Come on, we all have them. It may be Disney cartoons, ’90s teen flicks (this coming from the guy who proudly owns Can’t Hardly Wait), or the sappiest Nora Roberts book you found at your neighbourhood Salvation Army, but we all have guilty pleasures.
Obviously, my guilty pleasures would be music (as if I write about much else), but I may also be confused about what a guilty pleasure is. From what I figure, a guilty pleasure is something that exists outside the parameters of what you normally like or what others would perceive that you would normally like, so you’re embarrassed to like these things.
Seeing as I’ve posted about everything from the songs that helped me not lose my mind as a teenager to my semi-mutilated genitals, it’s easy to assume that all barriers are down and there is nothing left to shame.
But truth be told, these are all songs I truly love. When they come on the radio, I turn it up and stop what I’m doing to pay what I’m listening to a little more attention.
Further, these are songs I don’t seem to ever get sick of. Like most other suburban boys angry at particularly nothing except for the fact he’s a suburban boy and nothing makes sense in the world, I hopped between genres a lot as “my thing.” Especially subgenres. Seeing as I became fixated on subgenres a lot as a kid, I got sick of a lot of bands really quick.
Like, really, how many mosh-laden southern California ’90s straight-edge-esque revival bands can one guy listen to before he can’t tell the band apart?
I guess each of these songs are just really individual to me. They each have a specific sound, specific theme, specific memory attached, and carry a specific emotion that I don’t get from most other music.
I guess in a sense, this is almost a “favourite songs of all time” list – if it weren’t for the fact that I’m damn embarrassed to love some of these songs so much I’ve written a mini-essay on each of them.
So, now for the top eleven songs that will probably make you stop scrolling through and say to yourself, “huh, he likes that? Really?”
And why eleven? I have a guilty pleasure for prime numbers…
And math jokes.
11. New Order: Regret
You’re probably asking yourself, “why is New Order a guilty pleasure?” Here’s what I figure. Joy Division is infallible to music fans. You mention anything Ian Curtis ever did to anyone who even spends a remote amount of time in a record store and that person will get weak in the knees humming “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
Joy Division is loved for Curtis’ brooding lyrics, the dark overtones in the music, and the droning rhythm that drives this depression machine.
New Order was kind of a huge u-turn for Brennan Sumner, writing dancey, pop songs that were upbeat and easily accessible. The danciest and most upbeat of his songs is easily “Regret.” Hell, I used to hear that song all the time while I slaved and sweated in my demeaning department store job. Even hearing it on a constant thirty minute loop during my eight-hour shifts couldn’t kill this song for me. I’d actually figure out the songs order and when I knew New Order was about to come on I’d find a place I could slack off for four-minutes and listen and get the only enjoyment out of those horrible days before some middle-aged woman would yell at me about a discount for a straw hat.
10. The Ataris: Boys of Summer
It’s no secret that I love pop-punk (refer to the last thirty posts where I go on non-stop about the Wonder Years), but even pop-punk fans tend to shun So Long, Astoria, sometimes even worse than Welcome the Night (that record gets shunned so bad most music fans don’t even know it exists… probably for the better).
With brilliant records like End is Forever and Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…why in God’s name would I ever listen to that radio-abomination?
It’s fucking catchy.
Actually, that whole record is really catchy. “In This Diary” is so beyond teen-drama sappy I can’t help but fall in love with it as I place the cast from Boy Meets World into Kris Roe’s life story. The Don Henley cover is no exception to the ridiculous hooks and teenage nostalgia that, let’s face it, I only experienced watching a lot of TV in the ’90s. Kris Roe wrote about the youth I wish I had, filled with mischief and girls and good times, rather than the youth I actually had, filled with neuroses and angst.
This album makes me wish I was a happier person.
9. All-American Reject: The entire first record
I was in high school, I was going through a bad breakup, I felt like no one wanted to hear me whine (this was before I started blogging) so this album was the perfect outlet for me feeling heartbroken but wanting to go back out there, be adorable, and try to talk to girls again.
Keep in mind, I was a lot prettier when I was in high school… a lot geekier and a lot more awkward (come on, I needed All-American Rejects to motivate me) but pretty none the less, so I thought batting my big (though squinty) green eyes and being a heart-broken lost puppy would win me girls.
8. The Cranberries: Dreams
Maybe this just has something to do with me wishing I was born a little earlier in the ’80s so I could have enjoyed the ’90s more (wait, it’s hipster to like the ’90s now? I can’t fucking win!) but this song just gives me this great feeling of nostalgia for things like The Babysitters Club movie and Ethan Embry without a receding hairline (to anyone who understood those two references, I love you).
The Cranberries in general have that whole feel of being young and spontaneous, it’s like the ultimate summer road trip music. It’s the soundtrack to leaving everything behind, just driving, and running in random fields as they appear.
The Cranberries make me ask myself, “why not? What’s stopping me?”
I’m not about to quit my life (MxPx reference, what up?!) anytime soon and hop in my car to go God knows where (mainly because it will probably break down before I get out of Edmonton, but that’s going to be a whole different post). But it’s nice to imagine what the summer air would feel like just driving anywhere but here (Rise Against reference… I’m not proud of that one).
7. Bonnie Tyler: Total Eclipse of the Heart
Turn around bright eyes?
Ok, I do have two special memories involving this song:
First, a girl who I took the bus with when I was in high school made me a mix CD with that song on it mixed in with some Brand New, Postal Service, Aerosmith, and Ludacris (I don’t know how that song got in there). It was during my “All-American Rejects adorable hurt lost puppy” faze and I thought she was trying to tell me something.
Turned out to be just a mix CD. (For the record, I’m still friends with this girl, though she doesn’t live around the block from me anymore.)
Second, I one time serenaded a friend to this song at a karaoke bar. He’s a nano-technologist now. Did I mention I serenaded him while on a date with another girl? Luckily, she found it funny and I wound up dating her for a while. No sad eyes necessary.
6. The Pogues: Tuesday Morning
“What? A Celtic ballad? That can never happen.” I guess when your collected works include albums like Peace and Love and Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, anything outside of manic-pirate punk is going to be looked down upon.
I remember actually buying that CD at a used bookstore and the clerk sighing and saying, “I remember when this record came out. I still hate it.” But really, it was one of the best five-dollar purchases I ever made.
I love lying around, listening to that song, letting the bassline relax me and singing along to the lyrics wishing every morning was the Tuesday morning they were singing about.
5. Gin Blossoms: EVERYTHING THEY HAVE EVER DONE!
I can’t name how many times I sang along to “Hey Jealousy” really loud, embarrassing myself in public places. But I can’t help it; it’s perfect; it’s catchy; it’s worth three consecutive semi-colons and an exclamation mark!
I’ve also noticed that Gin Blossoms are the band that people don’t realize recorded that song they’ve heard a thousand times. They can hum along, they might even know the chorus, and then you tell them that’s the Gin Blossoms and they respond with either a, “really? No kidding,” or a, “wait, I know that name, what else did they do again?” Everything. If you moderately know it and think it’s kind of catchy and know a word or two, chances are it’s Gin Blossoms.
4. The Byrds: Mr. Tambourine Man
I like it better than the Bob Dylan version.
This is probably right up there with Dear You being my favourite Jawbreaker record. Okay, now stop throwing things at me and let me explain before you crucify me.
My dad used to play this song all of the time when he was off symphony season and I would drive around during the summertime doing errands with him. He had these two CDs from like Time Life or some other infomercial mail-order company, one was the best of 1965, the other was the best of 1966. The first track on the 1965 one was “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds and the second was “For your Love” by the Yardbirds (another favourite of mine but less of a guilty pleasure because of the Clapton, Beck, and Paige connection in there, I just get to say I like it because I’m a guitar geek).
So I have an actual nostalgia connection with this song, rather than just trying to live in the ’60s vicariously through good music. But, there’s also a sincere music geek aspect to this as well. His name is David Crosby.
He’s overlooked as a great guitar player sometimes. This song is a great example of his ridiculous skill on the six-strings. His melodic leads flow through that entire song, slowly and gently, a technique that modern bands like Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You are trying to emulate but just missing the mark because, let’s face it, just like the song in question, Crosby simply did it better.
3. Lisa Loeb: Stay
This probably goes back to what I wrote in my Cranberries overview (scroll up to see number 8 in case you’ve only skimmed to this point, in which case I must say you’ve missed a lot), I have this strange faux-nostalgia for the ’90s as I try and dig up ever memory I have from elementary school (which involved a of of Star Wars and Oreo cookies apparently… man my childhood was sad).
This is another one of those cases where the song is damn catchy it almost hurts, and really, almost everyone knows it. I remember one time going to a bar where there were duo piano players taking requests for a tip and basically figuring things out as they went. I gave them ten-bucks for Lisa Loeb and they looked at me like I was requesting the Moffats (oh yeah, Canadian Hanson, my metalhead friends are never going to talk to me again). They never played it either. Jerks.
Even catchier is New Found Glory’s cover of the song that appeared on 2007’s From the Screen to Your Stereo II (which Loeb makes an appearance on performing a dual vocal with Jordan Pundik that feels almost like a conversation rather than just one voice speaking – fuck it’s so good!). The song was given a rockier edge but kept true to the pop-melody structure, making for probably one of the best covers ever recorded: true to its roots while making an original interpretation. Doesn’t get much better than that.
2. Peter Gabriel: In Your Eyes
Seriously, who didn’t wish at some point you could be a trench-coat wearing John Cusack outside of a girl’s window with a stereo over your head? I don’t care what’s tattooed on your neck or what’s hanging off the back of your pickup truck, at one point or another, you wished you were Cusack.
And let’s face it, the music made that scene. If any other song were playing in that scene it would be nowhere near as good or iconic as it is today. Writer/Director Cameron Crowe (believe it or not, Say Anything wasn’t a John Hughes film, but damn does it compete with his movies) made a brilliant choice by including this Peter Gabriel song because of how well it fit into the whole context of the film and how much a song like “In Your Eyes” really defined love songs the ’80s.
You can’t be more in love than whoever Gabriel was writing about in this song. There have been lots of interpretations of this song and even Gabriel has admitted that it could be a romantic or a religious relationship in this song, but if writing about pop-culture has taught me anything it’s that once the creation leaves the creator’s hands and is presented to the masses, it’s up to the masses to create their own interpretations.
How do I interpret this song? Simply put, I think I was this in love once. That love where when you think you’re going to go over the edge there’s always that hand to pull you back up and keep you on solid ground. Yeah, I think I’ve known that feeling. And I hope to feel it again.
I sometimes use this song as a gauge when a relationship is about to get really serious. As goofy as it sounds, if I’m not “In Your Eyes” in love with the person, I know it won’t last. Who knew the guy that wrote “Sledgehammer” (God, I hate that song) has had such a huge impact on my life?
But really, Gabriel gets at something with this song that’s so human it’s inexplicable. Just that feeling of being so devoted to someone else it makes all other troubles in life kind of float away.
It’s a really great feeling, I think.
1. Elton John: Tiny Dancer
You know the scene I’m talking about.
There isn’t a more perfect song to sing along to and I seriously believe Elton John set a standard for singer-songwriters for the rest of pop-culture history to try and attain but very few have actually made it to that level.
What is it about this song that’s so sing-alongable to the point that it’s the soundtrack to one of the most memorable scenes from a rock’n’roll movie ever?
I think Sir Elton gets at something in this song that’s inherently universal that it has surpassed logical explanation and the only thing I can think about it is, “Yeah, I get it.”
The song itself is quite literally just about California in 1970. John and fellow songwriter Bernie Taupin had never been to America before, so their first trip to California seems like it was a bit of a culture shock for them, but from the sounds of this song, they absolutely loved it there.
It also really seems like Taupin loved all the girls he encountered there. How much more universal can a song get? I went somewhere, everyone was beautiful, everything was a lot of fun. So simple yet isn’t that simply what anyone wants out of life?
Maybe my connection with Almost Famous has tainted my perception of this song a bit, but to me it really sounds like a song about the girls who tag along with the bands on tour. And why do they tag along? It’s not the sex, the drugs, the booze, the attention. Well, actually, it’s all of that.
Much like Kerouac’s On the Road, it’s about the unpredictable adventure while you’re still young. “Where will you be tomorrow?” “I don’t know, and that’s kind of a dumb question.” That’s the mentality of this song. Living in the now, having fun while you’re here, and we’ll deal with the rest of that stuff tomorrow.
How much more California can you get?
And I think that’s where the universality lies in this song. It’s the same reason why Kerouac wound up being successful. Who doesn’t want to live that life?
And that’s why it makes for such a great song to sing along to. Because at the end of the day, life can be really complicated and scary, so sometime you just need a piano melody and lyrics about pretty girls to remind you that there are a multitude of possibilities ahead of you.
It doesn’t have to be a fantasy, but it doesn’t have to be following a band on the road either. It’s about finding those things that make you so happy nothing else but this very moment matters.
Like any guilty pleasure, it’s simply about finding happiness. How much more human and universal can you get?
 Interesting fact, originally Cameron Crowe was going to use Billy Idol’s “Got to be a Lover.” Could you fucking imagine putting a Billy Idol song in that scene? There actually may be a God… Nah! Cameron Crowe probably just realized what he was about to ruin.