I was talking to my pal Ron on IM about musical guilty pleasures and I said "I generally feel no guilt about any music because if it brings me some kind of joy or pleasure or catharsis or whatever, then it's good to me." When I was younger, about college age, I discovered punk rock/indie/underground music and spent some time being very concerned with the credibility of my music collection. The beloved Bananarama albums and 12" remix vinyl got pushed to the side in favor of Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear, the Voice of the Beehive, Mary's Danish and Shakespear's Sister CDs got shelved behind Superchunk, Unrest and Versus discs while I made sure that my record collection reflected the fact that I was Punk/Indie Since Birth and had never trifled with such pop confections or uncool song choices.
Thankfully, that period of time was short-lived and soon my many musical loves, cool or uncool, merged together in one collection and Keren, Sarah and Siobhan sat proudly alongside Kathleen Hanna and hundreds of others spanning the many genres of music I love. From then on I've really had a hard time mustering any guilt for any music I've enjoyed, whether it's been fleeting or long term. I went through a period in the late 90s where I really enjoyed the second Sheryl Crow album and played it as much as I played my beloved first Team Dresch album. I got sick of it eventually but I still sing along with songs from it if I hear them out in the world. Two weeks ago I couldn't get enough of these four Mariah Carey tracks I always enjoyed when I heard them on the radio so I found them on Limewire, downloaded them and played the fuck out of them for about 7 days straight. Do I think these are some of the best songs written in the world? No. Do I think they're loaded with substance and depth and rich meaning? Also, no. But are they well-crafted pop songs that bring me some kind of enjoyment for a moment or two? Yes, indeed.
Music is my most favorite form of art, bar none. It's a populist art form that anyone can access and enjoy. It's both incredibly personal and totally public in the same moment. A song can have intense, almost sacred meaning to someone as they play it alone in their room and then can explode with cathartic revelry when it's experienced in a live venue full of eager, excited fans. In the same way, a goofy, manufactured pop song can make you dance around like a maniac and have a lot of fun all on your own or with a group of people, sweating and singing and loving every sugary minute of it. And this can all be done guilt-free. Guilt is one of the most pointless emotions in existence, especially when it comes to music. If you're guilty about music you love or pretend you don't to everyone but yourself then you care too damn much about what people think and about your "cred" in some elitist music scene. Sure, I might not have a lot of respect for someone who loves the hell out of some Alan Jackson 9/11 song but if they love it then they love it and there's nothing I can do about it. That's the beauty of music: no one is going to love every song ever written and what may be someone's most treasured tune may make someone else wish they were earless. But, no matter what, you should never feel guilty for loving the music you love. You should just play it as loud as you want and let it work its magic on you.