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Top Guilty Pleasure Songs

Guilty pleasure songs...Those songs that for some reason we feel a little bad about loving. Maybe we know they were bad or maybe they were part of a fad that has since become somewhat embarrassing. Whatever the reason, there are songs that when they come on, we belt them out, even if we feel a little bad about it. Here are some of the guilty pleasure songs from our team.

Adam’s Picks

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” - Deep Blue Something | Genre: Alt Rock | Release Date: 1995

This song, especially the lyrics, is not good. I will admit that right now. It’s supposed to be about a guy desperately trying to save a failing relationship, instead, you’re left wondering how they even got together in the first place. It feels more like the chess kid trying to figure something he has in common with the pretty cheerleader he has a crush on but never talked to. He is in love with the idea of her, not the reality. It’s bad. And the music isn’t great either, just bland middle of the road alt-rock that was a dime a dozen in the mid to late 90s. The one thing it’s got is a hook, and that’s enough. This song comes on and I will start singing along.

“Jump” - Kriss Kross | Genre: Hip-Hop | Release: 1992

The late 80s and early 90s saw hip-hop taking its place in the mainstream and like a lot of things when they first develop people were trying to figure out what it was and cash in. Some thought it was a fad, some were well-meaning. This led to a lot of celebrity (Joe Pesci and Dee Dee Ramone), novelty (“Baby Got Back”), or both (Bart Simpson “Do the Bartman”). Kriss Kross was produced and packaged like pop boy bands with an artificial style choice add-on. Despite knowing all that now. That this song is a novelty packaged to suburban kids who wouldn’t know real hip-hop if it bit them. I still love it and it will still make me jump, as best as I can at my age.

“Flagpole Sitta” - Harvey Danger| Genre: Alternative Rock| Release Date: 1997

A good portion of my guilty pleasure songs are 90s alt-rock, it’s what I grew up listening to and a big part of guilty pleasure songs is nostalgia. That said, I’m going to go out on a limb and defend this one. I think the music is good and the lyrics are good. I genuinely like this song. And while I have nostalgia for this song (I remember Jeff Thompson screaming the lyrics at me in biology class freshman year of high school), it is just a good song. And one that is a ton of fun to sing along with or shout in my case. And these days we can all say, “I’m not sick, but I’m not well."

“My Own Worst Enemy” - Lit | Genre: Alternative Rock| Release Date: 1999

This is another where there is no irony or nostalgia in my love for this song. Maybe it’s because “it’s no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy.” Maybe because it has a pop-punk feel to it, and I love all forms of punk. But this is another one that I just love to belt out when I hear it. And that is the thing with so many guilty pleasure songs—the joy, the irresistible urge to sing along. You may feel bad about it later, but at the moment, there’s just joy.

“Man with the Hex” - Atomic Fireballs | Genre: Swing Revival| Release Date: 1999

I love this song, and, in some ways, it is here as my favorite guilty genre pleasure song. Two music fads from the mid to late 90s, ska and the swing revival, get a lot of eye rolls these days. People shake their heads and call them fads and wonder why people even liked them. But every time I hear this song, I get it. This song has so much energy that you want to dance, to swing. To me, it swings better than actual swing, which has always made me feel a little slow and lethargic. For me, the swing revival sound was a better representation of swing than the real thing. It was swing translated. Time can blunt the impact of things. Johnny Cash was considered unbelievably fast when he came out but to the tempo of punk, he seems slow. Alice Cooper was shocking, but to a world with Marilyn Manson, he seems tame. And swing, which caused a moral panic for its primal energy, seemed bland. The swing revival, and this song especially, put the moral panic back in and it was great.

“Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” - Crash Test Dummies | Genre: Alternative/Indie | Release Date: 1993

This is another where there is a lot of embarrassment from people that this song ever got big. But I genuinely love it. I love this song. I love this whole album (God Shuffled His Feet), and I love their previous album (their debut The Ghosts That Haunts Me). The Crash Test Dummies are considered one-hit wonders (at least here in the US. In their native Canada, they had a much more sustained career). They’re known primarily for the deep bass voice of the lead singer and people not being sure what the song was about exactly.

It’s not that the words are unintelligible by garbled singing or the lyrics don’t make sense on the very surface level. It’s just that you have no idea what the bigger picture is (at least I don’t, and I’ve been listening to this song since it came out). Each verse tells the story of an adolescent in circumstances that causes them to be ostracized. Each one is kind of strange, and together they seem like parables. But what the point of the parables or the point of the song, in general, is unclear. In many songs, this clarity might be provided by the chorus, repeated after each verse to reinforce itself. But for this one, the chorus offers no clarity at all. That is because the chorus, and the main thing most people remember about the song, is just the lead singer humming in his deep bass voice. It’s even the name of the song, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” is just the phonetic representation of the humming.

With the gimmicky chorus and lyrics, the deep bass lead, it should all fall into the category of novelty junk, but I really liked it. The lead singer’s voice, which some find off-putting, I like. The weirdness of the lyrics (not just here, but in many of their other songs as well), I like. Even the gimmicky chorus…after all it’s easy to sing along with and that’s the best past of guilty pleasure songs, singing along.

Kristen’s Picks

“I Wanna Love You” - Akon feat. Eminem | Genre: Hip Hop/R&B | Release: 2006

Like many hit songs in hip-hop in the 2000s, “I Wanna Love You” objectifies women in a gross way. Oddly enough, this song was my favorite in the sixth grade. Yes, I was listening to this when I was 12. But it was the clean version. The clean version makes it sound like a love song. The lyrics (to my ears) were, “I see you whining and crying up on the floor. I know you see me looking at you and you already know I wanna love you.” It sounded romantic to me as a kid. It was also super catchy. When I got older, I discovered that the version I’d grow up loving was actually not the original. The original lyrics were far more graphic and read as, “I see you windin’ and grindin’ up on that pole. I know you see me looking at you and you already know I wanna f*ck you.” Discovering this ruined the song for me a little bit. Yet if it comes on, I’ll still find myself singing along, especially that signature “Konvict, Music, and you know we Upfront” intro. I know It's graphic and gross, but I still sing along if it comes on.

It’s also important to note I never saw the music video growing up either. Good thing too! It was not appropriate for 12-year-old eyes.

“Bree Bree” by Brokencyde | Genre: Crunkcore| Release Date: 2008

Wow, if there was a song that I felt guilty for even willing to listen to, it’s “Bree Bree.” Well, any song by Brokencyde for that matter. For those not familiar with the genre, crunkcore has been described as “a combination of minimalist western hip-hop, Auto-Tune croons, techno breakdowns, barked vocals, and party-till-you-puke poetics,” (Source). It became the most popular in the late 2000s with artists like Blood on the Dance Floor, 3OH!3, Breathe Carolina, Dot Dot Curve, and of course, Brokencyde. Now the reason I still listen to this song even though it’s super cringey and basically hot steaming garbage is for, you guessed it, nostalgia. There are different types of phases of emo kids. Crunkcore was a big part of emo culture in 2008-2012. As someone who had an emo phase in 2009 (and let’s be real, never grew totally out of), popular bands at the time included Brokencyde. My best friend at the time was really into the band and this song in particular. It reminds me of simpler times. So, while it has a pig squealer (yes, really), terrible rapping, and poorly done screams, it also reminds me of simpler days, and I always listen to at least the first minute when it comes on.

“Africa” - Toto | Genre: Classic Rock | Release Date: 1982

Let me start off by saying that I am not ashamed that I love this song. It’s on this list because of the recent overplaying that has made it disliked by many. I’m in a rough position where I grew up loving this song because my dad raised me on 80s hits. However, because I’m a girl in my 20s, people automatically assume I only like the song because it became radio popular again. This was partly thanks to Weezer’s cover of the song. Then I feel like I’m being one of those, “I liked this song before it was cool” people if I explain that it’s been a favorite of mine since I was seven years old. So even though I have loved the song all my life, depending on the group I’m with, I may not reveal that I actually like the song because it’s now become a big meme, something people love to hate. But you better believe that in the comfort of my home or my car, I will “bless the rains down in Africa” at the top of my lungs, paired with dramatic hand gestures.

“Party in the USA” - Miley Cyrus | Genre: Pop | Release Date: 2009

I remember when this song came out, I hated it. Of course, I hated it for the worst reasons. I was “too cool” for Miley Cyrus. I told myself that I had outgrown my Disney roots. Hannah Montana was lame now, so Miley Cyrus, in turn, was too. When she came out with this song, it was everywhere! At the time, I was deep into my emo phase where all pop music was cringe. I used to mockingly sing along with friends to make fun of it. But over time, as my coldness toward any pop artists began to thaw, I found myself not changing the station when it came on the radio. I even began to enjoy it. Now, no matter how silly the lyrics are, I love the song. It just makes you feel good when you sing along. You feel powerful. It’s such a fun song. I don’t actively listen to Miley Cyrus, but I will always dance and sing along when “Party in the USA” comes on.

“How You Remind Me” - Nickelback | Genre: Rock| Release Date: 2001

Nickelback is one of the most hated bands, especially by music elitists. While I can agree to some extent that not every Nickelback song is good or has a lot of substance, you can’t deny that some of the classic hits are actually pretty good. Lately, the tide has turned toward Imagine Dragons and away from Nickelback, so it’s safer for people to admit they like Nickelback. Still, I don’t often make it public. My mom is a big Nickelback fan, so I’ve seen them live and actually enjoyed myself. The song I chose in particular, it’s a song I love to play for nostalgia. My mom loved to play Nickelback CDs when I was growing up, and I also had a “Now #1 Hits” CD that featured this classic. It reminds me of my childhood and mom, and that’s why I will jam out to it.

“Bet on It” - High School Musical 2 Soundtrack | Genre: Pop | Release Date: 2007

No matter what, this song will always hype me up. Yes, songs created for a pre-teen Disney Channel original movie may be a little cheesy. Yes, they may be ordinary when it comes to the composition. But dang, if they aren’t catchy. The High School Musical franchise was a big part of my childhood, and to this day, I blast the songs from both the first and second movies. “Bet on It” is one of my favorites to jam because it’s one of the more topical songs. The lyrics are a little more accessible than say, “Fabulous.” I can see the whole scene of Troy Bolton running through the golf course with his evocative dancing as he determines what to do with his life. I love the song, I love the visuals, and I love the memories. In essence, hearing the song reminds me of simpler times, and I will always love it.

At its core, guilty pleasure songs are pieces of music that make you feel good. The song itself can be cringey, bad, or just goofy. But none of that matters, because as you can see from our list, there are always specific and unique reasons why someone loves a song. Bad or not, the songs usually mean something to the person. And having that connection with a song is always noteworthy and beautiful.


Written by Kristen Petronio and Adam Savage

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