A mantra that I’ve had lately is “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure” which I got from somewhere on the internet. Though I guess I would alter it to “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure (within reason)”. The term guilty pleasure is used by people as an out so they can like something that society has decided they shouldn’t. A housewife might state that Soap Operas are there guilty pleasure. No, that’s not your “guilty pleasure”. That is your pleasure. If you enjoy something, don’t be guilty about it. There’s plenty of stuff that I love that I used to feel weird about liking. Then I would admit that I liked them “ironically” but that wasn’t true either.
When I worked for a political campaign in the summer of 2011, I spent a lot of days working outside in the hot sun putting up huge 4X8 foot political signs. The work was difficult and everyday I would feel horrible, probably bordering on heat exhaustion no matter how much water and Gatorade I drank. We drove around in a giant black pick up truck with the candidate’s name plastered all over it. So what do you do when you’re riding around in a pick up truck and trying to psych yourself up to jump back into the heat for physical labor? Listen to music. What music did we up listening to the most? Top 40 pop music. Here I am, fan of rock and metal and we’re singing along to the radio playing Top 40 hits.
I happen to like a lot of pop music because most of it has a fast, energizing beat and and the lyrics and tone are upbeat. When I’m angry or psyching myself up I like to listen to heavy metal. When I’m sad or tired I like to listen to friggin’ Katy Perry. So here’s a short list of some of the bubblegum in my collection
Really I like practically any Katy Perry song but this is my favorite. She has a clear, innocent voice infused with energy. I first heard her during that fateful summer when she came out with California Gurls which was so infectious that I couldn’t help but love it. Eventually she had me singing along and had made a fan for life. Her music is supremely confident and a lot of it speaks to being confident in your own life. I’m not reading too much into her songs either. Listen to Firework or Roar sometime and tell me she isn’t about positive self-image.
Teenage me would kick my ass for including this song on the list. When I was a teenager, loving anything mainstream was an automatic Judge Dredd-style death sentence. I clung to the old school classic rock, metal and even classical music rather than listen to whatever everybody else was listening to. This song is bouncy and fun and playful and it’s actually fun to sing along to. Screw you, Past!Steven. You were a fool.
This song actually helped get me through some tough Depression alone in West Virginia as I tried to come down from a few horrible weeks at work. The song has a driving beat and by the end of the weekend I knew the lyrics of this one. For an ex-Disney star, Selena Gomez has a pretty put together act (even if she is dating the worst thing to happen to music in a while). Like most pop acts, her stuff is heavily produced but comes with a driving, upbeat energy that feels honest. It may not be, it may be wholly manufactured but, again, who cares?
Early on after Ke$ha first appeared on the scene I heard a lot of people trying to downplay her or discount her music because of perceived sexual promiscuity. All of that is just flowery language for her looking and acting like a skank. I don’t care. No matter how much she is responsible for her music, it is fun and super upbeat. I like pretty much all of her songs but I especially love Blow because it practically talks about an underground rave revolution movement.
I honestly think that Britney Spears didn’t really get good until after her breakdown and comeback. I don’t know if I’m seeing things but there’s a darker edge to her music and more transparency and less playfulness. In her early career it seemed she was trading on the whole school girl thing and skirting around sex but now that she’s older she can be honest and straight to the point. Anyway, I like her music. It’s heavily produced and auto-tuned but who cares as long as I like it. I respect it as a former audio engineer. Anyway, this one is my favorite because of the combination with awesome rapper Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha.
Like Ke$ha, Lady Gaga seems to live in her own reality. However, unlike the Rave Revolution Universe that Ke$ha lives in, Lady Gaga lives in a weird world where art school continues into the real world. Being weird and quirky is a driving force and nobody is better at it than Lady Gaga. I remember Telephone in particular as being the gateway into being a Lady Gaga fan. The music video was very controversial at the time so I decided to check it out. The music video is not really all that controversial at all but it is definitely weird. Behind or beyond all of that weirdness, the music is really good.
Miley Cyrus is acting on a similar impulse as Lady Gaga. I don’t know if she’s more subtle about it or less subtle but people actually believed that she had lost her mind more recently. The more I think of it, the less I think she actually lost anything. She gained a level in performance is all. She decided that the best way to get her brand out was to completely change her image. As far as I’m concerned she succeeded and her music advanced in the process. Party in the USA is the song that even people who don’t like her might admit liking but I think some of her new stuff is actually pretty interesting as well. It’s obviously not just me, her records are selling.