I’ve been wanting to write about this subject for absolutely ages! Since I read the Black Sky Thinking feature on Guilty Pleasures from The Quietus a couple of months back. The piece over at The Quietus is a little heavy handed with relating back to articles written by Susan Sontag but there is a very clear point….why should we feel guilty over things that give us pleasure? I mean we’re not talking about illegal activities here; we’re talking music, books, art, whatever floats your particular boat. I mean look at the popularity of the film ‘The Room’ – one of the worst movies ever committed to film, and yet, has massive popularity because of this. The film makes little to no sense, it’s badly acted, badly scripted but every time a theatre shows it, it becomes some sort of event which people enjoy. I’ve yet to sit through it all myself but a lot of my friends have seen it at special showings and say how much fun it is.
I don’t believe in feeling guilty for anything I like. OK sometimes I may just think to myself ‘Jesus Kate, what kind of crack were you on when you bought this?!’ but everything has a place in my life and I am not going to apologise for that. I grew up in the 80s, and I remember sitting in front of the record player (I must have been about 5 or 6), wearing an adult sized pair of headphones listening to Dead or Alive’s ‘You spin me round (like a record)’ time and time again. My mum also took great delight in telling me I used to dance around the dining room table to ‘Super Trooper’ by Abba when I was a toddler shouting ‘troopy’ at the top of my lungs. Still love Dead or Alive (Rin gave me her signed copy recently and I nearly had a fit!) but less inclined towards Abba these days, but I’m not going to hide these things. I’m a big fan of Hall and Oates for fuck sake, and I went through a weird phase of turning off scrobbling on my last.fm account when I was listening to them but I soon got over that. I don’t give a shit if people see that I’m listening to something they consider to be a ‘guilty pleasure’ – I’m enjoying it so there’s no guilt in that. I’ve loads more where that came from but I’m not going to de-cry them now. Listening to stuff like VNV Nation for example, put me in the right place and introduced me to the right people that got me to here. Listening to metal as a teenager got me some awesome friends and great gig memories. There is no shame in doing what you do.
However, there’s bands with a dark past and things start to get a bit tricky. Lost Prophets. I really loved that band. One of their songs got me through dealing with arranging my Dad’s funeral and no matter what, I will always love that song. What Ian Watkins did is frankly unforgivable – but they were his actions, not the actions of the band, and now their music has this awful darkness about it. The rest of the guys in the band lost their band, their livelihoods, because of the actions of one person. I admit I tried to sell one of my CD’s on music magpie and even they didn’t want it. There will be people out there, like me, who won’t be able to derive the same pleasure they did before. I imagine it’s the same for other generations who liked Gary Glitter in the 70s for example. What happens when music stars behave in such awful ways that it taints their entire life’s work up until this point? Should we feel guilty for listening to it after a particularly awful event? I’m not sure. I still want to sing ‘A town called Hypocrisy’ at the top of my lungs and feel the same as I did in 2006. Sure I was deeply upset at the time, but this gave me release and it made me feel alive whilst I was suffering a level of grief I had not known in my life before – things perhaps are not so black and white.
With both of these points in mind, we really shouldn’t judge the music others enjoy, or ourselves. Music gives us this life affirming pleasure, it gives us drive to do things (my friend likes ‘Keep on Running’ when she is doing literally that….it works for her!) and sometimes just keeps your head in the right place when everything around you is conspiring to drive you absolutely nuts. Music has saved me in numerous ways, and I will not be judged for that, and nor should anyone else. When you judge, people feel the need to defend and I don’t see the point in that, even if it is music where the person behind it has done such horrible things. Focus on the music and how it makes you feel – if it makes you feel good, regardless of what it is, go with that. There’s bigger things to deal with in life than someone else thinking your music taste sucks – chances are it’s the person judging you that sucks more!