The songs we sing in the shower tell us far more about ourselves than those we discuss in public. For example, the guy at the tattoo shop who is blasting Slayer? I can almost guarantee you that he knows all the words to The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.” Your next-door neighbor who will not stop with the Nine Inch Nails at all hours of the night? That guy has at least one, if not two Enya CDs. I know a guy who professes to be an opera lover and gets very snooty about other genres of music, but he knows all the words to “Miracles” from Insane Clown Posse. I have Phish stickers on my car, but am I belting out Corey Hart’s “Never Surrender” when it comes on the radio? You bet I am.
I used to believe very strongly in the idea of a “guilty pleasure.” According to Wikipedia, a guilty pleasure is “something, such as a film, a television program, or a piece of music that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.” The important part of that definition is the word “feeling.” If you feel something isn’t worthy of your time, yet you devote time to it anyway, that’s what makes it a guilty pleasure. A guilty pleasure song is the aural equivalent of a Hot Pocket. You know it’s terrible, but you’re doing it anyway, and it is delicious.
A two-second Google search for “guilty pleasure music” turned up a slew of results, from a Spotify playlist courtesy of The Quietus to one made up of “summer songs” from Entertainment Weekly (which, one could argue, is a guilty pleasure in and of itself).
I’ve changed my mind, however, about the “guilty” part of guilty pleasures. I’m not sure when I made that shift from sheepishly mumbling along to Haddaway’s “What Is Love” into the full-tilt car-boogie dance routine I do now, but I just don’t care what people think anymore. I’m enthusiastic in my consumption of popular culture and you should be, too!
My favorite [former] “guilty pleasure” song of all time is “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. I am completely sincere about my love for this song, ask anyone. It’s a fun, dance-y pop song that is all about how ol’ Rick is going to be the Best! Boyfriend! Ever! He’s never gonna give you up, let you down, run around or desert you! Lyrics aside, the song itself is pure 80s bubblegum fluff. From the electronic drums to the smooth synth, this song tells you right up front that we are going to dance! Awkwardly!
There is a reason why this became one of the greatest memes on the internet. It’s not that it’s the best song ever written (that’s a debate for another day), it’s because this is a goofy, silly, song that sounds just as goofy and silly as the lyrics would lead you to believe. Back when RickRolling was all the rage, people would click, see the video pop up, and groan. But a sizeable number of folks would give it a listen, and maybe those folks found themselves humming it off and on throughout the rest of the day. Those people are my people.
That’s how, sometimes, a guilty pleasure becomes a genuine pleasure. Everyone has one, and the ones who say they don’t are either lying, trying to sleep with you, or both. I’ve told you mine, what’s yours?