The Joy of the Guilty Pleasure

Music is often described as a unifying force of people across the globe. Whether that be by genre, artist, album – or even simply a song. I know people who have made friends in South America purely because of their joint engagement of love in the music of a particular artist. Indeed, even I have had positive engagements on social media purely as a result of this.

One of the joys of music overall is that there is something for everyone, as the genre range is so spread: from choral hymns to heavy metal, from rock and roll to the electropop of today. And the nature of music suggests that talent from any background can rise to the top, whether born into wealth, or the most basic working-class background. 

This diversification, success, and the emotional connection we all feel with our music leads to a feeling of pride in “our artists”. We sing the praises of our favourites, request their songs to be played at parties or on the radio, and buy their merchandise. But there is one type of music out there that we often hide away, ashamed from the rest: the guilty pleasure.

Everyone has them, and they normally fall into similar categories: the song that is way outside of the genre that you normally listen to – a heavy metal fan who happens to like Céline Dion; The one hit wonder, often from the 80s or 90s, or the expertly produced pop track with little artistic merit but one that you can’t help but feel joy when you hear.

The truth is that we should not feel ashamed of our guilty pleasures, particularly when they inspire us with strong emotion. I am fortunate in some senses: my music taste is so broad that it would inevitably contain music that to most people could only be categorised as ‘guilty pleasures’. After all, when you grow up listening to Scooter, Europop, and then 80s classics, your music taste isn’t as ‘cultured’ as others claim to have.

But that is something I am not ashamed of. I am not ashamed of the fact that I rarely listen to deep cuts and remixes of an artist’s work. That I do not have an encyclopaedic knowledge of a genre. I am quite happy to be a generalist rather than a specialist – someone who’s tastes are broad.

And I’m quite happy for people to know what I listen to. I genuinely enjoy the music of Wham!, Duran Duran, and ABBA. I think disco music is incredible, and its legacy is often overlooked in comparison to punk – although disco has ultimately lasted the test of time much longer. Heck, I’ve even got a soft spot for the Europop sounds of the 90s that fill the SU from time to time. 

This is how it should be. Our musical tastes are something we should never be ashamed of, whether they are high-class or “interesting”, or the most mainstream and pop-filled. In a world that feels increasingly bleak, music – in particular songs that bring us joy – should be proudly celebrated and shared, not hidden away like some awful secret.

Celebrate the “guilty pleasure”. Lose the guilt. Enjoy your music, and ultimately – who cares what anyone else thinks of your tastes? 

Concourse is Keele University’s independent student-run publication and has a long history of promoting student journalism. Having been established in 1964, Concourse has become an important part of the university and has been read by generations of Keelites.

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