Issue October 11, 2011

Brit Beat

Dirty little secrets

Music makes the people come together, Madonna once sang, but it can also place them firmly on opposite sides of the jukebox. I was castigated by a reader, for example, for favorably mentioning Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber (yep, had to Google the spelling of his name again) in my last column. To sing the praises of such artists, I must be a total fool and a tone-deaf one at that, my unhappy browser assumed. Well, maybe? Or perhaps I should have just hidden away my fondness for anything other than Kasabian and Will Oldham (two acceptable acts, I imagine) in a dusty little section of my brain alongside memories of teenage summer vacation love bites and films with Katherine Heigl in them (had to Google the spelling of her name, too).

But I’ve never been one to hide things or be embarrassed by my embarrassing traits. I am, after all, a woman who once posed in a leotard clutching a tennis racket while balanced on a giant seesaw for an article about irritable bowel syndrome in the German edition of Marie Claire. I didn’t even have IBS, but the interviewee had failed to turn up to the shoot at the last minute (tummy troubles were obviously blamed), and, as the writer of the story, I knew it had to go to press that week. So I shamelessly claimed the affliction as my own and unleashed a vision of stretched Lycra on the good people of Munich.

No, no — shame is not my forte. So, rather than being someone with impeccable taste in cool music, or being a music snob, or being someone who hides her Chicago albums when people come round for dinner, I embrace my eclectic taste in anything that tickles my musical funny bone. I celebrate it. Hell, I’ll even dance in public on a bar to it if there’s a free shot up for grabs. Yep, Fourth Street Live dwellers, that was me that night at Saddle Ridge when “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” came on.

All this thinking about musical taste and how others judge us on it got me pondering the concept of guilty pleasures — the tracks we know are wrong but can’t help get a warm glow from when we hear them. The secret sounds we play in the bath on our own, or on the bus, hoping no one can guess the track through the tinny beats coming out of our earphones. My ultimate guilty pleasure is “MMMBop” by Hanson. There is nothing redeeming about that song. The band is not retro-hip yet. They’re not even so un-hip they’re hip. They’re just Hanson. But I love their little ditty about being “mmm-bopped and gone” all the same. I just change the subject when my husband notices that their video was the last thing watched on YouTube. Again.

For the multiple purposes of a) feeling better about my love for extremely young boy bands, b) finding new songs to dance to in my pajamas and c) researching this article, I asked my friends and family for their guilty pleasures — anonymity guaranteed. The first person to get back to me was my aunt, with “Shake You Down” by Gregory Abbott. “It brings out the romantic in me,” she said. “Gets me in the mood. It’s a little bit dirty.” I explained the concept meant you were guilty because it was silly, not because you were having sex to it … and she withdrew her suggestion, immediately mortified.

That mishap withstanding, here are the kitsch/retro/cheesy/pre-fab horrors that my nearest and dearest consider so naughty, they’re actually nice:
• “Come Clean” by Hilary Duff
• “Black Bean Soup” by David Soul
• “Xanadu” by Olivia Newton-John and ELO
• “What’s Going On?” by 4 Non Blondes
• “Freak Like Me” by Adina Howard
• “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper
• “I’m Your Man” by Wham!
• “What a Fool Believes” by The Doobie Brothers
• “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow
• “Electric Youth” by Debbie Gibson
• Anything by Bieber or the new Bieber, Greyson Chance
• Anything by Kylie Minogue
• “Green Door” by Shakin’ Stevens (You Americans won’t have heard of him — he was Britain’s very poor answer to Elvis, and therefore she should feel guilty.)
• “Having My Baby” by Paul Anka
• “King of Wishful Thinking” by Go West
• “Think Twice” by Celine Dion
• “Life is a Rollercoaster” by Ronan Keating
• “Take On Me” by A-Ha

Follow Sarah Ivens’ adventures in Mommyland at ivensbabyblog.dailymail.co.uk.