The Herd – “Guilty Pleasure”
On a weekly to bi-weekly basis (depending our motivation) Dead Horse March will be giving its contributors a music related prompt to answer. They will cover a variety of topics and will hopefully act as a window into our minds, hearts, and souls, showing what we like and the path that led us there.
This week, we dive head first in to the songs and artists that our contributor’s deemed “Guilty Pleasures.” We engaged in a few long philosophical debates on what exactly a guilty pleasure was until we finally came up with a somewhat agreed upon definition… If a friend was to jump in your car and a specific band is playing, and your gut reaction is to instantly change the song (and hopefully change the subject) then you’ve discovered the mysterious “Guilty Pleasure” we doth speaketh.
First off, this prompt is far too intricate for a blog entry, and you know that Prompt Master Alex (He makes everyone around the office/apartment call him that.) The reason for this difficulty is wrapped amongst the paradox of defining ourselves to different peer and reference groups.
I walk a tight rope.
Day in and day out, shape-shifting and smothering myself in to different digestible compartments of my higher being –for others, for fear of scorn, for fear of abandon, for fear of betrayal. Depending on who you are and who you think I am, there may be a million different guilty pleasures in my closet. For any aspect of your personality that links myself to a musical genre or typifies me in to assortment, there are a myriad ways for me to disappoint you.
Despite that, I’d be embarrassed if I was pumping you home on my bike, sharing split headphones, and “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips begins to play… Worse yet, you can’t even hear it because I’m screaming all the words from the driver’s seat (of the bicycle.)
Its a fine line between ironic and just plain lame. In fact, the analysis of such issues as ironic cool vs. just bad is so difficult to navigate, so subjective and kinky that it would confound the most hardened philosopher. This brings up such questions as “What is cool?”, “Is anything truly authentic and relevant in today’s cultural sphere” and most importantly “Will discussing this at length get me laid?”. I have the first Mumford and Sons record, and I listened to it when I was sad about a girl. That makes me very, very lame. Is my subjective experience of an emotion derived from a sappy, melodramatic song that has the specific goal of evoking that exact emotion and achieves this goal in millions of other people any less cool than those other peoples experience? No. And that is why Mumford and Sons are lame and people who listen to them are either 1. Lame 2. Fans of Dave Matthews (who’s lameness is so great as to be an unmovable stone in the kidney of pop music) or 3. People who have just had their hearts ripped out by a unfeeling girl and its raining and you’re by yourself and the only thing you want to listen to is several pudgy British dudes whining over terrible rhyme structures and major chord patterns that would make the Goo Goo Dolls puke. At least there is a banjo. Banjos make everything more authentic. Guilty as charged.
When attempting to answer this most embarrassing of prompts, I took a survey of my iTunes and discovered that I listen to quite a bit of embarrassing music. I also listen to a lot of good music. I think what I learned is just that I listen to a lot of music across a lot of genres and so I had quite a few guilty pleasures stashed away in there. So, after much deliberation and a highly spirited conversation with friends about what constitutes a guilty a pleasure in the first place, I finally decided on an album that I feel both guilty for liking (I mean, I don’t even listen to country music!) and that makes me extremely happy. Here’s the story of how this glorious album came into my life.
Last year, my best friend from college and I drove to LA for spring break. We had full intentions of listening to nothing but LA rappers the whole drive down and rolling into the city bumping Dr. Dre and being badass. Instead what happened is we downloaded the Country Strong soundtrack on a whim and didn’t take it out of our car CD player the entire 26 hours of driving.
What was supposed to be “Nuthin’ but a G Thang” turned into “Love Don’t Let Me Down.” We left this gem of an album in the car for another few months, belting out every line when it came on, until finally I moved away to Seattle and had to part ways with both my friend and our beloved Country Strong.
The brilliance of Faith Hill, Lee Ann Womack, Tim McGraw, and yes, Gwyneth Paltrow was just so mind-blowing I didn’t stand a chance. Well, maybe not. But looking back on it, I think why we got so much pleasure out of listening to this album (besides Gwyneth singing about her mini skirt) is because we were both going through a time in our lives when everything was about to change and we didn’t know which way was up. When we listened to Country Strong we got to pretend we were somewhere else (Texas), with different lives (that included cowboy boots), living out different dreams (that probably had something to do with pickup trucks). And that was extremely comforting. I have to say I don’t really listen to this album anymore, but when I do it’s a happy reminder that music can take you anywhere and make you feel like you’re anyone. That’s one of the best parts about it. And no one should feel guilty about that.
It seems to me that there are several ways to go about classifying a “guilty pleasure.” Certainly, there are the obvious ones: top forty artists like Ke$ha, Lady Gaga & T Payne. These types of pleasures, however, have become ironically enjoyed in a manner that has rendered listening to them moderately acceptable, at times even “hip.” I would not be embarrassed if a friend got into my car to find me blasting “Bad Romance.” In fact, I’m almost certain that he or she would immediately join me in a thirty second dance break. A true guilty pleasure in this day & age is found a tier or two below that which is currently accepted as tasteful. Some examples that come to mind are Coldplay, Death Cab For Cutie, Ben Harper & Dave Matthew’s Band. Several years ago, I would have touted my love for A Rush Of Blood To The Head, Transatlanticism, Fight For Your Mind & (gasp!) Under The Table And Dreaming without hesitation. Today, if anyone outside of my immediate family walked in on me listening to “Satellite,” I would likely claim I’d developed a tumor on my frontal lobe.
Out Of The Vein was first recommended to me in tenth grade by the father of a dear friend. I trust his taste, so I said I’d try it. He even burned a copy for me, but I just took it home, stuck it in a space in my giant cd book & quickly forgot about it. A year or two later, I was very much taken with a certain older boy. He was tall & handsome & his bohemian outlook on the world, authentic or not, caught my fancy. He was the first person that made cigarettes and tattoos seem cool instead of trashy [edgy as he appeared to be, the guy had lyrics from a Postal Service song tattooed around his forearm (talk about guilty pleasure, but he always wore them without apology)]. Not long after I met him, we spent the better part of a bright & chilly Boise winter day sitting on his bed, sipping yerba mate through metal straws and talking about Camus & music & poetry & the Bhagavad Gita, all while listening to Out Of The Vein on repeat. His devotion to the album, particularly the song “Crystal Baller” quickly sparked my curiosity. As we listened & he recited lyrics, my own fondness grew – for him & for the album. I’d driven to his apartment listening to one of my favorites of all time, Iron & Wine’s Woman King EP. I’d been listening to it continuously since it had come out, but it was ousted by Third Eye Blind as soon as I could dig up the long-abandoned copy of Out Of The Vein. For years to come, alone in the car, alone on the plane, or when I was particularly excited or anxious about something (but of course, alone), I’d put on Out Of The Vein & revel in the clarity of the feeling of new, interesting, edgy knots in my stomach, a feeling produced by the sound of the album combined with the crisp memory of the rush that came with having the possibility of an entirely different way of living opened up before me. After that winter day, my relationship with the Third Eye Blind enthusiast turned from would-be romance to an affectionate friendship & stayed that way until he died in March of this year. My relationship with Out Of The Vein continues though, & while it’s still a guilty pleasure of sorts, I’ll be wearing it as proudly as a sappy tattoo from this point on.
The search for my guilty pleasure did not come with ease. In effort to free up some space on my hard drive a while back, I had purged my computer of my true darkest indulgences. What I was able to uncover in the depths of my iTunes archives were two true gems that actually may be just as embarrassing as something I may have found prior to my music purge. How would you feel if I said at one point I could recite every word of DJ Khaled’s “Brown Paper Bag” featuring Lil Wayne, Young Weezy, Juelz Santana, and Fat Joe? Or that I recently instigated an hour dance session playing Korn’s greatest hit, “Freak on a leash” on repeat? For me, these songs are the purest forms of nostalgic vibrations. There’s nothing else like a song that can time warp you back to the exact place and time when you were trying to impress your new roommates with your rapping capabilities or needing an outlet to unleash your most violent dance moves. Scream scat and gangsta rap? My purest forms of pleasure, and I don’t even feel that guilty. Put a leash on this freak, she’s about to get a hundred of that brown paper bag money.
– Does he go with the Abba songs he has right there in his favorites section? No, too catchy for people to completely hate and they can be perfect for an impromptu dance party.
– How about the baffling amount of Jack Johnson songs taking up valuable space on his iPod? No, he would still put on a few of those without feeling that embarrassed.
– He has always hated on a lot of popular Top 40’s style rap so he could go with the song “Welcome To Atlanta Remix” by Jermaine Dupri featuring Murphy Lee, Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy and Ludacris because it makes him somewhat of a hypocrite? No, the unwritten rules of the prompt clearly state that Snoop Dogg can’t be considered embarrassing.
-Alright, how about the O.C. Mix Vol. 1? Shiiiiit…
It was December 28th, 2005 (my 18th birthday) and a few friends and I decided to drive a few hours from Boise up to McCall, Idaho. We decided to rent a hotel room with a few girls we were friends with and party like only an 18 year old can (staying out past curfew, smoking cigs, buying porn and… voting I guess?). I can’t remember if we started listening to the O.C. mix on the car ride up or after we got there but I know that whenever it was we didn’t stop playing it the entire trip. I haven’t busted my copy of the CD out to listen to in awhile, almost solely because I’m embarrassed that someone will catch me listening to it. I know not all the songs are considered bad and several I wouldn’t be embarrassed about if someone caught me listening to. For every “That’s the Way we Get By” on the album that I don’t consider embarrassing there is a “Honey and the Moon” which would definitely fit into that category for me.
Now that everyone knows this, I guess I don’t have to hide it any longer. “California here we come, Right back where we started from!”
Don’t think some of these should be considered guilty pleasures? Do you have some guilty pleasures of your own? Want to make fun of us for our entries?
Well, you can do all that and more in the comment section below! (We don’t use your emails for anything, they are just needed to make sure your not a spamming robot. Hell, just make one up because it doesn’t matter)