|THESE TEN SONGS WILL MAKE YOU FEEL TERRIBLE FOR LOVING THEM SO.|
|By Molly Simms||
There are some people who'll tell you that to feel guilt for anything you whole-heartedly enjoy is a crime. They'll say that life offers you few moments to revel in something you love, and when those moments come around, you have to embrace them.
There are people who say that they have little use for the opinions of others when it comes to their pleasures, and they stand satisfied in their desires, not taking into account the cool or uncoolness of what they love. I'm not one of those people. Yes, yes, I know that everybody's quirks make them a special snowflake, but there's nobody who can tell me that wriggling with joy when you hear the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes" is okay. It's just unacceptable.
So in thinking about guilty pleasures, I considered music that you'd turn down abruptly if anybody you wanted to bone heard it streaming from your car stereo. I'm talking about your Wings, your ABBA, your mid-nineties crap like Bush. So pull down the shades and bust out your D&D figurines. It's time to head into the belly of the beast.
The first time I heard this song, I was driving through my college campus with a friend. Our ears perked up as we heard the jerky guitar work and the woo-woo singalong of the chorus. We were young, and we had no context for this perfect ballad. It wasn't until a month later that we spied the video for "Miserable" and were shamed with the realization that we'd been listening to the kind of watery rock-pablum that bands like Blink 182 roll around in like pigs in shit. If you haven't seen the video, be aware of the fact that it prominently features Pamela Anderson. This was the same kind of rock that Avril Lavigne now calls punk and anyone older than 16 knows better than to savor. With their injection-molded plasticky hair and "Hot Topic" wallet chains, Lit is the band your grandma thinks you just LOVE. Lookee those tattoos! And their growly tough-guy faces! But for people who've seen GG Allin shove a broken bottle up his ass, this posturing is a little ineffective. Suffice it to say that any member of Lit would look at home waxing his legs, applying Biore strips, and settling in for a new episode of "Antiques Roadshow." The caricature of macho-ness, the moments of thrashy electric guitars -- they can't disguise the fact that this band has nothing worthwhile to offer us. Nothing, that is, but one great goddamn song.
Like a few ladies I know, I have a now-useless degree from a fancy, predominantly female college, framed in my childhood bedroom. At this very school, I read Camille Paglia, discussed the sexist undertones of the show "Ally McBeal," and learned to chastise men for calling me "baby" or "girl." It was also at this school that I first started to appreciate the artist I know and love as "Slick Rick." In those heady days of my Rick love, I listened to him like a fugitive slipping across the state line: furtively. His blatant misogyny, coupled with his homophobia, made him an unlikely candidate for my worship. But that sleazy, sing-songy voice and his ghetto-Shakespeare manner won me over in the end. Sweet lullabies like "Treat Her Like a Prostitute" and "Lick the Balls" make Slick Rick one of the guiltiest pleasures to my book-learned mind.
Hall and Oates
That Hall! That Oates! That glamorous feathery hair! Uncool, thy name is this band. Though they're experiencing a resurgence as music to ironically smoke crack to on the NYC's Lower East Side, it's hard to make a case for anything this duo created as particularly spectacular. Hits like "Kiss On My List" and "She's Gone," will be forever imprinted in my mind as the theme songs for dental appointments and visits to the DMV. Visually, they're a disaster. Their videos are time capsules from an era when average Joes incorporated neon into all their outfits. And could they look more like a low-rent Siegfried and Roy, minus the tigers but with the same sexual tension? However, when the H&O combine for firecrackers like "Rich Girl" and "I Can't Go For That," all memories of their past transgressions will be erased from your mind (or at least momentarily shoved out of the way). The beats are perfect, the synthesizers delicate and more meticulously crafted than Liberace's wedding dress. Still, blasting "Maneater" from your boombox as you stroll down the street will pretty much guarantee you'll never get ass again. Nonetheless, I urge you to throw caution to the wind and buy Hall and Oates' greatest hits collection. Listen to it in your room with the door closed and the windows shut real tight.
To even begin to discuss my one-time love of the Spin Doctors is to dive so deeply into a well of dorkiness that I fear I may never recover. But I'll lay it all out on the table for you. I had the albums, the bootlegs, the posters, and the magazine clippings of a real rabid fan. I stopped just short of writing a letter to the lead singer, Chris Barron, and confessing my love for him, even though in my current, rational brain I know that he looks like Jesus, if Jesus were a redheaded homeless man. Even then I knew that what I was doing was very, very wrong. But my arguments and protestations won't help the fact that I revel in what this band concocted. Sure, they were a jam band with stoner lyrics so corny that I cannot repeat them here, but can you recall a string of more entertaining pop songs? "Two Princes" and "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" are truly songs meant for lite beer commercials, but they're the reason my tape of the album "Pocketful of Kryptonite" was played so frequently that it made hissing noises, and eventually snapped. The other night while eating at a restaurant, I saw the drummer walk in and felt a little pang of excitement. For a second, I wanted to ask for his autograph, but then I caught myself -- I stopped giving a shit in junior high. But I wanted it anyway.
When Sheryl Crow was a fresh-faced troubadour with a kicky little song about havin' some fun, none of us knew that one day she'd be gracing the cover of the jack-off magazine "Stuff" and using a trowel to spackle on her glittery foundation makeup. Back in those glory days, she held the promise of being the next great female folk-pop singer, and was awash in hopeful publicity and musical credibility. Now any seriousness she's gained has been magically rinsed away by her associations with Kid Rock, and her single, "Soak up the Sun," which is tailor-made for an overly-graphic tampon commercial. Maybe, for me, the shine is off the apple because she's so well-known and so universally endorsed. Or maybe it's the fact that my taste for the whole "girl with a guitar" genre disappeared with my taste for poetry readings and guys who are "brooding." Either way, Sheryl Crow and I broke up years ago, and it doesn't look like there's any hope of reconciliation. However, songs like "Strong Enough", "All I Wanna Do" and the stupendous "My Favorite Mistake" keep me coming back like a domestic violence victim who just can't learn. That's why you'll find her album, "The Globe Sessions" in my collection. Hidden at the back. In an unmarked case.
Steve Miller Band
I did not grow up listening to classic rock. My parents schooled me in Earth, Wind and Fire and Steely Dan, and regarded the shadowy world of classic rock as something we just didn't dabble in. As an adult, I'm coming to understand the appeal of the genre, and I'm learning slowly about the ways of Led Zeppelin and The Yardbirds. But it's with a heavy heart that I come around to face my love of Steve Miller Band. SMB is sitting on a lawn chair, drinking warm beer out of a can. It's driving to the beach with all the windows down. It's not exciting, and it won't break any ground for genius, but it's satisfying in its easy, swinging mediocrity. The vocals sound sleepy, like a haze of Valium and tequila, which is probably the best state in which to enjoy this sunny rock and roll.
I went to the doctor, I went to the mountain, I looked to the children, and then I went to the used record store to sell all the Indigo Girls albums I'd ever owned. I was 16, and my only requirement for music was that it be very loud and extremely furious. And now, even my one-time ownership of anything by this folksy duo seems grounds for you to reach through the computer screen and shank me in the back with a Bic pen. But I beg of you, judge not. Please show me a white girl in her twenties who grew up in the 'burbs, and I'll show you a girl who knows the lyrics to "Chickenman." With their harmonies that seem specially crafted for sorority girls who just love to karaoke, and their mystical lyrics, they've put themselves into a class that can't be touched by the realms of reason or good musical taste. Over the past decade, the Indigo Girls have devolved into a lesbo-tronic cultural joke for anyone who considers themself musically aware. Still, that won't stop me from getting a little misty when I hear songs like, "Mystery", off their weepy, vaginal album, "Swamp Ophelia." So come on down to the vegan coffee shop to hear an Indigo Girls acoustic cover band this weekend. I'll be the one in sunglasses and a burqa.
In the fire sale that is my dignity right now, this could very well be the item that pushes me off the cliff of hip and into the abyss of chain restaurants and patterned fanny packs. From a high school lifetime spent in the drama department with all the potheads and future homosexuals, I learned a thing or ten about musicals. Namely, I can sing pretty much any song from a popular musical well enough to fool you into thinking that I'm a thirty year-old virgin with a My Little Pony collection. What sets "Grease" apart as being the most humiliating in my store of extremely embarrassing knowledge is the stronghold it's captured in the heart of all America's least-desirables. Whether it's so popular because of the music or the way that viewers liked imagining getting swept up in John Travolta's dago arms, I have no idea. The way it's constantly played and replayed on channels like TNT has affirmed it as one of our culture's most beloved pieces of trifling crap. And I love, love it to death. "Hopelessly Devoted to You" is right up there with the prettiest love songs ever written, and Olivia Newton-John and her small boobies just sing the shit out of it. "Summer Nights" is a teenage epic that, in the film, is over-the-top enough to be a Civil War battle scene. From start to finish, minus a few odd glitches, the soundtrack is masterpiece of shmaltz. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
Backstreet Boys, "I Want It That Way"
So fresh and so clean. The Backstreet Boys are an obvious choice for music that makes you feel guilty while you listen. They're hated by music critics and adored by teenage girls, a famously undemanding audience. Why do they deserve mention in this, a list of the most gratifying musical horrors ever dropped on mankind? All because of one corny song that refuses to remove itself from your head, violently forcing you to sing its incomprehensible lyrics. "I Want it That Way" is like an enema for your ears: it cleanses out everything complicated and leaves behind only sterile pleasantness. It slips in undetected and molests the fabric of your intelligent mind. I have witnessed utter music snobs speaking in hushed tones about their love of this song, followed by a million apologies and a few Hail Marys. It's as if the stinker of a film, "Josie and the Pussycats" had come to life in vivid color, and this song contains the mind-controlling hidden messages. Even more disturbing, no one seems to understand what "way" the singer wants it, though many have hinted that the answer is obvious (anally, of course). Frankly, I don't give a shit. As long as they keep playing this song on Z100, I'll keep turning it to 11 while I cruise around in the car. Witness protection, here I come!
Creed "One Last Breath"
Most of my recent years have been spent absent-mindedly avoiding Top
40 radio, so many hit pop songs escape my listening, especially in the
"hard rock" vein. I've always regarded Creed as being one of
our worst blights upon the world. The music was abhorrent and the frontman
was doing the shoddiest Jim Morrison impersonation ever committed to music
video. And nothing's changed. They still put out albums that I regard
as musical anthrax and I giggle every time I think about the recent incident
involving Scott Stapp's wife beating him in the face with a cell phone.
But a few months ago, I sat in a karaoke bar in a sleepy, blue-collar
town in Rhode Island, listening to the regulars do their thing. There
were the expected Patsy Cline numbers, a few Britney tunes, some nu-country,
and then a song I didn't recognize, sung by a man who was throwing his
back into it. His voice suited the tune perfectly, and the lyrics seemed
to express something he'd been wanting to get out for a long fucking time.
You could have knocked me over with a cotton swab when I saw the band's
name pop up at the end of the song. At first I felt like I'd unexpectedly
gotten an STD -- I'd been infected with the virus! -- but I threw caution
to the wind and decided to embrace the charm in its suck. Now I've enrolled
in a 12-step program and I'm willing to admit that "One Last Breath"
is the chink in my good-taste armor. I'm taking it one day at a time.
Molly Simms, the former music editor of Bust magazine, writes for money. Sadly, the Black Table doesn't pay any money. We are now in hiding.