Tuesday, May 1, 2012

top ten Tuesday: guilty pleasure songs.

We all have our favorite songs: the songs that can instantly change your mood when you hear them on the radio, and you can’t help but turn up the volume and passionately sing along.

We’re going to talk about a very specific kind of favorite song, though: the songs you love dearly, but you hope no one will find out about. Yes: the guilty pleasure songs. These are the songs that you will sing along with when you’re the only one in the car. If, heaven forbid, that same song shows up on the shuffle setting on your iPod when you and a friend are in the car, you will lie, saying you have no idea how that song got there. You will then say, “You can change it if you want to,” but you will furtively hope that your friend admits his or her secret love for said song – it’s only ok to ‘fess up if someone else does it first.

So anyway, you know exactly the songs I’m talking about. And today, I would like to come clean and tell you about my top ten guilty pleasure songs. They’re disgraceful, I know. But who knows: you might find one of your own guilty pleasure songs on this very list. Bring on the shame.

Journey: “Separate Ways”
I’m afraid that we have to start off this list by talking about Journey. There’s no getting around it. “Don’t Stop Believin” was the soundtrack to my high school life. My friend Meagan and I played it constantly. We listened to it in the car whenever possible. We begged DJs to play it at summer street dances. When we had the closing shift at the Arlington ice cream shop together, we’d turn the radio station to classic rock and call in a request for “Don’t Stop Believin.” The height of our Journey love was probably in 2004 and 2005: well before “Don’t Stop Believin” experienced that bizarre comeback. Remember that? All the sudden, you heard “Don’t Stop Believin” everywhere. It wasn’t a night at the bar until you’d heard that song at least twice. I blame it on Glee. So now that “Don’t Stop Believin” was practically inescapable, its charm wore off for me. It will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will still sing along with it if the opportunity arises, but it’s just not the same. So now my new favorite embarrassing Journey song is “Separate Ways”: lesser known, but still unabashedly Journey.

N’Sync: “Tearing Up My Heart”
During the heyday of boy bands, you were either a member of Team N’Sync or Team Backstreet Boys. You were expected to be familiar with the repertoire of each group, but your allegiance could only lie with one. My boy band of choice was N’Sync. For one, they had Justin Timberlake. The rest of the N’Sync members didn’t seem nearly as wishy-washy as the Backstreet Boys, and N’Sync’s songs were simply better. My favorite was, and still remains, “Tearing Up My Heart.” I know you know exactly which song I’m talking about – but you can pretend you don’t. (wink)

REO Speedwagon: “Time for Me to Fly”
REO Speedwagon is one of those nondescript 70s bands that you forget about until they pop up on the radio (usually on one of those horrible “all 70s weekends” or what have you). But when they do, you remember that they were kind of awesome. The first time I heard “Time for Me to Fly” was – this is true – at a Styx and REO Speedwagon concert in Brookings, South Dakota (more on that when I get to the Styx song). I had never heard of REO Speedwagon until that evening, but I have to say, I was hooked. I spent a year or so listening to the likes of REO Speedwagon before I promptly forgot about them and moved on to the Who. But every time I hear “Time for Me to Fly,” I have to stop and listen.

AC/DC: “Money Talks”
AC/DC is one band on the long list of music groups that I thought I’d never enjoy. Guess who was wrong again? “Money Talks” is a fairly recent addition to this list, as I heard it for the first time no more than a year ago. When I lived in Minneapolis, I spent a lot of time driving: visiting my parents, visiting James, etcetera. When I got tired of the music on my iPod, I’d switch to the radio. When you’re in the middle of rural Minnesota, you’re likely to find a great number of country stations and classic rock if you’re lucky. Well, I was lucky – somewhere around Redwood Falls, I picked up a station that played “Money Talks.” AC/DC and I have been inseparable ever since.

Justin Timberlake: “Sexy Back”
I know, I know, it’s Justin Timberlake. When I first heard that Justin Timberlake was striking out on his own, I was certain that none of his efforts would be worth my precious time. Turns out I was wrong. I heard “Sexy Back” and directly retracted my premature judgment of Justin Timberlake’s solo career. He had me at that electronic introduction. This was one of those songs that I forgot I liked until a fateful road trip to Minneapolis a couple of months ago. James and I were making the boring drive home, and I started going through my iPod for some songs to make us laugh. I stumbled across the Justin Timberlake folder and suddenly remembered that “Sexy Back” was awesome and I needed to play it immediately. Much to my dismay, the only song I had in the Justin Timberlake file was “Cry Me a River” – a great song in its own right, but no “Sexy Back.” You’ll be glad to know that, upon arriving home, I fixed my lack of “Sexy Back” problem straightaway. I’m all set for the next boring road trip.

Styx: “Come Sail Away”
My friend Sarah was the one who first introduced me to Styx. She had the greatest hits CD, and we just about wore that thing out. When Sarah told me that Styx was playing in Brookings – a mere thirty miles away – we HAD to go. The concert was Styx and REO Speedwagon together – neither of us had heard of REO Speedwagon, but we would give them a try if it meant getting to see Styx. I wasn’t yet fourteen, but Sarah was the proud holders of a South Dakota learner’s permit: however, the restrictions meant that Sarah wasn’t allowed to drive past 8 o’clock. So we could get there… just not back. We probably could’ve gotten away with driving on the restricted permit, but our law-abiding parents insisted we figure something else out. Who could we get to take us to the concert? Luckily for us, Sarah’s mom Sharon was also a Styx fan. She volunteered to take us, and we had a great time. Styx played first, and we just loved it. When they played “Come Sail Away,” the crowd just went wild: middle-aged women were even throwing their bras onstage. Even though my love for Styx faded long ago, every time I hear “Come Sail Away,” I think of my first concert and what cool fourteen-year-olds Sarah and I were.

Barry Manilow: “Mandy”
Admitting you like Barry Manilow usually means that you’re a world-class weenie. Under normal circumstances, I would agree. However, we’re talking about “Mandy.” Sure, it’s got the customary gag-worthy Manilow lyrics (“Oh Mandy/you came and you gave without taking/but I sent you away/Oh Mandy) that would totally suck if he wasn’t talking about his dog. That’s right: “Mandy” is about a dog. I’m a sucker for anything involving dogs: show me a romantic comedy and I’ll roll my eyes and hate every minute, but show me Old Yeller, and I’m reduced to a blubbering mess. At James’s house one evening, we watched an hour-long special about heroic dogs – I bawled like an emotionally unstable child. So once I found out “Mandy” was a love song about a dog, I was totally ok with it. Before we were old enough to drive, my friend Allison and I would beg her parents to take us to ShopKo so we could buy fun socks. ShopKo had tons those little electronic CD things where you could press a square and hear a sample of the CD. Allison and I would roam around the store, setting each and every one of them to Barry Manilow. I’m sure the ShopKo employees were ready to kill us, but all we wanted to do was spread the joy of “Mandy.” Can you blame us?

John Michael Montgomery: “Sold”
Like most good farmers’ daughters, I grew up listening to country music. It was what my parents liked, so I liked it too. It took until I was about eight to realize that there was other music out there, but in the meantime, it was all country. This was during Trisha Yearwood/Alan Jackson/Shania Twain/Billy Ray Cyrus era, so the music was questionable at best. The first country song I really remember loving was “Sold” by John Michael Montgomery. It’s about a guy who sees a pretty girl at an auction, and he’s “sold” on her. My parents even bought me the cassette tape. My love affair with country music didn’t last too much longer, but I’ll always remember “Sold” as the first song I ever truly loved.

Right Said Fred: “I’m Too Sexy”
Fun fact: the first time I heard this song, it was in Grumpy Old Men. I was too young to really take notice, but the next time I heard it, I immediately recognized it from the film. I also recall seeing Conan O’Brien dance to it on Saturday Night Live. One thing you might notice while going through these song lists is that I love a good electronic beat. “I’m Too Sexy” is the perfect mix of dance and weird. Maybe that’s why it worked so well in Grumpy Old Men.

Europe: “The Final Countdown”
I played this song in high school pep band, and it was one of our better tunes. I didn’t really think much of it until I started watching Arrested Development. “The Final Countdown” is the entrance music for Gob, the inept magician, and it was awesome. Anything that’s ever happened on Arrested Development tends to be awesome, though. Arrested Development aside, “The Final Countdown” will forever remind me of finals week, December 2007. My roommates Sara, Matt, and I were slowly dying under the crushing force of college finals. We all had difficult/obnoxious classes that semester, and we had all procrastinated just a little bit. Or a lot. It was an incredibly long week, and I think we all started to lose it towards the end. To mark our progress, we had a tally on the whiteboard of how many finals each of us had left: hence, the final countdown. Every time someone erased a tally off the board to indicate a completed final, someone had to sing the intro to this song.
So these are my top ten guilty pleasure songs. As time goes on, I’m sure this list will change – songs that are popular now will graduate to embarrassing (Lady Gaga, anyone?), and maybe the songs on this list will become a part of the “songs that I love and should be embarrassed about, but I’m not” list (which I’m sure we’ll discuss at a later time). For now, though, these are my top ten. So if you’re ever riding in the car with me and one of them pops up on the radio, feel free to turn up the volume. I’m not judging.


  1. I love Styx! My parents took April and I to a Styx and Kansas concert when I was in about the 5th grade. Whenever I hear them on the radio I can't help but sing along.

    1. Styx and Kansas? Awesome! Bob, Meagan, and I accidentally ended up at a Kansas concert in Sioux Falls once. :) We made sure to hear "Dust in the Wind"!