The other day I found myself in the interesting position of defending a Katy Perry song.
It’s not that I’m a particularly big Perry fan, mind you—I loathe “I Kissed a Girl” to no end—but have you heard “California Gurls”? It’s pretty sick, in a fun and frothy summer anthem kind of way. Besides, it’s got Snoop Dogg on it—motherlovin’ Snoop Dogg!
Oops, I did it again:
I have this habit of making excuses when it comes to my love of pop music—you know: so-called guilty sonic pleasures.
It’s a stupid habit and one I’m trying to break—you either like a song or you don’t—cultural shame be damned.
My husband is the best example of someone I know who refuses to cow to the exacting demands of musical acceptability. This is a guy, after all, well-versed in obscure New Zealand pop bands and random bits of rock trivia. Who played piano on “Little by Little,” the Rolling Stones’ B-side to “Not Fade Away”? Five dollars says he knows the answer off the top of his head. Yet he’s hardly a music snob. Take, for example, his unabashed love for Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
“Hey, it’s a good dance song,” he said without apology.
Simple enough—I long ago gave up any pretense of trying to be cool. That didn’t work out to well for me when I was in high school; it’s just tragic as an adult.
And, so I give you, a short list of No Shame: Pop Music Things I Love.
American Idol: So, why exactly do I waste time watching a singing competition on which the judges seem hell-bent on giving the blandest advice ever? Because sometimes I like to yell at the TV for reasons other than health-care reform, class warfare and the Kardashians. This brings us to:
Ryan Seacrest: Sure, as a producer for the E! Entertainment Television network, Seacrest is responsible for unleashing the unholy terror that is Kim Kardashian on the rest of us—and yet I love him. Yes, he’s got that weird Muppet mouth thing going on and is, inarguably, a slave to the spray-tanning and hair-gel gods. But watch him in action, and you’ll discover a genuine intelligence, smarts and kindness beneath that surface artificiality in his exchanges with American Idol wannabes. This brings us to:
Top 40 music: Most of it is drivel. Hands-down. Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe”? Ugh. I tried listening to the hit song but couldn’t even get halfway through. It sounds as though every song ever sung by a Nickelodeon or Disney TV star got caught up in an unfortunate and bloody musical mash up. Of course, that’s just my opinion so feel free to convince me otherwise. But once you get past the rest of the junk on the radio, there are, actually, some damn good songs out there. No, they’re likely not as good as—insert name of your favorite critically acclaimed artist here—but sometimes one just needs to rock out to “My Life Would Suck Without You” cranked to 11 on the car stereo. This brings us to:
Kelly Clarkson: Even my husband, nondefending defender of all things pop, doesn’t quite get why someone whose all-time favorite artists include Sleater-Kinney, Sonic Youth, Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams also owns one of her CDs.
“Because she’s got a good voice, writes a good breakup song and totally rocks it live,” I said.
“Fair enough,” he said with a shrug.
Guilty pleasures? No apologies needed.