Thursday, December 02, 2010

Recently, I was invited to express an opinion about "guilty pleasures". I had to chortle at the prospect of doing so, after all, I had evaluated my understanding of trashy pop music years ago. I had made a short, almost momentary radio documentary on the topic. It yielded a neverending parade of friends describing how alienated they felt by their taste. It was through talking to so many people about guilty pleasures that I realised that the shame originated from a number of sources: an acknowledgement that the music is tacky, meaningless and disposable; identifying a violently flamboyant visual aesthetic or else realising that the music conflicts with your outward persona. I also read somewhere that a guilty pleasure shows that you actually "know" about music... and there's nothing more embarrassing than knowing about music, right?

I didn't even realise that my views on such things had changed. As Mini pasted slabs of text to me, describing his love for Michelle Branch and Delta Goodrem, I noticed that he defended his passion in such a careful and sensitive way. It made me realise that guilty pleasures are simply not relevant to me anymore. I said to him, "Perhaps every thing I like is a guilty pleasure?" It is true to some extent, my cultural choices may be dismissed and ridiculed by the stealthy guardsmen of good taste. They don't even have to say anything, whoever they are. I understand what is fashionable, what is indie and credible, as opposed to what is trashy, silly and ridiculous. I was once told that there would be a time when I would not care what they thought. I was once promised that I would be comfortable and honest enough to celebrate what I love without fear of reproach.

So how did it come to be like this? I believe much of it has to do with the construction of the online identity. It is possible to conceal those things that make you uncool. You do not need to feature Milli Vanilli in your list of Favourite Artists on Facebook, you do not need to incessantly mention Ace of Base on Twitter. Instead, you can associate yourself with a kind of wispy, bearded indiepop subgenre that has considerably more gravitas and far greater kudos than Space Disco. I can't identify when it happened exactly, but somewhere between that momentary whiff of a documentary and this very day, I learned to embrace and project all that I would otherwise be ashamed of. Irrespective of any glitchy sound or cheesy attitude, I think it is the greatest thing to find that song that resonates with you. It's not fair to celebrate that discovery in isolation.

I have given up defending the music I love because I no longer take the cultural guardsman seriously. He is like an insecure hipster to me, running from one token endorsement to another. He once held such conviction in his taste, but since it has fallen out of favour with a key indie stakeholder, he feels compelled to snarl, dismiss and ridicule. He is desperate to assert his own cultural superiority, but when he does, it is almost as if he is dismissing a fragment of his musical past, a part of himself that found a rare affinity in something as beautiful and ephemeral as pop music.

It is stupid. We should never be ashamed of our taste. We should learn to trust our cultural sensibilities. Cool or otherwise, we should celebrate in rejoice in the discovery of truly great pop. That's why we're all here.

Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Synthpop Podcast #25
Pet Shop Boys - Opportunities (Reprise)
Pet Shop Boys - Tonight is Forever
Depeche Mode - Shake the Disease
Cause & Effect - Nothing Comes to Mind
Yazoo - Nobody's Diary
Erasure - My Heart, So Blue (Orchestral Arrangement)
New Order - Dream Attack
Electronic - Vivid
The Cure - Halo

Download (54.6 MB)

1 comment:

Ethan said...