Guilty Pleasures

The other day I was trying to organize the music on my ipod and also transfer some songs from my CD collection, which led to a number of small moments of existential crisis: is this really the music I like? Am I willing to admit it?

I usually think of myself as a bit of a music snob -- I mean, I'm not one of those assholes who stops listening to bands the moment more than ten people have heard of them, but I love my KEXP and I see a lot of indie-rock shows (or, well, I did, until I moved to the corn fields of Iowa). On my list of dream vacations would be both South by Southwest and Coachella.

And yet there's the ipod evidence. Mixed in with the Pixies and the Arcade Fire and Hendrix and the Beatles and Gnarls Barkley and Bloc Party, there's ... Journey? Billy Joel? Bananarama? Holy lord. Is this really who I am?

In an attempt to atone for my musical sins, or at least purge some of the guilt, I've decided the best thing I can do is admit to these embarrasing guilty pleasures in a public forum. Kind of like AA, but for questionable musical taste. Before you keel over laughing, though, take a look at what you've got on your own ipod. You may be surprised.

The Bangles -- Hazy Shade of Winter. Yes, I know: the Bangles. Though you have to admit that Susanna Hoffs is hot, right? And now that she's done that album of covers with Matthew Sweet, she's gained some street cred, right? Right? This song is from the title sequence of the movie Less Than Zero, which I happened to really like circa eighth or ninth grade. I once bought an album of movie hits from the 80's just for this tune, and, to a lesser extent, the Simple Minds song "Don't You (Forget About Me)."

Bananarama -- Cruel Summer. Another movie song, this one from The Karate Kid. So, we've got a song I shouldn't admit to liking from a movie I shouldn't admit to liking. But you know what? I like both of them. Hey, this feels pretty good. Cleansing.

Journey -- When the Lights Go Down In the City. I think Journey is one of those bands that people only pretend they're enjoying ironically. Well, I'm not pretending anymore. I dig me some Journey. You got a problem with that, you skinny little hipster douchebag? Because I noticed you were singing along to "Open Arms," but I'm sure you just memorized those lyrics as a goof, right?

Don Henley -- Boys of Summer. You know what made me mad? When that band The Ataris remade this song. You know what made me madder? When I had to admit I liked "Boys of Summer" enough to be angered by the remake. Maybe it's because I grew up by a beach, and fall is my favorite season, so this song was always particularly evocative. Or maybe I just have no taste.

Michael Penn -- No Myth. Is this even a guilty pleasure, or have we admitted yet that Michael Penn is really talented? (You should download the new song "Walter Reed" if you don't believe me.) I particularly like that this song celebrates the once-fashionable black jean. I don't want to turn this post into an episode of I Love the 80's, but does anyone else remember when you could get jeans in just about any color of the rainbow? I had a pair of brown jeans, and a pair of green jeans. That's right -- all of my embarrasing shit is coming out today.

Dave Matthews Band -- Warehouse. I know I'm supposed to dislike Dave Matthews, and mostly I do. But I went to college in Virginia right around the time Under the Table and Dreaming came out -- there was a brief period there when no one outside of the state seemed to know who Dave Matthews was, but around campus he was referred to simply as "Dave," as if he was everyone's best buddy. I lived in this massive freshman dorm, and walking down the halls you'd hear Dave Matthews coming from about 50% of the rooms (the other half divided equally between Blues Traveler, Live, and Phish). You'd think hearing Dave Matthews all the time would have made me hate his music, but oddly enough, I've retained a kind of odd fondness for certain songs. If I put this on, I can almost smell the stale Beast Light.

Cyndi Lauper -- Time After Time. Okay, I have no real defense for this. I am the lamest man ever.

The Beach Boys -- Wendy. I know that the best Beach Boys album is Pet Sounds. I know, I know, I know. It really is a great album. But I'm still a big fan of Endless Summer, the rather simplistic ode to surfing, cute girls, school spirit and (this is subtext, of course) lost innocence. When I was a little kid and took road trips with my parents, I would listen to Endless Summer on my Walkman over and over again. I think I liked it because the songs added up to a kind of story, and also because part of that story had to do with high school. When you're a little kid, high school seems like just about the coolest place on Earth. Which, in hindsight, is pretty damn funny.

Concrete Blonde -- Joey. Is this a guilty pleasure? Concrete Blonde is considered good, right? Whatever. I like this song, whether I'm supposed to or not.

Sarah McLachlan -- Adia. This song sounds like it should be playing over the end credits of a particularly weepy episode of Dawson's Creek, but I still enjoy it. Like Susanna Hoffs, Sarah McLachlan is hot, and that should count for something, right?

Billy Joel -- Say Goodbye to Hollywood. On those long-ago road trips with the parents, when I got tired of Endless Summer, I'd often listen to Billy Joel (at the age of three or four, my musical taste was pretty well limited by what my parents had available, which meant the Beach Boys, Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkle and Fleetwood Mac.) My dad used to buy albums and then record them onto hi-fi tape, so I had The Stranger on one side and Turnstiles on the other. Now that I'm older, I realize Billy Joel is pretty cheesy, but I still enjoy certain songs in moderation, like this one.

Poison -- Talk Dirty to Me / Motley Crue -- Kickstart My Heart. These songs were both out when I was in middle school. Man, they sure rocked. And they were both kind of dirty, which only added to the allure. A lot of the hair metal I liked back then I find hard to listen to now (Whitesnake, or Def Leppard, for instance), but these two are still pretty okay.

Asia -- Heat of the Moment. I honestly can't tell anymore whether I appreciate this song ironically, or unironically, or half-ironically. All I know is that if it comes on the radio, I'm usually not going to change the station. It's like a middle school dance plus a roller-skate birthday party rolled into one.

hope you've enjoyed this little guided tour through my shame. But I'm sure I'm not the only one with guilty pleasures -- feel free to leave your own in the comments field.


TMC said...

As long as you're embarrassing yourself, you might as well tell people again about how you cry when you watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.

dave said...

I have a lot of these:

ANYTHING THAT SOUNDS LIKE AC/DC: Buckcherry, Jet, the Mooney Suzuki, anything. Of course, AC/DC themselves are a huge guilty pleasure, although not really that guilty anymore.

Goddam, this song is lame. It's been in like every bad, terrible movie or commercial over the past two decades and still I like it.

There was a time there when the Alarm were looking like they were going to be U2.

Anything. Dave Mathews doing Daniel Lanois. The Gourds going Snoop. My Morning Jacket doing the Band (this one, actually, is seriously fucking great -- MMJ and Eddie Vedder doing "It Makes No Difference" -- holy shit). Anything. It doesn't really matter, but something about bands doing covers is more interesting than most of their original stuff. The Ted Leo cover of the Kelly Clarkson song? Brilliant!

Okay, early Elton John. Like, Don't Shoot Me I'm Just the Piano Player Elton John. Before all this Liz Taylor Princess Di bullshit, the dude was allright.

Oh, and I second Mike on the Billy Joel. And on any hair metal.

Kistulentz said...

Oh my Housley, the Alarm...saw them with The Long Ryders (who were that cowpunk thing that never quite took off) and Modern English (the melt with you people) at University Hall in Charlottesville in 1986. Still one of the best shows I've ever seen.

Sad, isn't it.

For me, it's the one off "supergroup".

Check out Havana 3AM, which has guys from The Clash and The Figures, and or the Neurotic Outsiders (John Taylor from Duran Duran, Steve Jones, Duff and Matt from GNR).