Guilty Pleasures

Jeff's Guilty Pleasures

December 2010

Berkeley, CA

Guilty pleasures are things you like even though you know better, like Cinnabons or Doritos. So, there is an inherent danger identifying musical guilty pleasures. First, it opens one's self to endless mocking. OMG, you like that? Loser! Second, offending someone who thinks their favorite band is not something to be hidden but celebrated! What’s wrong with Justin Bieber? Nevertheless, I’ve never been one to avoid the minefield and so here they are:

1. Styx

There is something so cheesy about Styx that you can't help but love the band. From Domo Ariagato, Mr. Roboto to Lady, Styx had something for everyone to hate. But, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more earnest band. Despite being panned as 'corporate rock,' Styx recorded some great songs and I think they are overdue for a resurgence of respect, a la Rush, Bob Seger or even Britney Spears. Who doesn't love 'Come Sail Away' from its plaintive nostalgic beginning to its extraterrestrial ending? The song is the banal American answer to the artistry of Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven' and is more fun besides. Other songs to enjoy guiltily: Fooling Yourself (one of the best Stuart Smalley self-affirmation songs ever), Lorelei, Renegade (for the next crime spree in a Tarantino flick).

2. Fleetwood Mac

OK, you might be thinking that this list is all about the 70s and you'd be mostly right. Although the 70s has gotten more props recently, it is still much maligned by the musical intelligentsia. The Mac has also been frequently mocked as just another phenomenon that white people like, particularly old white people who listen to Pandora radio stations based on Gerry Rafferty and the Little River Band. Of course, the band is one of the most popular white-people bands ever- which leads to the obvious question: If a band is a multi-platinum selling artist that is a cultural touchstone, can it be a guilty pleasure? The Answer: Yes, yes, it can. Ask yourself this: you're out on a date with a woman of style and substance, do you put on Fleetwood Mac? No, no you don’t. Enuf said. Songs to enjoy guiltily: Monday morning, Oh well, Tusk, Gold-dust woman.

3. Grease

OK, not exactly a band, more like a movie but it does continue the 70s theme, though it's really the 70s does the 50s. In any case, I don't think Grease contains a single bad song from ‘Summer Loving’ to ‘We Go Together,’ nearly every song evokes the innocence of high school romance as portrayed by actors in their 30s and 40s. Grease also contain one of the greatest love song of all time, 'Hopelessly Devoted to You.’ Grease was pretty thoroughly panned when it came out, it was a musical in an age of dramas, the over-acting was campy, the story cliché, and the cinematography fairly amateurish. Now, it is overplayed as a rerun on TNT or TBS, one of those, but it is still worth a viewing if you haven’t seen it for a while.

4. Shania Twain

And now we’re well into the guilty pleasure zone. There are not many rockers who would admit to liking a country artist; especially someone's who primary talent is looking hot. Shania’s songs are simplistic, country pop. Of course, ST is old school now, like an older, cooler Taylor Swift. Country music is inherently corny so it's difficult to really single out a guilty pleasure since all country music is a guilty pleasure. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule: Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings. But they are not as cute as the Dixie Chicks or Taylor Swift or Shania Twain. If you want some empty country calories, you could do worse than “Don’t Impress Me Much,” or “Still the One.” OK, OK, you couldn't do much worse, but I like watching Shania sing.

5. Madonna

Maybe another eye-candy entry but I still enjoy “Lucky Star,” “Ray of Light,” and “Borderline.” I think this entry is similar to The Mac above in failing the date test despite the Madonna's super-popularity. Although I don’t search my music library for either Madonna or Fleetwoodie, when the e-shuffle pulls up one of their tracks, I enjoy it. (Brief Aside on the Evils of I-Tunes’ Genius: I don’t want 100 variations of chocolate; I want 100 different flavors of ice cream). It’s hard to explain the 80s to people who didn’t live through it. It can be summed it up by this: video killed the radio star. Madonna was a video star so part of the problem. But she is a fighter and a survivor. Yes, it is probably time for her to step aside, live off the royalties, and make a peaceful transition of power to Lady Gaga, but she’s still a guilty pleasure.


Anonymous said...

Great Christmas gift. Thank you, Jeff. So my guilty pleasure, is more a genre than a band. Yes, (cringe) disco. Sometimes I refer to it as R&B but who am I kidding? When I go to the bay area I love listening to 98..1 Ha! So there, I said it. Guilty as charged.

Anonymous said...

My guiltiest of pleasures: ABBA.

FWIW, Styx leaves me feeling far more guilty than Fleetwood Mac.

Anonymous said...

My guilty pleasure is from another genre entirely: the soundtrack from "The Sound of Music." Can't get enough of it! Neither can my 3 year old daughter! -- Clara