I recently discovered that an acquaintance of mine was secretly a John Mayer fan, a fact that led to endless mockery. In a weak attempt to defend herself, she reiterated again and again, “It’s my guilty pleasure.” I scoffed at this response claiming that I’m not ashamed of anything I like, but recently while compiling my “Best Songs of 2013” list, I realized that a handful of the songs I enjoyed in 2013 were quite embarrassing (at least by my standards). To show my willingness to admit that I too have “guilty pleasures,” I decided to compile a list of tracks that I shouldn’t enjoy but do for reasons that can’t be explained. No worries for my BDWPS brethren, my music snobbery will continue in 2014, but I must take a moment to eat crow.
On the surface, you would think I’d be able to defend my enjoyment of this song. Production-wise it’s a little more sparse than most radio hits (although it’s as polished as anything Miley Cyrus released in 2013). In the lyrics of “Royals,” Lorde sings as a music outsider, indicting the “royals” in the music industry. I like the sentiment, but it’s a bit hypocritical considering the fact that the song was released by Universal Music. Basically, she’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a memorable melody and a different approach to a radio friendly hit, but when you break it down, it’s just another product of the big business music-making machine.
Pitbull featuring Ke$ha
This is probably the hardest song to defend on this list. Pitbull’s status as a “rapper” is questionable (although I love when he says “diggity dog” about 30 seconds in). Ke$ha’s voice is mediocre at best, and the song as a whole is downright horrible. There’s no arguing that point. But damn it if I’m not a sucker for a nice harmonica melody. I blame Bob Dylan.
“Started From the Bottom”
Despite being critically lauded, I still feel dirty about the fact that I like anything associated with Drake. As an MC, I’ve never found his lyrics to be interesting, fun, or profound and before “Started From the Bottom” came along, I hadn’t heard a memorable song. Then this repetitive track came along and wormed its way into my head. Damn it! Lyrically the song is infuriating, Drake repeating the mantra “Started from the bottom now we’re here.” If “the bottom” is growing up in a wealthy neighborhood in Toronto and being a child star on Degrassi High, then yes, you started from the bottom, Drake. “Started From the Bottom” is the equivalent of what it would sound like if Dustin Diamond wrote a rap song about how hard it was being Screech on Saved By the Bell.
2. Icona Pop
“I Love It”
I was born in 1978. I would consider myself a child of the 80s, but the 90s were the years that shaped me (junior high, high school, and college). So when Icona Pop sing “You’re from the 70s / but I’m a 90s bitch,” I get conflicted. I did come from the 70s, but I would describe my former 90s self a little “bitch.” Oh, why must this silly little song confuse me so much?
1. “My Nigga”
YG (featuring Jeezy, Rich Homie Quan)
Michael Richards, Paul Dean, Madonna, Charlie Sheen, Gwenyth Paltrow – the list of celebrities who have gotten in trouble for using the “N” word goes on and on. Back in 2007 the NAACP buried the “N” word in a symbolic gesture, but despite all the negativity surrounding the word, it still somehow lives on. In fact, on YG’s “My Nigga,” the word not only continues to thrive despite being buried, it’s more powerful than ever. It’s hard for the media to tell us this word is the most evil of sins, when YG spends four minutes making it sound so innocent and fun. All in all, it’s a horrendous song. The backing track is uneventful, and lyrically YG rarely diverts from rhyming “nigga” with “nigga.” You want to talk guilty pleasure? When I find myself mindlessly singing along to “My Nigga,” I feel the worst guilt of all: white guilt.