For those who don’t know, a “guilty pleasure” song refers to a song which you wholeheartedly adore–as long as nobody else is aware of it.
You know–the song that puts you into a frenzied panic of embarrassment whenever it accidentally plays on your shuffle.
For someone like me–who’s never been seen as “cool”– producing a list of “guilty pleasure” is particularly difficult. People who aren’t cool don’t feel any pressure to remain cool, and therefore can pretty much like whatever they want without fear of judgment.
Despite that, I took on the challenge anyway, digging as deep as I could into my mental music library to produce songs that even I think twice about playing around others.
Now, don’t get me wrong–this isn’t a list of “so bad that it’s good” songs. I actually really like everything on this list. Rather, it’s a list of songs that…have raised a few eyebrows, to say the least.
One rule before we start: No soundtracks. Whether from Anime, TV, or Movies, nothing that is considered a work’s theme song is allowed to be on this list. I could do an entire other article based on just those (which I might do someday–wee!)
Alright. With that out of the way, let’s get to it:
Honorable Mention: ‘The Time Warp’– The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: The flagship track from the cult musical about a Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania—I give enough reasons for people to think I’m weird as it is.
Why I love it: If you’ve sought out watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show at all, chances are that you love this song as much as I do. The accompanying dance is easy, addicting, and set to a monumentally extravagant chorus that explicitly explains the moves. Although the song’s disqualified from the list for being on an original soundtrack, I couldn’t help but feature it anyway.
Best, worst part: The pelvic thrust—it really drives you insane.
15.) ‘Everybody Knows Shit’s Fucked’– Stephen Paul Taylor
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: This song wasn’t meant to ever be heard in its entirety. SPT’s anti-American, anti-establishment, anti-everything ballad was meant to live and die on a video clip featuring Tyler blurting out the song’s chorus while street performing.
Why I love it: After enough time of reading this list, you’ll quickly come to realize that I have a soft spot for synthesizers and catchy beats. Sure, SPT’s lyrics are bordering the realm of ridiculous political paranoia—but at least he’s self-aware of it. I’ll also bet that you’ve never come across a chorus as gratifyingly simple to sing along to.
Best, worst part: “We don’t face the fact/The government f*cks us in the ass”
14.) ‘Rockstar’– Nickelback
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: This was actually unbeknownst to me until just recently, but Rockstar is universally considered as one of the worst songs of all time. One critic even went so far as to say, “”In summary, this song makes literally no sense and is the worst thing of all time.” Almost sounds a bit personal (like most Nickeback criticism)—don’t you think?
Why I love it: Along with the fact that I actually wanted to be a rockstar when I first heard the song, the celebrity-packed music video (including ZZ Top Frontman, Billy Gibbons) has never failed to make me smile. I also appreciate the satirical element of the song on the celebrity lifestyle—even if the song coming from Nickeback is about as ironic as you can get.
Best, worst part: “The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap/Well I’ll stay skinny as we just won’t eat”
13.) ‘Kids in America’—Kim Wilde
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: With stoic band members, synthesizers, and awkward sway-dancing in full effect, this song is a perfect time capsule of music in the 80’s—only, not the part that everyone wants to remember.
Why I love it: Luckily for Kim Wilde, I’m actually really big on the stoic/synthesized/awkward gimmick. Also: the backing vocals after the second chorus still rank among my all-time favorites, and will have me awkwardly swaying well into adulthood.
Best, worst part: A head-scratching remake of this Americana track for the Japan-produced Digimon movie in 2000 is just the cherry on top.
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: A boy band. A Korean boy band. A Korean boy band whose members occasionally rap. A Korean boy band rapping with every dramatic backdrop you can think of. Need I say more?
Why I love it: While your “silly meter” might damn near blow up while listening to this song, it’s hard to say that it’s objectively bad. It serves the purpose of a Pop song perfectly: pretty faces singing nonsense lyrics (even when translated). BIGBANG has always walked the line between goofy and catchy, and this track is a perfect example. It’s even better when you see them perform it live.
Best, worst part: The overly dramatic bridge of the song, with an accompanying acoustic guitar in tow.
11.) ‘Lips of an Angel’—Hinder
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: People apparently hate this song for trying a bit too hard to sound gripping and dramatic. Given how they lyrics might have been inspired by an 8th grader’s Valentines card (“It’s funny that you’re calling me tonight/And, yes, I’ve dreamt of you too”), the detractors might have a point.
Why I love it: This is a very difficult song to defend, because it’s an over-the-top ballad about infidelity. That being said, I first heard it when I was in 8th grade and heartbroken, and those experiences are hard to shake off. Middle school is serious business, man.
You know what else is serious? Infidelity—although you’d never guess by listening to this song.
Best, worst part: The constant beach-walking and apparent wrist breaking on behalf of the lead singer during the video.
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: In case you’ve been wondering how deep I plunged into potential embarrassment for this list, here’s your answer: A poptastic single from the J-Pop group, Perfume.
Why I love it: Believe it or not, but my initial listening of this song back in 2013 was actually my first ever encounter with J-Pop. I still think it’s among the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard, and their live performance of it is always a treat. I used to exchange the song’s translated title (“Nee”= “Hey”) with an old friend of mine, so there’s also a nostalgia boost.
Best, worst part: The trio of Japanese boys performing the song’s dance, which is actually how I discovered the song to begin with:
9.) ‘Ice Ice Baby’—Vanilla Ice
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: While Rockstar is considered one of the worst songs of all time, this track is often dragged through the mud as the defacto worst song ever. Vanilla Ice’s interloping into the Hip-Hop scene while ripping off Queen samples certainly doesn’t help.
Why I love it: This is one of the many songs in my life that I genuinely liked…until I discovered that nobody else did.
As a result, I still know most of the lyrics, can still pull off the dance moves, and still groove to the (non-plagiarized) bassline that plays during the verses.
Best, worst part: “Gunshots rang out like a bell/I grabbed my 9(mm), all I heard was shells fallin’” Sure you did, Ice. Sure you did.
8.) ‘Rollin’’—Limp Bizkit
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: Boy, where to start? The early 2000s-reminiscient backwards red cap? The “Hokey Pokey” inspired lyrics (and hilarious accompanying dance)? The awkward and ultimately unnecessary female backup dancers?
I think I’ll settle with the simple fact that 94% of the music world completely despises Limp Bizkit. Once critic even went as far as to write “”Limp Bizkit had yet to write a good song” back in 2000—6 years into their career.
Why I love it: 7 year-olds aren’t hard to impress. Unfortunately for me, I was 7 when I first got my hands on the Chocolate Starfish album, and completely fell in love with Wes Borland’s guitar playing backing up Fred Durst’s “angry white boy” lyrics. I still love Borland’s playing, and Limp Bizkit songs still make for great gym music. Nothing like channeling my inner Angry White Boy while bench pressing.
Best, worst part: “Hey ladies (where you at?), hey fellas (where you at?), and the people that DON’T GIVE A F*CK” Yeah! Wait…what?
7.) Anything by Babymetal
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: My enthusiasm for Babymetal is slightly concealed because I’d rather most people not know that I love listening to a metal band with three teenage Japanese girls in skirts as frontmen.
Why I love it: All gimmicks aside, Babymetal is actually pretty good at what they do. Brutal instrumentals, catchy choruses, and well-choreographed performances are all in perfect balance for this illegitimate offspring of Slipknot and Perfume.
Babymetal’s unique sound and innovative concept has fueled a meteoric rise to stardom, but it’s a little less commendable once you realize that the entire act is orchestrated by an exploitative talent agency.
Best, worst part: The dance during Megitsune’s chorus…which I’ve subconsciously done before.
6.) ‘You’re Beautiful’—James Blunt
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: This candy sweet number by the former British Army officer was largely a victim of its own success. Starting in 2005 and continuing for the next few years, the song was found in every jewelry commercial, wedding reception, and television episode that was aware of its existence. Simply put: it wore out its welcome, and people quickly tired of it.
Why I love it: Despite its predisposition to being astoundingly annoying, I still think that the all-too-familiar scenario that song portrays is quite profound. It’s a shame that an unfortunately catchy chorus completely overshadowed a touching tale of re-experiencing lost romance.
Best, worst part: (On the explicit version) “She could see from my face that I was f*cking high”. Kind of ruins it, doesn’t it?
5.) ‘Toxic’—Brittney Spears
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: Toxic is a song so overtly reminiscent of early 2000s Pop music that I doubt even the most diehard Spears fans ever play the track un-ironically. I’ve actually been laughed at before by a date for playing it in my car.
Why I love it: While not quite the pinnacle of Spear’s career from a sheer popularity standpoint, Toxic was arguably Brittney’s finest moment as an overall artist. After granting Spears her first Grammy in2005, Toxic is now considered one of the best songs in all of the 2000s. When it comes to great music, I don’t discriminate by genre: a great song is a great song—and Toxic is undoubtedly great.
Best, worst part: The surfer guitar riff heard during the chorus. It really suited the hilarious spy-themed music video.
4.) ‘What is Love’—Haddaway
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: Let’s get one thing straight: everyone loves this song. The only thing is that most people love it for about 30 seconds or so, until it’s time to skip to the next cheesy throwback. What is Love is truly a song to be appreciated, but never sought after.
Why I love it: Haddaway’s upbeat delivery over a 90’s time capsule of a love song is an effort that I’ve never had any problem with playing beginning to end. While the awesome backing vocals and infectious beat are two big reasons why the song has won my heart, we all know the real kicker was the song’s role in the most bromantic movie scene ever.
Best, worst part: The female singer’s riffing after the first chorus.
3.) ‘Timber’—Pitbull & Kesha
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: People were starting to get tired of hearing Pitbull on every party track by 2013, and few ever wanted to hear Kesha to begin with. Taking a step back reveals that the expectedly popular hit was merely a Frankenstein monster of two things nobody wanted to ever combine.
The music video is further evidence of this, since the two artists aren’t ever featured in the same shot. Which, of course, raises the question: were they even aware that they would be featured on the track together?
A Youtube comment reads, “I’m only here for the first 15 seconds”—which likely rings true for most listeners. Party songs aren’t meant to last long, anyway…right?
Why I love it: It’s been 3 years since Timber had its 15 seconds of fame, and I still blast the song as happily as ever.
Is it repetitive? You betcha.
Corny? An understatement.
Does it have any semblance of meaning AT ALL? Nope.
And you know what? I don’t care, because I f*cking love this song.
I went on a cruise to Mexico with my best friend, and the song must have played at least 100 times. This, of course, means that I danced and sang along 100 times.
Sure, it’s hollow nonsense, but I’ll commend the Pitbull/Kesha mashup for never striving to be anything more and generally knowing its place as a single-serving party song.
Best, worst part: “Swing your partner ‘round and ‘round…”
2.) ‘I’m Blue’—Eiffel 65
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: From a purely objective point of view, there’ very little to like with this song. It’s repetitive, nonsensical, and reminiscent of the sideways visor-wearing aspect of 2000s culture that makes must of us cringe. Rolling Stone magazine apparently felt the same way, going far as to say that it “blends Cher-esque vocoder vocals, trance-like synth riffs, unabashed Eurodisco beats and a baby-babble chorus so infantile it makes the Teletubbies sound like Shakespeare.”
Why I love it: Arpeggios are one of my favorite concepts in all of music composition, and I’m Blue’s original piano hook is so surprisingly hypnotic that I can completely overlook its gibberish chorus and grammatically incorrect lyrics. For the 99.99% percent of you who has never thought about this song so deeply, it’s at least sure to make you crack a nostalgia-ridden grin.
Blue is also my favorite color, for what it’s worth.
Best, worst part: “I have a girlfriend, and she is blue”. Beautiful nonsense. And oh my goodness, what a music video.
1.) ‘Butterfly’—Crazy Town
Why it’s a guilty pleasure: Oh boy—this one’s a doozy. The frosted-tipped Crazy Town’s hilarious fusion of Rap and Rock is a perfect candidate to embody music’s transition from the late 90’s into the early 2000’s. The music video is so gut wrenchingly awkward—with star tattoos and a chronic absence of shirts in full effect—that it’s embarrassing to even watch it on mute.
Why I love it: Nostalgia strikes again, because my twin sister and I thought Butterfly was the coolest thing ever when it hit the charts in 1999. The rest of the world also seemed to vibe with the Red Hot Chili Pepper sample riff and head-bobbing drum beat, since the song was a #1 hit in 15 countries. I’m sure all 15 of those counties would deny ever liking the track if asked about it today—but I won’t.
Best, worst part: “Girl, me and you like Sid and Nancy”—a couple noted for their drug abusing, destructive relationship that ultimately led to the death of both. So, naturally, the best romantic simile imaginable. Also–what might be the worst music video ever.