(not so) Guilty Pleasures



According to Wikipedia, a guilty pleasure is “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The “guilt” involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one’s lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes”.

With regard to music, I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures anymore, and haven’t done for a long time. If you like a song, then something in that song affects you in some way and it doesn’t really matter a fig that it may be deemed ‘uncool’ or ‘out of fashion’.

This is probably a thing which develops with maturity (for ‘maturity’, read ‘old age’…) I think back to 1990 and my 18yr old self and that quiet, contemplative young man with a head full of insecurities (and hair) would never admit to his mates that he loved the new Kylie singles ‘What Do I Have To Do’ and ‘Better The Devil You Know’.

Kylie? Synth-based bubblegum pop? Stock, Aitkin and Waterman for God’s sake?

The summer of that year we were all caught up in the so-called ‘Madchester’ scene with some great band such as The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets. I thought those ‘cool’ bands were great but I also thought those SA&W songs were great pieces of pop music. Cheesy and throwaway maybe, but they were well written, catchy (dammit they were catchy) songs that were great to sing along to.

As you get older, you realise that you should just get on with liking the stuff that you like, and not the stuff that you think you should like according to your  peers. Also what tends to happen is that artists who were once popular have a career crash, become ‘uncool’ and re-emerge a few years later reinvented and become ‘cool’ again. Kylie is a great example of this. Eg. Global success,  downward spiral, wilderness years, get groovy new producers, shoehorn arse into tight gold hot pants (pause for a moment…), best thing since sliced bread again.

Ok, enough of this rambling on. Here are a 8 guilt free tunes in no particular order that I love and wish to share with you all. Enjoy.

Spice Girls – Say You’ll Be There

The Spice Girls. That’s some start don’t you think? OK. Ignore the annoying vocals (also try and ignore the skimpy outfits in the desert if you can) and listen to the great tune in there. There some nice production with a great whoopy sub synth bass line underpinning the whole thing. It’s great pop music. End of.

Abba – Does Your Mother Know

Abba are everyone’s ‘guilty pleasure’ are they not? Anyhow, this one’s a belter with a rip roaring sing along chorus with Bjorn taking lead vocals for once.

Bananarama – Robert De Niro’s Waiting

A slice of early 80’s girlpop with brooding, paranoid overtones, this self penned hit features another cracking chorus.

Roachford – Cuddly Toy

Roachford managed to fuse Briitish soul with rock to great effect. This was probably their best known hit (don’t go anywhere near the Beverley Knight cover version, she drags it across a bed of nails and pours salt in the holes…). Try and check out the sequence in the Alan Partridge film where he sings along in the car, it’s hilarious.

Duran Duran – Rio

At school, I publicly denounced Duran Duran as talentless teenage girl fodder with that fat yodelling buffoon at the front. Privately, I really loved the Taylors’ tight rhythm section punctuated with Nick Rhodes’ other-worldly synth sounds. Ok, the fat bloke couldn’t really sing, but the tunes were great. Rio is a great example of this. Slap on that eyeliner, lie back on the yacht and enjoy.

Toto – Africa

Contrived, naff ditty performed by bearded geeky muso types or a glorious vocal harmony drenched pop classic? I know which camp I sit in. And how can you fail to love a song containing the line “I know that I must do what’s right, as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”?

Kylie Minogue What Do I Have To Do / Better The Devil You Know

Ok, let’s finish up as we started. Both these songs (taken from the same album) sound very much of their time, with the production heavily influenced by Dance-pop and House music (of which neither genres I had any affinity to at all). But if you strip back all that glassy, synthetic production you have got a couple of corking pieces of pop music. Pete Waterman always wanted his empire to be the next Motown, and I think he got the closest with these two songs.

So next time you are flicking through tracks to play on your generic mp3 player, remember : there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure.


Leon Wilson


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