There is no reason for the term “guilty pleasure” to exist. We shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying something deemed uncool. What makes something uncool to begin with? And are things considered uncool objectively universal?
I’m taking a stand against guilty pleasures. For decades, musicians have been robbed of notoriety and critical acclaim because of the publics embarrassment for liking it. And that is negligent.
I present to you my personal list of great songs that do no get the critical appreciation they warrant.
10. “Ohio is for Lovers” by Hawthorne Heights (2004)
2004 really was a great time to be alive. Every middle schooler had a matching uniform of black skinny jeans, studded belts, and eyeliner. Emo heartthrobs Hawthorne Heights paving the way and stealing our hearts.
It’s so cringey now to think about all of us contently singing along to morbid proclamations such as “cut my wrists and black my eyes” or the melodramatic sentiment “you kill me well.” But fuck it. We were 12, angsty and these sensational dispositions were exactly what we needed to nurture our hormonal souls.
“Ohio is for Lovers” will forever remain in a time capsule, and people will deny their fondness to this modern day classic. But, I’ll say it now: “Ohio is for Lovers” perfectly captures and era and deserves recognition
9. “Gangsters Paradise” by Coolio (1995)
Soundtrack songs usually don’t fare well on their own. 1995’s “Gangsters Paradise” is an exception to the rule. Sampled from Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” and immaculately produced. It is arguably one of the best rap songs of the 90’s. Coolio even won a Grammy for his performance. Yet, you never see Coolio on the same lists as Notorious BIG, Nas or Snoop Dogg.
A song of epic proportions, whenever the opening line “as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” comes on, it’s kind of a requirement to stop what you’re doing and revel.
8. “All The Things She Said” by t.A.T.u (2003)
t.A.T.u’s doomed from the start love story was a modern day telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Except it was about 2 teenage lesbians from Russia.
We all know now that the relationship between the members of t.A.T.u was artificially put together by their record label, and and that today the song is often considered to be overdramatic or campy.
These components should not take away from the fact that “All The Things She Said” is a BANGER. It’s versatile enough be appreciated in the club, on the radio, or in your room.
There I said it.
7. “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction (2012)
As a former ’90s kid, I’ve had my fair share of boy band love. *Nsync and Backstreet Boys were an institution. Time went by and as the boy band craze faded, America was left with a void to be filled. That is until One Direction came along, of course.
Their first single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” flung these previously unknown Brits into stardom. I don’t really care who sings it – the song stands alone and is wonderful.
From it’s mesmerizing bass line, the catchy sing-along chorus and the kitschy instrumental background work.
Sure, I see their appeal. I never enjoyed any of their music after this song. But I’m not afraid to admit that I really like “What Makes you Beautiful.”
6. “More Than A Feeling” By Boston (1997)
Boston has always been a popular band. Unlike a few of the artists on this list, they weren’t just one hit wonders. But I’ve also always felt that Boston never got the appreciation they deserved.
“More Than A Feeling” is the perfect rock ballad. Yet – I never hear it during karaoke nights unlike it’s contemporaries “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey or “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas. And I am going to argue that this song is better than both of those.
It has every fundamental component to legitimize it’s place as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. A memorable guitar riff, irresistible chorus, legendary guitar solo, even a little acoustic guitar action at the end.
5. “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke (2013)
Everything about “Blurred Lines” is problematic: It’s misogynistic, egotistical, and borderline rapey. Are these about the blurred lines of consent?
“Blurred Lines” even lost a lawsuit of copyright infringement against the estate of Marvin Gaye for bearing a remarkable resemblance to his song “Got to Give it Up.”
Controversies aside, it is undeniable that it’s a good fucking song. And that makes me feel guilty to say out loud.
4. “The Dip” by Freak Nasty (1996)
“The Dip” is one of the lesser known songs on my list, and what an injustice. Sometimes we do not need intellectual dialect or inspirational rhetoric. Sometimes, we just need to dance. And that is exactly what Freak Nasty accomplished in the mid 90s.
“I put my hand upon your hip, when I dip you dip we dip,”
These are directions for a dance Freak Nasty proclaimed as the dip. This 1996 banger is regarding a dance move, and the song paved the way for many other hip hop dance anthems. Fat Joe’s “Lean Back,” Cali Swag’s “Dougie,” The Souja Boy, Rej3ctz “Cat Daddy,” and DJ Unk’s “Walk it Out.”
The craze has came and went, but will always have a place in my heart.
3. “Africa” by Toto (19920
The synths. The marimba. The explosive chorus. There’s no arguing the hypnotic elements of this song.
“It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you, there’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do” proclaims David Paich. “Africa” is about, well, actually I’m not too sure. But sometimes that should not matter.
“Africa” is one of those songs that will stop you in your tracks and force you to sing along or begrudgingly tap your feet. Definitely one of the greatest rock songs of all time, obscured by the “uncoolness” Toto apparently represents.
2. “Thong Song” by Sisqo (1999)
In 1999 “Thong Song” was a phenomenon. An institution. In the video, a bleached blonde Sisq0 is participating in what looks like the greatest spring break party of all time. He’s doing cartwheels on the beach, there’s glow in the dark bikinis, and the video has overall fantastic choreography.
And you know what? The song itself is fantastic. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Off of his 1999’s cleverly titled LP Release the Dragon “Thong Song” captures everything that was great about that time. The lovely violins plucking away, its epic chorus, and Sisqo’s vocals make up what to be a song that deserves serious acclaim.
1. “Down Under” by Men at Work (1980)
“Down Under” became the unofficial anthem for an entire country, and it was unintentional. Although the song is an institution and has proved itself timeless, there is a sense of embarrassment people have when they admit to liking it.
Land Down Under, where women grow and men plunder, claims songwriter Colin Hay. Is about a patriotic Australian, who travels the world and documents his interactions with the people he meets interested in his heritage.
Besides lyrical content – the song itself is a masterpiece. It’s unconventional use of the kookaburra flute is unforgettable. It’s chorus that builds up and intensifies and by the end of the song and entire ensemble is affirming the Hays original statement. Once you hear it, it will be guaranteed to play itself through your head for the rest of the day.
I wholeheartedly believe “Down Under” is one of man’s greatest achievements.