We all like a song that we probably know we shouldn’t. This week our writers celebrate them and ask whether we should even feel guilty at all.
Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion – Tell Him
There are a variety of ways I stop myself from falling asleep and therefore dying in the car. Comedians drive a lot and for long stints and at night. Though, to be fair, post gig I’m full of beans. It’s the 4pm nap slot where I need stimulation. Yes, caffeine drinks. Yes, blowers on cold. I’ve stuck my arm out of the window before too. Totally works, but point it up, not out.
The main thing that helps is singing. And I don’t mean mouthing nonchalantly along to whatever is on Absolute 80s. How disrespectful. No, I listen to the divas and pretend I’m on stage with them so that if I don’t belt it out, I’m letting them (Whitney, Celine, Mariah, Aretha, Barbra, Beyoncé, Dina Carroll) down.
What’s better than a diva? Two divas. Celine and Barbra’s Tell Him cannot be sung without multiple air grabs. If alone, I belt out the whole bloody lot. If I’m giving my friend Jonathan a lift, we split it (he’s Barbra, I’m Celine). We once played it six times on a loop and by the time I dropped him off, we were both hoarse. So thanks, Dion and Streisand. You save lives.
Charlene – I’ve Never Been to Me
The title screams passive aggression: its blend of self-pity, regret and downright bragging is more familiar in the era of Facebook, but mid-1970s it was beguilingly new. The narrator, begging a humble housewife to appreciate the drudgery of her life because, hey, sipping champagne on a yacht and getting your kit off for royalty can be just as tedious, is an idiot.
“The isle of Greece” …oh please… and what is it that “a woman ain’t s’posed to see”? Part of the post-karaoke joy of this song is working out exactly what that is. Don’t forget to do the talky bit in a shaky melodramatic whisper – channel Derek Zoolander if you possibly can – and it will almost be like feminism never happened.
Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy
It’s all about the timing, isn’t it? In 1989, I was a psychology student at poly and I really loved Don’t Worry Be Happy when I first heard it. I thought the tune was delightful and I found Bobby McFerrin’s vocal techniques fascinating. I had no idea that one day I would get to study such things for a living.
Indeed, I also had no idea that a whole generation of younger people found the whole thing simply appalling. In fact, I liked Don’t Worry Be Happy so much that one night I dreamed that I had written it and that it was being played by a big swing band, and that it sounded terrific. This was tremendously exciting until I woke up fully and realised that I’m not a songwriter, I don’t have a swing band and that the tune felt very familiar.
I guess it’s one thing to encounter a musical novelty when you are 24 and yet another to be 14 when it’s being played everywhere and to be driven up the wall by it. I was genuinely stunned when I discovered exactly how much people younger than me disliked Don’t Worry Be Happy, such that by the early noughties it was topping ‘worst record of all time’ charts. “Hang on!” I thought, surely There’s No One Quite Like Grandma by the St Winifred’s School choir (with the lisping and the refrain “Gwandma gwandma we wuv you” and whatnot) has that in the bag. A song which was clearly the worst song in the world, and which seemed to be played everywhere when I was 14. Oh, hang on…
I can’t unhear my enjoyment of Don’t Worry Be Happy and maybe it’s simply not even a guilty pleasure as I just like it and don’t feel embarrassed.
Barry Manilow – Bermuda Triangle
You’d be forgiven for thinking, “Barry Manilow and guilty pleasures… it’s gotta be Copacabana.” Wrong! Sit down Manilow rookie and get ready to hear all about Bermuda Triangle, a story which is frankly worthy of Shakespeare: “…For never was a story of more woe. Than this of a woman and Barry Manilow.”
This jaunty tune follows Bazza taking his lady on holiday to Bermuda, only to be dumped on the beach when she runs away with another man – and right in front of our nasally-enhanced hero’s eyes.
Unable to deal with the Bermuda love triangle making his woman ‘disappear’ (yeah, now it all makes sense), a mourning Manilow only bloody finds another lady – right there on the beach!
She waves goodbye to her boyfriend and shacks up with B-Man, ending in the romantic realisation that “Bermuda Triangle – not so bad.” My best friend Julia introduced me to this song and then forced me, under threat of violence, to watch her sing and act it out when we lived together. In a strange form of Stockholm syndrome, I now LOVE Barry and I want to pass on my love to Standard Issue readers.
If you love cheesy, camp narrative songs, let Barry whisk you away to a sun-drenched beach – then try to not have the song running around your head for days.
Katy Perry – Firework
Whenever I hear it, Firework makes me cry. There, I’ve admitted it. Not full-on red-faced bawling, but there’s welling up. Every. Single. Time. Even when I’m on joyous form, blasting it out three times in a row and throwing shapes in my bedroom like the delightful prick I am, it makes me weep.
Though fairly mixed, my music collection leans towards rock, indie and punk, my go-tos the likes of Mr Cave, QOTSA, The National, Pulp and – no apologies – Guns N’ Roses. Yet this delicious slice of pop from 2010 has snuck into the record rotation and into my heart. It’s properly anthemic – and empowering. Honestly.
Because sometimes we forget how strong we are. Sometimes we forget how beautiful we are. Sometimes we forget we can get better. Sometimes we forget that baby, we’re a firework! Let’s show ‘em what we’re worth. *cries*
Adele – Rolling in the Deep
I’m not sure I really agree with the principle of guilty pleasures. Surely there are no guilty pleasures: any record you love has merit by that definition and there is zero shame in that. Or irony. Imagine being so pleased with yourself you think you can listen to a record ironically – you’re not that complicated.
My personal idea of a guilty pleasure is a song I want to listen to 400 times in a row without anyone knowing that’s what I’m doing: the guilt of knowing I’m a repetitive psychopath, not the guilt of knowing all the words to Take That’s Patience. Nothing is more pleasing than a song you want to listen to on repeat. The Dead Weather’s I Feel Love (Every Million Miles) has now received over a thousand plays on my iTunes and I’ve only had my copy for three weeks.
Hey, I can fit in though; like all the best psychopaths. You all want a song that’s not cool or that I’m meant to pretend I don’t like, right! I give you Adele’s Rolling In The Deep. A song I’d also happily listen to on repeat, so it actually fits everyone’s definition.
It’s a stonker of a tune, Adele seems like a really fucking lovely lady, it’s pure 1960s torch song passion with all the finger clicks, wide headbands and backing vocals of a Ready Steady Go performance to go alongside. Although my personal favourite thing about the backing vocals is that they sound like they’re singing “You give me the sheep / never had better feet” and I will never join in with anything else. But I don’t feel guilty about it.
Brian Conley – Hushabye Mountain*
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, as I made beautifully clear in my 2015 Edinburgh show There Are No Guilty Pleasures. But I understand the concept. The song I love the most which the majority of my pals have a hard time understanding is Brian Conley singing Hushabye Mountain – I love the way he sings all his songs like Al Jolson and so full of passion. Even when it’s a child’s lullaby.
I was ashamed of loving Brian for so long – he’s so 90s and kitsch in people’s minds. But to me he is such a fantastic performer and I refuse to be ashamed of my adoration for his voice, his song choices and his constantly saying, “It’s a puppet!”
*Brian Conley singing nursery rhymes isn’t available on Spotify – I know, we can’t believe it either.3882 Views
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