I've been meaning to provide a written wrapup of the two-part podcast series on Guilty Pleasure songs for a while now so I'm happy to finally steal some time to write this.
First, I want to reiterate the criteria we used to define a "Guilty Pleasure" song. Gary defined it as a song that would cause him great embarrassment if he was heard singing along in his car when he sat at a stop light. I asked if he meant any person (as a particular audience might make one song embarrassing but a different listener would bring no shame) and he clarified: he meant any listener.
When my turn to explain came, I defined the guilty pleasure song using categories. The first, was the "wrong demographic" factor.
Wrong Demographic Factor
The song was clearly promoted to a different age and/or gender group than me but I find it inescapably captivating. I'm thinking thirty-something married men singing along to Miley Cyrus in 2013. This also might include songs that fall outside the core musical style embraced by the listener. For example, let's say the listener identifies with Punk Music or the Glam Band scene, but secretly loves Hawaiian lounge singers or Broadway show tunes, that might be considered a guilty pleasure.
True music critics like Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot get paid to form opinions about all music so I'm sure they would not consider this a guilty pleasure. Of course, we are not paid to form opinions about Taylor Swift.
Overexposed to Negative Public Perception
The examples we gave during the show illustrate the concept pretty well. Macarena, Barbie Girl, Nickleback all exemplify the idea that groupthink prevents us from publicly appreciating music that gained incredible popularity.
Too Weird to Share Factor
Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Phil Ochs, Stephen Sondheim. Stuff that you don't think others will understand so you don't necessarily share. These are often the territory of musicians who seek out complex ideas expressed in music.
Questionable Message, Lyrics and Subject Matter
These are probably the most guilty of the guilty pleasure songs for me. These were a big category for me but I was surprised to find that Gary didn't have many of these skeletons in his closet. What I mean by this is, the lyrics glorify something objectionable (misogyny, drug use, violence, racism, etc.) but something about the song is too memorable to denounce.
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