Opinion: Myth of the guilty pleasure

Recently, a friend of mine was talking about the first concert she ever went to. She was ten, and she and her friends went to a Hanson concert. She described how much fun she had, but then came the caveat: “But oh no, that’s so embarrassing now.”

Think back to elementary school. What sort of music did you listen to? Unless you were a child prodigy or a real drag, probably whatever was on the radio. It was fun and it was catchy. What more could you ask for?

But look at yourself today, you self-conscious hipster. You listen to your Animal Collective, pretend you care that Pavement is getting back together and buy tickets to some unknown music festival just to stare at your shoes.

You get your two–hour time slot on WARC and introduce every song with “You’ve probably, like, never heard of these guys, but…” You make up bands to namedrop just in case someone tries to claim more obscure musical tastes than you.

But you know what? When you’re at that party, in your cups, you what song is going to get you out on the dance floor, belting every word?

Not the latest Pitchfork darling. Not the band you pretended to like in front of that cute girl at the record store.

Bye Bye Bye” by ‘N Sync. “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls. Even “MMMBop” would do the trick, because once your inhibitions have come down, there really is nothing you like more.

This is not to say that mainstream pop is the end–all, be–all of music; far from it. If I were a meaner man with a different audience, I could hate on fourth-graders for listening to Beyonce and not Beethoven.

And I admit, especially when a person gets older and begins to form a more specific identity for themselves, there is more to deciding what you’re into than your gut reaction to whatever comes out of the radio.

There are a variety of factors that will go into the formation of your opinion: what your friends like, what you think you should like, the opinions of people you respect and a variety of other factors.

I’m not refuting any of this. I just mean to criticize the idea of the guilty pleasure.

The fact of the matter is, when you get past the whole decision process delineated above, if you like something, you like something.

When you start throwing out caveats like “guilty pleasure,” “embarrassment” or anything like that, you just make yourself look stupid. This cold and obvious calculation, this weighing of the pros and cons of whether to like T–Pain, it ends up being more embarrassing than anything else.

If you’re reading this paper, most likely you are an adult. You should be past the point where you have to calculate what fits with your personality.

That’s why you shopped exclusively at Hot Topic for a month in sixth grade, and exclusively at Hollister’s the next. You’ve done your time with uncertainty and worry. Have a little confidence. If you want to listen to Shakira, listen to Shakira. Go to the concert. Buy a T-shirt.

And if someone gives you grief for it, close your eyes, smile and take consolation in the fact that, unlike them, at least you can still enjoy “All Star” by Smash Mouth.

Dan Bauer is a member of the class of 2013. He can be reached at [email protected]