It's Time To Leave The 'Guilty Pleasure' Behind

This should not be your face when someone "catches" you enjoying some music. (Credit: Jacqueline Day/Unsplash)

Picture this: you're into heavy metal. Your bedroom walls are plastered with posters of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Lamb of God and Trivium. But one day you wake up and you're not feeling very metal. Instead, you dig out your hidden box of secret CDs from under your bed and quietly put on some Taylor Swift. You enjoy yourself for about half an hour before - DISASTER! You forgot you invited your friend over that day and he's just walked in with a puzzled - and entertained - look on his face, wondering what the Hell's going on. You rack your brain for an excuse but the clock is ticking, and finally you're forced to concede and admit: Taylor Swift is your "guilty pleasure".

The concept of the guilty pleasure is a simple one. You have your main taste in music, but there's something outside of it that has slipped through. You enjoy it even though logic says you shouldn't; in fact, it's something you should be embarrassed by. If people knew you listened to this, you'd never live it down. You would be mocked about it until the day you die.

But take a step back and you'll realise that it's such a stupid thing. Music is a form of entertainment and is therefore subjective; indeed, every review on this very website is simply a matter of opinion. Music is made to be enjoyed, to be loved, so surely the one emotion you shouldn't feel whilst listening to it, is guilt. Unless, of course, you've just committed a heinous crime or betrayed a friend, in which case, you feel that guilt while the radio plays; that's your own fault.

Why should we feel guilty for enjoying a certain type of music? It's a bizarre stance to take and it is only fuelled by social status; for example, how can you fit in with the ravers if you also like Adele? Answer: you can't, so you hide it. This hiding then makes you feel like you shouldn't enjoy it and thus, guilt.

I may be a metalhead but Nina Nesbitt is one of my absolute favourites. I feel no shame or guilt about it.

But it cannot be stressed enough: music is subjective and made for our entertainment. The bottom line is that you should not feel guilty for enjoying music; on the contrary, you should be sharing the love and spreading it far and wide. No-one should have to feel guilty about a damn thing when it comes to the music they enjoy.

Actually, scratch that. If you're still listening to Rolf Harris, Gary Glitter or Lostprophets, that ain't right and any guilt you’re feeling is justified. Stop doing that.

But disgusting criminals aside, no. Music is made for your pleasure only - guilt should not be ordered on the side. Slipknot's Corey Taylor said it best when he was asked what his guilty pleasure pop song is: "I don't have one. I don't feel guilty about anything I listen to." That’s the attitude we should all take towards music.

This is especially true in adults. In secondary school, I was heavily into my rock and metal and thought everyone outside of big guitar bands was awful and boring. This behaviour is more forgivable in children, who are still learning and still finding themselves. As I grew up, and particularly when I went to study Music Technology, I found my taste broadening. Today, there isn’t a massive amount that I won’t listen to; as long as I find the quality to be high enough and I enjoy it, genre is no longer an obstacle.

That is the correct stance to take. So what if you like something that's naturally considered to be outside of your normal taste? You listen to that and you enjoy it. You're allowed; no-one is going to come for you if you're "caught" listening to it, and if they do, that’s on them for being weird.

It's time we ended the culture of the "guilty pleasure" once and for all. If you have anything you consider to be a guilty pleasure, then stop with the guilty bit and focus on the pleasure. Music is there to be sang along to, be danced to, be sad to, be celebrated to. It is not there to make you feel guilty, and so you shouldn’t. Listen to whatever the Hell you want; it’s your choice and your right. Have a ball.


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