#467 Guilty pleasure songs

We’ve all got some.

Just the other day my friend Vanessa and I were grabbing breakfast when we started talking about guilty pleasure songs. As I doused a tower of pancakes in a tidal wave of syrup we laughed about those songs you don’t really tell your friends about. You know, it’s those tracks on your iPod you’re afraid someone will find, your secret bubblegum pop playlist with the ironic title, or the last track on a distant mix CD that still pulls powerful strings on your achy breaky heart.

One of Vanessa’s guilty pleasures is The Sign by Ace of Base. Apparently her younger siblings got into it and at first the sugar-coated pop perfection swished and swirled together with Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys beats rising from their basement dance parties. But as she grew up The Sign separated itself and lodged firmly in her brain. Yes, it planted roots and settled in, growing catchy hooks… and fond memories.

For years Vanessa tried pretending her love for The Sign was ironic even though she knew deep down in her heart it was incredibly sincere. Her love never faded and the song kept making its way onto personal playlists and late night dream listens before falling asleep.

The good news is that as Vanessa got older she grew to accept the song, accept her musical loves, and most of all, accept herself. And maybe that’s the secret: Guilty pleasure songs are only guilty until you shout them to the world. So go ahead and don’t worry, we won’t judge you, because we have soft spots for The Bangles, Lionel Ritchie, and Toto, too.


— Email message —

“Neil, I woke up this morning in the afternoon, 12:15 pm to be specific, and I poured myself a bowl of cereal. I ate it up while watching some tv, but as soon as I finished I realized it was lunch time. SOOOOO I proceeded to make myself a turkey sandwich with some chips and a cold can of diet coke. Waking up so late that it is necessary to eat two meals….breakfast and lunch.  AWESOME! Your blog and The Book of Awesome continue to make me laugh every day.” – Tess

Photos from: here

103 thoughts on “#467 Guilty pleasure songs

  1. I have so many of these and there is a simultaneous love/shame of them (though mostly love). It’s funny to find out what other people consider their own to be. For instance … I’m loud and proud about my love for “Africa”, but I’ll deny my secret affinity for Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion” album until the bitter end!

    Tess, your story and photo cracked me up! I love it.

    1. Wotcher!

      *Phew* such a relief to see other people do this too! I listen to He’s a Pirate from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack ALL THE TIME.


  2. This post makes me laugh because about 3 weeks ago, I finally attended my first BSB concert (about 10 years too late!) and I felt myself singing to lyrics that I forgot I knew. I felt a little embarrassed yet proud of just how much I remembered. Sang it loud and sang it proud and I’m glad I did. It felt awesome!!

    1. Oh that was the song we all had in our heads at our Easter camping trip. Just quietly, I crank it when I’m driving in the car by myself..

  3. I absolutely loathe when people love things ‘ironically’ or refer to it as a ‘guilty pleasure’. I know I’m ripping off Chuck Klosterman here but cocaine is a guilty pleasure, liking a song hipsters scorn is not. You shouldn’t be ashamed of what you like, as it’s all meaningless. Yeah I’m an indie rock aficiando but know what? I also like some music that can be best summed up as lacking artistic merit and intellectually devoid. The only thing to be ashamed of when it comes to ‘guilty pleasures’ is how shallow and idiotic you sound when you use that phrase.

    1. Jen, I don’t think anyone meant to use ‘guilty pleasure’ in an offensive way. There are quite a few definitions and understandings of what can be considered a guilty pleasure, but an embarrassing song can certainly be one.

      1. Really? I kind of like it. It strangely makes me feel superior for having already figured out that maturity & seriousness is overrated.

        I guess you can say it’s a “guilty pleasure” of mine.

    2. Holy moly, Jen, lighten up! Here are a few “guilty pleasure” songs to bring a smile to that cranky puss of yours:
      “Talk Dirty to Me” by Poison
      “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen
      “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi
      “She’s a Beauty” by The Tubes
      “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield
      “Lucky Star” by Madonna

  4. I second the Tik Tok one.

    I used to consider my Disney songs a guilty pleasure when I was younger too. I feel like it’s like it’s more acceptable now that I’m a bit older though, not sure why. When I tell someone of the ‘Disney Classics’ playlist on my iPod, they’ll usually want to know which songs I have in particular and listen to a few.

  5. Wow! That hit the nail on the head!! The Bangels… Walk like an Egyptian! Toss in 2 bronze candlesticks (for microphones, of course) dress up clothes, horrible high heels and one inseperable duo of Hilary & Amanda and you have 1986 all over again! Eventually we let our brothers enjoy the lip sync fun but only after putting on dresses and heels and nerf balls in their shirts!! Walk like an Egyptian sends me right back there and makes me smile! Thanks for reminding me!

  6. No joke – Ke$ha’s “Your Love Is My Drug” was going through my head before I saw this post. I laughed so hard. Oh, wow. Ke$ha, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga…okay, I should stop before I embarrass myself.

    1. This Ke$ha song is ridiculous, and I’m not sure if I’m just enchanted by the ridiculous lyrics or not.

      And Lady Gaga is awesome. She’s a legitimate artist.

  7. I was probably the youngest fan at the Tom Jones concert. In the first row. In the middle. Right to his feet. Very happy. And I am a goth.
    …and I second “the sign”.

  8. Yeah I got a few too. :P takes you by surprise sometimes, but then you just start rocking out to it and it makes your entire day.

  9. There are a few shockers that keep me from sharing my iTunes playlist at work for fear of rejection and ridicule: A-ha, Hanson, Huey Lewis, Men without Hats, John Farnham…
    And the worst of all: Michael Bolton – I said I loved you but I lied.

    When people ask I’m all about Coldplay and Muse, but there is a closet fan of cheesy pop inside me that wants to get out… The same one that went to a Wet Wet Wet concert once.

  10. I LOVE “The Sign” by Ace of Base… I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign…

    I also have a guilty love of Mambo Number 5 – it reminds me of summer holidays past. Ah to be young again!

    And I also like the Venga Boys and Aqua. So sue me!


    1. We played an entire Aqua album (Aquarium) at a party the other night. It was awesome, and apparently everyone shared in this guilty pleasure, judging by the amount of dancing and singing that occurred! :)

    2. I love Aqua and Vengaboys too! I don’t care if Europop always sounds suggestive, I’m pretty sure that’s why I like it… haha

  11. And that’s exactly why I like cheesy metal so much. I mean, yes, I know Alice Cooper is ridiculous, but just listen to him! His songs are just so catchy!

    Oh, and by the way, dream listens. You totally should write an entry about them someday, because feeling sleepy ha the power to turn even the most generic songs into AMAZING stuff. I love it!

  12. I don’t think I currently have any on my playlist that I’m kinda embarrassed for someone to find. I do however remember all the lyrics to almost every Backstreet Boy, Spice Girl, N’Sync, Hanson song. Even though I no longer own anything by them, if I walk into a store or something and one of their songs are playing…I of course sing along. Come to think of it, I think I do still have a Spice Girls tape somewhere…..
    I do kinda have a guilty pleasure tv show, though It all started as a bonding time with my daughter. Sit on the bed and watch iCarly together….but now I even watch it when she isn’t home.

  13. Hahahaha yes. Breakfast and lunch at the same time is awesome. I bet that orange juice really compliments the diet coke.

  14. Ahhhh, Toto. Africa was, and is still is, the anthem of my zoology graduating class. Can’t beat the feeling of all yelling it out, slightly tipsy and definitely merry, and our graduation ball.

    But, ssssshhhhh, Britney – I love no other but you and your happy little pop morsels :)

  15. Hahaha I have 3 out of these 4 songs already on my mp3 player. Oh dear, oh dear..
    I also have Ernie the Milkman, but we don’t talk about that :-)

  16. I am 22 and I can’t believe I am going to say this but I like Miley Cyrus songs. And Justin Bieber. If I were 16 right now, I would be all over him.

  17. You want guilty pleasure? Real guilty pleasure? Wiki “Now thats what I call Music!” volumes like 1-10, and open up youtube. You’ll be stuck for a good hour on Chumbawumba, Mandy Moore, Savage Garden, ATC… oh lord there goes my morning productivity.

    1. My friend and I took a trip to Chicago a few weeks ago and during a short pit stop, we grabbed the CD case out of my trunk … it’d been forever since I’d gone through them, so it was fun looking at what all I had. We settled on SEVERAL guilty pleasures, including NOW 7 and 8 … completely hilarious!

    2. I kinda miss those old songs. The songs I remember singing to while riding the bus on my way to school. The songs that my brothers use to catch me dancing and singing in my hairbrush to. Yeah, I like to put my XM channels on the 80’s and 90’s and jam.

  18. As I read this on this beautiful morning, my biggest guilty pleasure song came on the radio – 99 Red Balloons!

    It really was AWESOME!

  19. Geez, I wish I had my 80’s body to go along with those songs! How ’bout some “Mike and the Mechanics”? or, my gosh, Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” … I mean, can we ever get over it?

    Seriously, I absolutely LOVE your blog and your ongoing list! What a creative idea …. you’ve won me over, no doubt about it!

    Abbey ♥

  20. My dad was a die hard classic rock fan so I love songs like “Faithfully” by Foreigner as well as “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus. I’m all over the map.

    1. In second grade it was a requirement to learn this song and a dance to go with it. That’s about all we did for a few weeks in gym class.

      1. Are you from the deep south? In the 8th grade we had to learn country line dancing and the Macarena. Did I mention I went to an inner-city, all black school? I blame that year on my odd love of country music.

  21. Africa, Party in the U.S.A., Your Love Is My Drug . . . a disturbingly high percentage of my iTunes library is guilty pleasure songs. One uber cheesy song that I absolutely love is “At The Beginning,” which plays during the credits of the animated movie Anastasia. There’s a great YouTube video of it too. <33333 I honestly can't stand Justin Bieber though.

  22. I have always love The Sign too, it wasn’t until today though that I saw how bad they were at dancing. Hehehehehehe.

  23. This entry is easily my favorite ever…

    ps–for the record, I am a HUGE Barry Manilow fan (a “Fanilow”, as we call it) and don’t ordinarily admit that to just anyone…

    But if you doubt how amazing he is, check out “This One’s For You”. If it doesn’t make you tear up a little, you’re a robot.

    1. Oh! Barry! I totally forgot about Barry Manilow. It’s amazing how many people know all the words to so many of his songs, but would NEVER admit to being a fan. (Including me!)

  24. Has Vanessa ever heard the live “Sign” cover by The Mountain Goats? It’s so hilarious and awesome, and if she’s a real fan of the song I bet she would love it. Let me know if you want the MP3. I can email it or find someplace to upload it.

    1. I agree, the live version with the story about first encountering the song and then playing it at the Empty Bottle in Chicago is incredible.

  25. S Club 7….. LOL. “Don’t stop, never give up, hold your head high and reach the top. Let the world see what you have got. Bring it all back to you.” Ah, 90s music was the best for pop positivity.

    1. omg hahaha our choir started to learn that song last year!! when were bored we always sing it and its the same ones going for it and getting into it :D

  26. I shouldn’t admit this, but I have a soft spot for “The Sign” simply because of the memories it evokes. I won’t admit to liking Spice Girls or any of The Backstreet Boys’ songs though.

    Okay, maybe one or two of them…

  27. Just listened to Hanson’s “Mmmbop” again after reading this entry. Guess that’s my gulty pleasure. :D

    Oh, and all of the S Club 7 Songs, of course!

  28. I JUST purchased the book online today, cant wait til i arrives!
    I have MANY MANY guilty pleasures, I was pumping up “The phantom of the opera” soundtrack in my car, subwoofers thumping, Cruising along the busy city streets, windows down, everyone staring in to see a 22yo listening to opera LOL.

    oh! And “the Cranberries – Zombie” one of my Faves

    1. That was my favourite song back in 1991. I still have the CD ‘single’ which I crank up when I’m doing the housework.

  29. I have so many guilty pleasure songs! And they’re usually the ones that I scoff at because they play them on the radio all the time and they become extremely popular. A few months later when the hype dies down, I give songs like that a listen and I… well… I like them! What a strange thing.

  30. Chumbawumba! I was caught with the Tubthumping album by a crush, and he was merciless about it. But I love that album so I burned him a copy for Christmas!

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