Musical guilty pleasures aren’t about guilt

They were caught listening to Backstreet Boys and now must cast down their heads in shame

I like both Matt Yglesias’ blog and his taste in music, and his distaste for the idea of “guilty pleasures” in music – even though I must say I do find Katy Perry pretty uniformly awful (as for Lily Allen, well, surely, everyone must love at least this song, right?). But he’s got at least one thing wrong here that I want to point out. The concept of “guilty pleasures” in music has nothing to do with the puritanical background of America. Because musical “guilty pleasures” – as opposed to say “guilty pleasures” in food – aren’t about guilt at all – they’re about shame. That’s why there’s a big deal about revealing them on the internet or something. I mean if you’re listening to “a guilty pleasure” and you just finished listening to it, you don’t feel bad at all – you feel great! The bad part comes when someone sees you listening to “Umbrella” or “Dragostea din tei” or whatever and makes fun of you. It’s a shame thing, that people try to shrug off by calling something “guilty pleasure”. Shame is a very strong motivator, but there’s nothing particularly puritanical or American about it – I would guess musical “guilty pleasures” are much more actual for Japanese cultural elitists, for example, than they are for American ones.

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One Response to Musical guilty pleasures aren’t about guilt

  1. Pingback: Rated Zed

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