song I think, does the same. Not to mention that chorus… so catchy.
8. Ke$ha – Tik Tok. Have you seen this girl?! Jesus Christ. She kind of looks like that woman who got plastic surgey to look like a cat (though, that ‘cat’ ended up being a cougar). And she has absolutely NO vocal chops at ALL. Whatsoever. The “voice” she has is so saturated with production, it probably cost more to fix it up for the record than hire songwriters to pen all of these tracks. It’s a good thing Ke$ha is so massively successful now, they can afford to pay those people eight times over. When you first hear “woke up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy”, you are instantly exasperated by the appalling stupidity of the lyric. And then you stop caring, because suddenly, you’re dancing your ass off to what is the catchiest song of late 2009. Only a song THIS mainstream-tastic could outsell Lady Gaga.
7. John Mayer – Who Says. “But,” you might be saying, “John Mayer’s not a ‘guilty pleasure’… he’s legitimately talented and his songs have won awards!” Yes, this is true. But in my universe, someone who is a self-proclaimed “douchebag” and a not-so-self-proclaimed media/attention whore, who is always shooting off his mouth and pretending he’s so funny and so hip and has an opinion on everyone and everything in Hollywood, most certainly is. The Room For Squares sensitive geeky John Mayer is gone. And in his place, we have this man-whore monstrosity who almost begs people to hate him, and doesn’t care, as long as he gets the attention. Nevertheless, I heard this song once, and fell in love. It reminded me of old-school John Mayer, pre-fame John Mayer, the John Mayer I listened to in high school which allowed me to envision busting down the double doors at my own high school reunion. I just didn’t want to admit that to anyone.
6. Hedley – Don’t Talk to Strangers. First of all, creepy video (as usual… because Jacob Hoggard is a creepy frontman). Second of all, creepy subject-matter. Third of all, I hang my head in shame just after looking up at the sky and shouting with disdain, “DAMN YOU, HEDLEY! FOR RELEASING THE BEST SINGLE OF YOUR STUPID, SUCCESSFUL CAREER! DAMN YOU!” I never wanted to like a Hedley song enough to download it. And now this song comes up on my ipod and I turn down the volume just a little lower and listen, revelling in its hooks and chants and energy.
5. Demi Lovato – Get Back. With a voice like Kelly Clarkson Jr. and the ability to sport a bowler hat without looking stupid, I would find it hard-pressed to NOT like this girl. She’s pretty and funky and seems sweet enough and if I were a tween, I would be obsessed with her faux-punk, much in the same way that I loved Avril Lavigne when I was in grade 9. This song in particular is a masterpiece of guilt. Its horrible lyrics (“I wanna talk back and get yelled at/fight for nothing like we used to”… um… right…) are the stuff bubblegum pop is made of. The problem is when I find myself headbanging and air guitar-ing to this when it comes up on shuffle. Not that I’ve ever done that…….
4. Flo Rida ft. Ke$ha – Right Round. Ke$ha’s debut to the world is this horrible semi-cover song, re-hashing a great, iconic, androgynous piece of music history for monetary personal gain. Flo Rida is “popping these bottles, touching these models” while Ke$ha clunkily (if that’s a verb) auto-tunes her way through a call-and-response chorus line that screams “music is dead” throughout. And yet… remember how I mentioned Tik Tok earlier? Well… I like this song more than that song. It possesses an energic thump for me that is akin to a hetero version Queer as Folk‘s ‘Babylon’, should there be such a thing. Not to mention, the great 2009 comedy The Hangover would have been half a movie without this catchy-like-herpes tune playing during the end credits.
3. Beyonce – Sweet Dreams. Ironically, this song actually refers to ‘guilty pleasures’. It’s just so appropriate for my purposes. I’ve always maintained a hatred for Beyonce. She’s obnoxious and egotistical and in interviews, dumb as rocks. I don’t even like her voice, and I think she looks about ten years older than she actually is (not that there’s anything wrong with that persay, but it’s always seemed kind of odd to me anyways). Ever since Destiny’s Child, I’ve gone from lukewarm to ‘cooler-than-being-cool’ in terms of how I feel about her. And then, I loved this song, a lot actually, and it made me sad and it made me feel like a failure.
2. Dierks Bentley – Sideways. Every time I like a ‘corporate country’ song, I think a cute little animal dies somewhere, sacrificed to the Gods of music so that I may be allowed to live. And usually when I like a ‘corporate country’ song, it tends to be by Dierks Bentley (who got some cred from me firstly when he duetted with Patty Griffin and then when he was on the cover of the fantastic magazine, American Songwriter… I could justify liking him after that, sort of ). Sideways is a perfectly average, adequate country romp about bar fights and honky tonk and comin’ back for more. Bentley’s deep vocals and sort-of-spirited delivery make the song worth listening to, and again, it’s that catchy factor. When the weather’s nice and you’re in the mood to go out and be energetic and party it up, it doesn’t get much better than this, even though admitting that wounds my music snob soul.
1. Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling. This song is the ultimate, quintessential, text book example of a guilty pleasure. Played everywhere, it was ubiquitous in 2009, the song of the minute, played on every commercial, in every bar, at every special event and restaurant and on every radio station. It grew successful the same was cancerous tumours do, and to me at first, the crime of this fact was just as painful and sickening. I went on and on and on about how painful it was to listen to, how only Ed Hardy-clad douchebags would like it, and so on and so forth. And then a friend’s boyfriend admitted to liking it and all we did was make fun of him for it (and still do, actually). And then the day came when I couldn’t deny it anymore; I hated myself as I downloaded it and listened to it (the first time, twice in a row). The Black Eyed Peas have been the guilty pleasure thorn in my side ever since the release of Elephunk, the biggest hit album of my high school years. Their music, despite its airheaded stupidity, is constantly making waves with mainstream audiences and every time they release a new single, I want to hate it, try to hate it, but even their worst songs are difficult not to enjoy. I Gotta Feeling exemplifies both what’s wrong with music, and what’s harmless about it.