Guilty on Five Counts

I’ll cop to having been tempted by the “Top Five Guilty Pleasures on Your iPod” meme that’s been going around, so I’m glad Ned tagged me with it. But I must say, it’s a tough one, for reasons that are specific to my iTunes situation. The summer after 8th grade, I decided to rip every CD in my house, whether it was owned by me, my brother, or my parents. This was nice, in that when my dad bought a Sonos system we had an extremely large collection of music to use. But it also means that I have Bette Midler’s Experience the Divine, the soundtrack to Aladdin, and basically every Original Broadway Cast Recording you can imagine. Suffice it to say, I never listen to any of this (hearing my musical theater friends belt “A Whole New World” is quite enough, thank you), but it’s in my iTunes and, as a result, my big, hard-disk iPod. So a better barometer is the music I’ve put on my iPhone, excuse me, my 3G iPhone, which is generally material I listen to on a semi-regular basis.

Another preliminary note: I don’t think these five songs are bad. Certainly I like them, or else they wouldn’t be on the iPhone. And it’s pretty absurd to dub songs “bad for you”, as if Pitchfork and AV Club and the like comprise a kind of musical FDA that approves or rejects aural treatments. So there’s no real science to this. But hey, it’s fun, so why not?

1. “The Way I Live” by Baby Boy da Prince, Across the Water.

One of my favorite jobs when I was working for the Obama campaign was “canvassing for twos”. The standard coding system we used labeled undecided voters “threes”, supporters of non-Obama candidates “fours”, and Obama supporters “twos”. Obama supporters who signed cards indicating their intention to vote for him were “ones”. Canvassing for twos involved driving to the house of every two in the database and trying to convince them to sign one of those cards.

It was a great gig; you were talking to people who were already sympathetic, you got to drive instead of walk, and, best of all, you worked in pairs. And you spent a lot of time with your partner. This is how I learned that Alex Hughes (hi, Alex!) – Bates graduate and WASP extraordinaire – has extraordinarily bad taste in gangsta rap. Just gangsta rap, mind you. We’d start every canvass by blasting “Definition” by Black Star, which is a perfectly respectable alt hip-hop track. But she also loved this song, and “Poppin’ My Collar” by Three 6 Mafia, and some song called “Poppin’ Pockets” that’s so bad I can’t seem to find it anywhere except her iPod.

Anyway, Alex and I listened to this song enough in her car that I eventually bought it. And it’s a damn catchy song – stupid, but catchy. So it’s made it onto my iPhone.

2. “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” by Deborah Cox, One Wish.

Remember those NOW! That’s What I Call Music compilations that were popular before Napster and iTunes made it possible to obtain individual songs? I got this on a knockoff of one of those called Totally Hits when I was eight or something. I was looking back at the track list last month after I had a tug of nostalgia for LFO’s “Summer Girls” – it’s as bad as you remember – and found this. And on an objective level, it’s a great dance track, with all of the overwrought melodies and crescendos and drum thumps that the genre requires.

3. “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden, Savage Garden.

You know when I knew ’90s nostalgia had arrived for people my age? When an a capella concert at my school featured a medley with “I Want It That Way”, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”, and this song. There’s really no redeeming qualities to be found here; it’s total schlock, bad prom music. But hey, I was six when I first heard it. When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible, and when I’m less young and slightly more responsible, I have license to reminisce.

4. “Caribou Lou” by Tech N9ne, Everready (The Religion).

Another Obama song. During my brief stay in Manchester, I would often bum a ride with this other intern who at times seemed like a total hipster, but who’d then blindside you with a completely unironic appreciation of “Maneater” by Hall & Oates. Or, for instance, he’d have a copy of “Stronger” on his iPod two months before its legal release, and then play this. It’s catchy, no doubt, but it’s also a shameless “let’s get drunk featuring my signature beverage” song. Also, “Kansas City, Missouri” sounds so much less cool than “South Central” or “Bed-Stuy”. Just sayin’. To be fair, though, this song did lead to one of the better graphs ever created.

5. “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany, Tiffany.

I really have no excuse for this one. I wasn’t even alive when this came out. And it’s not like there aren’t other, more respectable versions of the song I could listen to. But no, my favorite has to be the one Tiffany did. Tiffany, the manufactured pop starlet so artificial she didn’t even hire a ghostwriter to get her some original material. It’s the bass, I think. It’s so sharp and clipped, almost like tuned drums. Either that, or I am truly devoid of any and all taste.

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