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My Guilty Pleasures

When I was single, I had a surefire conversation starter for first dates.

At the first awkward pause, I'd spring my winner: Say you are alone in your car and a shitty song comes on the radio. You turn it up, sing along and completely jam out but you'd be totally embarrassed if your friends saw you enjoying it. You'd just die if anyone knew how much you loved this song. Which song is it?

I could usually tell which direction the date was going to go - and if there were any relationship possibilities - by her answer.

I got through a lot of first dates with this little gem. Now that I am married*, I still like to use it as an icebreaker with people I don't know very well. It never fails because everyone has at least one guilty pleasure song.

My list of guilty pleasure songs is really long because I have to adhere to my own, made up metalhead rules. Music must meet the ridiculous standards I arbitrarily created as an angry, know-it-all, 14-year-old boy.

That means no poser bullshit, no genres outside of metal, blues or early '90s hip-hop and nothing with any meaningful emotional content. I don't truck in musical ironies or diversity; it's all blazing guitars, testosterone and aggressive posturing for me. But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy a couple of jams that fall outside my limited musical tastes. I am going to share these today at the risk of ruining my imaginary metal reputation.

These are the rules for this list: 1) I can't own the song; I can only catch it on the radio. 2) My brother, or my inner teenaged boy, would laugh at me if they caught me listening to and liking any of this crap. 3) I generally only listen to these while alone in the car. 4) I am not a poser because I like a couple of crappy songs.

Here, then, are my guilty pleasure songs:

1. Anything By Paula Abdul.

That's right, I just put my lifetime membership in the Metallica fan club on the line. My love for all things Paula probably comes from the time R and I smoked ourselves into oblivion and danced together to "Opposites Attract" in my mother's kitchen while the grilled cheeses on the stove we forgot about caught on fire.

The happiness of being totally stoned and goofy with my best friend imprinted itself on my brain that night. Now I am forever stuck associating being joyous and carefree with the shitty pop stylings of Paula Abdul. Fuckin' A.

2. Taking Care of Business/Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Scene: Protagonist is 14-years-old and seething with self-righteous musical indignation and misguided rebellion.

Setting: Inside his mother's Ford Escort station wagon.

Action: A fuzzy-headed woman is driving, lighting a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee, trying to get the car in gear, wiping the cigarette tar off the windshield with an old McDonalds napkin, and not noticing that the light has turned green twice*.

Suddenly, WCKG launches into Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Taking Care of Business." Woman blasts the song, raises her arms over her head, spills coffee and cigarette ashes everywhere, and sings the lyrics like her life depended on it. Son looks on, bemused.

Truth is, I actually don't like this song but it's Mom's favorite. It's a tired, cheesy car commercial jingle of a song, but Mom sings along as if it were a holy mantra. There's just something about it that sums up all that is Mom for me. For that reason, I will always turn it up in her honor, even though I feel like a trucker's obese wife celebrating her divorce at ten-cent wing night every time I do.

3. Nothing Compares 2U/Sinead O'Connor.

It's not that I crank it up that embarrasses me, but that I cry whenever I hear it.

I was using really heavily when this was released and the drugs imprinted this song as the soundtrack to my heartbreak and failure. I remember sitting in R's living room, realizing that I was bottoming out and this video came on. I sobbed like a baby that night at the line, "All of the flowers that you planted/in the backyard, mama/all died when you went away," and I haven't been able to listen to it since without choking up.

Problem is, metalheads don't cry and they certainly don't let chick singers get them all emotional and shit. Maybe I really am a poser.

4. Don't Want To Miss A Thing/Aerosmith.

I have no emotional or historical attachment to this song. I just like it.

But since Aerosmith is as heavy metal as creme brulee and this is a love song from a shitty Bruce Willis movie, I consider myself a whiny, teenaged-girl-poser for liking it. I deserve to be ashamed and ridiculed for the pleasure I derive from it.

5. Friday I'm in Love/The Cure.

Back in my mullet-having, leather jacket-wearing heyday, The Cure was shorthand for all that sucked. The enemies, as my shortsighted brain calculated them, were posers, preps and The Cure kids.

But, for as much as I hated The Cure, I had never actually listened to their music. So imagine my surprise when I found myself turning this song up without knowing it was by The Cure. I can still hear my angry boy calling me a wussy every time I sing along to this catchy jam.

6. Anything By Timbaland.

I once had a girlfriend tell me that she was going to break up if I didn't stop playing Timbaland and Magoo's "Luv 2 Luv U."

I am so seriously addicted to his minimalist and hypnotic beats that I go borderline ADD whenever I hear his songs on the radio.

But I don't dare buy a Timbaland album because I know that almost all of the songs except for the radio single will suck.

Almost anything he produces - "Work It" by Missy Elliot, "Bringing Sexy Back" by Justin Timberlake - qualify for this list because I will always turn them up without fail but deny even knowing that they exist if asked.

7. Touch of Grey/Grateful Dead.

I abhor everything that the Dead inspire and everything that they stand for: dirty hippies, meandering grooves, and college hippies that "always wanted to follow the Dead, man."

I mean, yes, I did like buying sheets of acid at the 1980s Alpine Valley Dead shows, and I did think of myself as a hippie for one weird year (as long as our Dead acid lasted), but in general, hippie jamfests make me want to die.

But, once in a while, usually on long road trips in the middle of the night, I catch this song on the radio and, for a brief second, I catch the crunchy groove vibe.

Then, I go home and wash my feet.

9. Anything By Slayer.

Yes, yes, I know Slayer rules.

In fact, I love Slayer.

Shit, I waited in line at the Lakehurst Mall to buy Reign in Blood the day it came out.

But while I've gone to at least a dozen of their shows and I own their entire catalog, I am starting to get a little too old to be this guy: the late-30ish balding, chubby guy headbanging in a crappy American car with rusted door panels at an intersection in a quiet, liberal New England college town at 2:30 in the afternoon. I just have too much self-respect for that now.

So, unfortunately for my immortal metal soul, Slayer has now been relegated to embarrassing music that I own and only listen to on the headphones.

10. Radar Love/Golden Earring.

Jesus, this is a terrible fucking song. I am so ashamed to turn it up to 11 every time I hear it.

11. Behind Blue Eyes/The Who.

I fucking hate The Who.

I feel as if I am betraying everything I believe to be right and true in the universe saying otherwise.

But for some reason, and maybe it's related to my substance abuse, I related to this song as a teenager.

Sure, it's a transparent and facile portrait of teen angst but goddammit, it worked like a charm on me.

And so, if I am in a particularly nostalgic mood, I'll give this one the full karaoke in the car.


*For the record, my wife answered, "What a stupid question." It was love at first slight.

*Driving with Mom is a scary fucking thing to do.


Comments welcome.


Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos
* Things I Miss About Chicago
* 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
* Their Chicago
* Cities I've Slept In
* My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
* Why Milwaukee Rules
* Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
* The Beer Goggle Recordings
* A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
* Life's Little Victories
* The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had
* Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse
* Lemme Get A Bite Of That
* Lists I'll Never Write
* Things I Miss About My Imprisoned Best Friend
* Things I Miss About Being Single
* Things I Love About Being Married
* Why Chuck D Should Have Been Our First Black President
* Picture This
* My Suggestions For Ways To Further Desecrate Wrigley Field
* Signs I Am Getting Older
* My Most Memorable Half-Assed Ideas
* Why My Mom Rules
* My Summer To-Do List
* Signs That My Doomsday Is Nigh
* Five Albums That Changed My Life
* Things That Make Me Happy

* Fan Note: Me & Metallica


Posted on November 10, 2010

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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