What does it mean to be a “guilty pleasure”? If you like a song, shouldn’t you be proud of it? Sing it from the rooftops? Scream it in the shower? Tell all your friends about it and bask in their respect and adulation? Sure, all of that is great if you’re proud of what you’re listening to. But as I’m sure we all know, that’s not always the case.
True guilt is based on a person’s personal standards and therefore varies wildly. For example, I happen to be a 20-something American male with an interest in today’s indie music scene. I’d be shameless to recommend Legs or Brothertiger because that’s the sort of music I would usually listen to. But if I wouldn’t shut up about Aaron Carter, well that would raise some red flags. People would worry. Same with, say, Michelle Branch–and not because she’s not amazing (she is), but because she’s incredibly random and unexpected.
So with that in mind, I’ve divided this Guilty Pleasure Playlist into five categories:
First, the basics. The meat of the playlist. The random and unexpected. Maybe not the guiltiest songs ever, but we’re just getting started.
Second, the guilty. The songs I don’t play unless I’m completely alone. Marvel at my courage as I disclose my secret pleasures.
Third, the ridiculous. These are all great songs, sure, but their existence makes me laugh.
Fourth, the 1980s. The guiltiest decade by far. It needs its own category, trust me.
And finally, the emotional. The feelings you swore you’d leave in High School. Where does teen angst go when you turn 20?
All these categories are full of righteous tunage, no doubt about it. What makes each song “guilty” is up for debate, but I encourage a hearty discussion. Please send any and all reactions, disagreements or recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org. Click below to explore the playlist, or find it on Spotify and Youtube.
These are the money songs, the ones everyone likes (once they remember them). Technically guilty? Only because you forgot they exist.
Ginuwine — Pony TLC — No Scrubs R. Kelly — Ignition (Remix) Shaggy — It Wasn’t Me Timbaland — The Way I Are Nelly Furtado — Promiscuous MSTRKRFT ft John Legend — Heartbreaker Fergie ft Ludacris — Glamorous The Black Eyed Peas — Meet Me Halfway B.0.B — Nothin’ on You Wyclef Jean — Perfect Gentleman City High — What Would You Do Destiny’s Child — Say My Name Crazy Town — Butterfly No Doubt — It’s My Life S Club 7 — S Club Party Oakenfold — Starry Eyed Surprise Maroon 5 — This Love Santana ft. Rob Thomas — Smooth Fastball — The Way The Wallflowers — One Headlight Tonic — If You Could Only See Eve 6 — Inside Out Marcy Playground — Sex And Candy Blur — Song 2 The Mighty Mighty Bosstones — The Impression That I Get The Darkness — I Believe In A Thing Called Love Beastie Boys — Sabotage
It’s no surprise that most of these are female artists. I consider myself minimally sexist–only as much as the next socially-conscious millennial dude–but I just can’t feel comfortable belting these in public (even though I know all the words). But that’s my cross to bear; these women (and select men) should be proud of their music:
Jessica Simpson — With You Gwen Stefani — Cool Jordin Sparks — Battlefield Leona Lewis — Bleeding Love Mariah Carey — Heartbreaker Natalie Imbruglia — Torn Britney Spears — Lucky Kelly Clarkson — Behind These Hazel Eyes Alanis Morissette — All I Really Want Indigo Girls — Galileo Sheryl Crow — A Change Would Do You Good Paula Cole — Where Have All The Cowboys Gone Tracy Chapman — Give Me One Reason Melissa Etheridge — Come To My Window Annie Lennox — Walking On Broken Glass Michelle Branch — All You Wanted Vanessa Carlton — White Houses Regina Spektor — Us Fergie — Big Girls Don’t Cry Nelly Furtado — I’m Like A Bird Janet Jackson — Together Again Shakira — Whenever, Wherever Nicki Minaj — Super Bass Ariana Grande — Break Free Enrique Iglesias — Do You Know? Marc Anthony — I Need To Know K-Ci & JoJo — All My Life Hanson — This Time Around Owl City — Fireflies
These are just goofiest songs ever.
Sisqo — The Thong Song DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince — Boom! Shake The Room Naughty By Nature — O.P.P. R. Kelly — Thoia Thoing Del tha Funky Homosapien — Mistadobalina Flo Rida ft Timbaland — Elevator Lady Gaga ft Beyonce — Telephone Aaron Carter — That’s How I Beat Shaq Chumbawamba — Tubthumping Bloodhound Gang — The Bad Touch Hot Action Cop — Fever For The Flava Right Said Fred — I’m Too Sexy Mickey Avalon — My Dick Gunther — Ding Dong Song Toy-Box — Tarzan & Jane Len — Steal My Sunshine
No decade has produced guiltier pleasures than the 1980s. If you don’t already have an 80s party playlist (you really should), start with the basics and then sprinkle in a couple of these. You can’t lose.
Men Without Hats — Safety Dance Starship — We Built This City Billy Ocean — Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car The B-52s — Love Shack Eddy Grant — Electric Avenue New Order — Bizarre Love Triangle Milli Vanilli — Blame It On The Rain Bon Jovi — Wanted Dead or Alive Tiffany — I Think We’re Alone Now Roxette — It Must Have Been Love Bonnie Tyler — Total Eclipse of the Heart Mr. Mister — Kyrie Bryan Adams — Vanishing Jefferson Starship — Jane Huey Lewis and the News — The Power Of Love Dan Hartman — I Can Dream About You John Waite — Missing You Yazoo — Only You
I grew up on a healthy diet of blink-182, so forgive me if I don’t put their whole catalog on here (as they are far from guilty). That’s what this category is for though, all the angsty teenage stuff I still love. Try not to cry if you can.
Jimmy Eat World — Hear You Me Goo Goo Dolls — Iris Yellowcard — Only One The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus — Your Guardian Angel Evanescence — My Immortal Linkin Park — In The End Thirty Seconds To Mars — Closer To The Edge Coheed and Cambria — The Suffering Lifehouse — Hanging By A Moment Secondhand Serenade — Fall For You Eve 6 — Here’s To The Night Bush — Glycerine Live — Lightning Crashes The Verve Pipe — The Freshmen Regina Spektor — Samson Tracy Chapman — Fast Car
I know I said I only needed five categories, but no playlist is complete without a couple wildcards to round them out. The exceptions to the rules. Don’t think too hard about it.
Dirty Loops — Wake Me Up [Avicii cover] White Denim — Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) [Kenny Rogers cover] Rubblebucket — What A Fool Believes [Doobie Brothers cover] Skrillex — Bangarang Dan Deacon — When I Was Done Dying