When you do anything for a living—programming, engineering, film, writing, music—out of respect for your craft and general social anxiety, you start to develop some hang-ups in response to your work-related tastes.
For music writers, this comes out in a handful of ways, one of the most common being the guilty pleasure. With the pressure to have a spotless but still somehow unique-to-you music taste, along with our collective desire to be more than our streaming algorithms, these guilty pleasure songs, artists, and albums crop out without fail to help take the edge off. Instead of feeling bad about ourselves, we should see these tunes as a drink on the porch, or a nice nightcap, or that White Russian I once made at 10AM to celebrate having the day off of work.
While we have that proverbial glass of wine, a slew of inevitable questions pop up: If music is our passion, meant to entertain and soothe us, is any song really a guilty pleasure? Maybe not, unless the "guilty" aspect enhances the music for you. Then, sure, very guilty.
Should we feel ashamed for loving the Jonas Brother, and if yes, who exactly is doing the shaming? No, and society. Acknowledging and normalizing your guilty pleasures should only help you understand and feel more secure in yourself.
Are we less qualified to write about music if a Martin Garrix song is sometimes our favorite song? Of course not, that's extreme, but it's a real fear in the age where you're only as celebrated as your last hot take is retweeted.
Below we have the guilty pleasures of five EARMILK writers, but before we dive in, here are a few common threads to keep in mind:
None of the writers in this piece, myself, or anyone else I spoke with had a strong disdain for their guilty pleasures. While sourcing this article, most writers were near-giddy to share their "secret," because, as we see below, most guilty pleasures come with a hilarious or touching story.
In terms of feeling guilty for having a guilty pleasure, a majority of the writers below and off the page agreed that there's no reason to feel bad for enjoying something. If you have a piece of music that makes you happy, that's beautiful—full stop. The goal of sharing these four guilty pleasure artists, songs, and stories is to get away from the idea that music fans should wean themselves off tunes that aren't getting BNA on Pitchfork, or feel bad for liking music wherein they are obviously not the target demographic.
It's the battle against pretension, really. One EARMILK writer put it best: "I definitely think guilty pleasures are necessary. They provide a well needed break from 'the usual' in our music libraries and allow us to explore a different side of ourselves." Amen.
Lastly, remember: if you're still feeling nervous, nobody else will know what you're listening to if you set your Spotify to private.
TS: "Get ready for tears. When I was 10 or 11, I took dance classes with a girl who shall remain unnamed, and she and I bonded over our mutual love of the Jonas Brothers, and the rest of the Disney Channel. Fast forward a few years and I quit dancing, went to high school, discovered Tom Waits and Fleetwood Mac, and this girl and I faded out of one another's lives. I would later learn that, during our years apart while I was dealing with bullies and finding myself, she got cancer and survived it, and was—in her mid-teens, no less—well on her way to becoming the strongest human being I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
"In the twelfth grade, I somehow landed tickets to see Patti Smith, a musical and literary hero of mine, play an intimate concert at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I still don't know how the following happened: by some sort of miracle, my mother and I found ourselves next to a blonde couple arguing with the security guard, insisting that another security guard had told them to wait at this particular entrance. He told them he'd make sure they were the first people in, and we stood side-by-side for an entire evening, pressed up against a stage staring at Patti Smith for the better part of two hours. Long story short, the blonde girl was my Jonas Brothers-loving dance friend.
"I reached out via Facebook the next day and we met up. Today, she is one of my dearest friends in the world and although we have many Patti-fuelled memories, it is 'Burnin' Up' by the Jonas Brothers and 'Over' by Lindsay Lohan that make me laugh and think of her.
"In her words: 'Who woulda thought that after awkwardly eyeing each other at a Patti Smith concert four years ago in Toronto, we'd be listening to Lindsay Lohan in a stranger's house in Europe tonight?' We are both still obsessed with the Jonas Brothers."
KC: "While my personal dance music taste hovers more in the realms of the heavier basses, I can honestly get down to some main stage, big room, festival, whatever you want to call it house music. It's a definite guilty pleasure. The guiltiest I've ever been when indulging in big room house was when I was pulled over by Atlanta's finest, and delivered the sentence of Defensive Driving class. The truth is I swerved because I looked down at my phone to change the song to Martin Garrix's 'Virus.'"
MW: "My guilty pleasure is Chris Stapleton's 'Second One to Know.' Not a huge country fan, but I make an exception for my guy Chris. His vocals are ridiculous [laughs]! I really dove into his music after his performance with Justin Timberlake at the CMA's a couple years ago. I definitely think guilty pleasures are necessary. They provide a well needed break from 'the usual' in our music libraries and allow us to explore a different side of ourselves."
ZK: "Anything George Michael. He is my guilty pleasure through and through. Faith, 'I Want Your Sex' parts one and two. And most of all, "Last Christmas" is fucking opus and I find it bittersweet he passed away on Christmas. His voice is like velvet and there is real passion and emotion that exudes through the speakers from his soul to my heart."
"Guilty pleasure artists are super important. That being said, everyone that knows me knows that I love George Michael, so it's a totally outward and well known guilty pleasure. I think all people should think about who theirs is because it feels good to be bad."
SE: "I like to consider myself a person who operates above the frame of reality TV, but in actuality, The Bachelor franchise is the only thing that doesn't make the cut. Growing up alongside Laguna Beach, The Hills and Jersey Shore (when, let's be honest, TV had a nice peak), I was skittish, but thrilled when MTV announced their latest over the top-produced "reality" show, Siesta Key. A trashier sequel set in Florida to The Hills, it's become my ultimate guilty pleasure, with enough immature behavior, drunken hook ups and fights in just one episode to keep a person amped until something else crazy happens the next week. Not only did this show revive my interest in the weekly, non-binge TV show, but its theme song, "Cut To The Feeling" by Carly Rae Jepsen, brings me back to better days. It's a smarter "Call Me Maybe" from the same artist. Remember the first time you heard "Since You Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson? This feels like that on speed - uplifting, play on repeat, scream into the air singalong with your hands in the air type of shit."