The Music Meme: Day 7

Day 7: A song that is your guilty pleasure

"Toxic" by Britney Spears

Some questions are pretty thoroughly loaded, and "What's your guilty pleasure?" is definitely one of them. The implication is that you enjoy something you should not, and that you are entirely aware that you should not. It's a question that presumes an awwwwful lot about you, your standards, and your interactions with other people; honestly, it's a question that places the power of social convention over the power of individual judgment. It's a strip-tease of a question, asking the respondent to say "Look how naughty I am!" while peeling off a glove and baring to the world something that, objectively, is no more shocking than the set of fingers you might see on any dental hygienist or gardener.

So yeah, I have some issues with this one. That's probably due to a personal taste in music that's catholic enough to qualify for membership in the Knights of Columbus. Though the bulk of the material stored in my music library is listed as Rock (589 hours' worth), Alternative (368), or Pop (100 even), there are 47 different genres in it--not just familiar divisions such as Country, Classical, Folk, Jazz, R&B, Reggae, and so on, but narrower genres such as Psychedelic Rock, Electronica, Southern, and "Diversen" (don't ask), not to mention recordings in the categories of Indie, Indie Rock, and Indi Rock. And it's not as though I have recordings of every single variety of music I enjoy, either. When you like this many kinds of music, it's hard to feel guilty about spreading that like to any one song, or even any one genre.

The other issue with "guilty pleasure" is that it presumes a certain degree of hypocrisy, and I've tried (lord I've tried) not to engage in such behavior with regard to music. It is certainly the case that I have learned to like some things I didn't much like the first time I heard them; the appeal of the Ramones, for example, eluded me even into college, but eventually I was able to wrap my head around their aesthetic and enjoy "We're a Happy Family" for what it is. But even in my younger and more judgmental days, while I might not express my approval of everything I liked, I would never seek social approval by professing to dislike something I actually enjoyed; I was far too much of a nerd for that. When a significant part of your identity involves the enjoyment of comic books featuring men in tights beating up other men in tights, it seems pretty stupid to profess superiority over people who like a particular song.

In short, there's a lot of music I like. There's also a lot of music I dislike. I will cheerfully discuss both sorts. But at this point in my life, it's hard to feel bad about placing a particular piece of music in either category.

So: here's a song that I think a lot of people might expect me to dislike, which is about as close as I can get to a guilty pleasure. It's performed by an artist whose personal choices have proven, um, questionable at times, and whose catalog is not one I've explored in much depth. But what matters here is the record: rhythmically intriguing (thanks to those terrific rhythm guitar strums) with a creative vocal arrangement (the mix of breathy and full-throated voices), a big ol' hook, and an outstanding use of the sampled string section. Whether credit for this song's success belongs to Ms. Spears, to songwriter/performers Cathy Dennis & Henrik Jonback (the former of whom also co-wrote Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," a song which pretty directly addresses the issue of "guilty pleasures"), and/or to producers Bloodshy & Avant I couldn't say, but I must call the end result a darned satisfying piece of popular entertainment. If that makes me guilty, so be it.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 12, 2017 10:50 AM.

The Music Meme: Day 6 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Music Meme: Day 8 is the next entry in this blog.

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