I may have mentioned this before, but Charleston is the best. A special tip of the of the panama hat to the good people at Redux Studios (and to Kimberly Witham's subversive taxidermy), Grace at Xiao Bao Biscuit (good call on that smoked tile fish!), Carri at Principle Gallery and the diabolical enablers at Billy Reid.
The point of the latest CCL is that, when it comes to music (unlike fun-sized Snickers), there are no guilty pleasures. You know what I’m talking about, right, Solange?
Let’s face it: I relate to music much less intensely now than I did in my teens and twenties, so even if I never listen to Everclear again, chances are they will always have a bigger place in my personal history than a more socially acceptable band discovered later in life like, say, Big Star.
And yet, it’s impossible not to feel a little funny about liking certain artists and songs when every cultural cue says you shouldn’t. Everyone knows that the only antidote for shame is the clear light of day, so in that spirit, here are the top five guilty pleasures in my collection:
1) Will Smith—“Miami”: What is it about Will Smith? Those Fresh Prince singles with DJ Jazzy Jeff aren’t cool exactly (I remember being embarrassed to lip synch “Parents Just Don’t Understand” with my troop at the Camp Shalom talent show), but they’re respectable, a piece of rap history. The jiggy period, on the other hand, just feels wrong somehow, a movie star’s attempt to show he’s still got it, a turning point (the bad kind) in the battle between flash and substance that has preoccupied hip-hop for decades.
"He would catch himself thinking as everyone does: too hot, too cold, too green, too fat, too spicy, ugly building, old slippers, loud music, homely woman, fat man. Not, he thought, that one couldn’t discriminate but it had grown boring to get in a dither over rehearsing opinions about everything. To the degree that he had gotten rid of this propensity he felt a bit lighter and more fluid. The trouble was that life, the world around him, had begun to seem more fragile, almost evanescent."
"If I were home, which no longer exists, I’d be dancing now. He began to get an inkling that the point was to be dancing in your brain all of the time…"
"It was interesting for him to note that in the darkness, barring thought, pictures still floated lazily across his mind. He discovered that if he didn’t fix on these mental images, no matter how fascinating they were, they would disappear."
—Jim Harrison, The Man Who Gave Up His Name, 1978
Nancy Thompson, "Dharma Connect: The Causes and Conditions of Work Stress," from the increasingly invaluable Interdependence Project blog
UPDATE: The plot thickens.
When it comes to music, I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures. The way I see it, one of the primary purposes of a song is to provide enjoyment to the listener. So a song I enjoy is, by definition, a good song, and in that case, what’s there to feel guilty about?
This confidence in my taste has served me well over the years. I’ve mentioned before that being a teenage fan of The Beach Boys and Prince wasn’t all that cool in the grunge and techno ’90s (even my parents made fun of my Beach Boys worship), but I persevered, and history, for now, has vindicated me.
That said, there are a few musical relationships I try to keep on the down-low. Providing enjoyment may be one of a song’s primary purposes but making the listener feel cool and seem cool to others (especially the opposite sex) is another. And some artists are just uncool and always will be. What tends to embarrass me in music is a certain corniness of sentiment, a reliance on schlocky effects, a tendency to mug or overstate. And yet sometimes corniness works; a schlocky effect, well-deployed, can overcome my better judgment. Sometimes the desperate measures an artist takes to grab my attention are more powerful than my will to resist.