This is a line that I keep rolling out whenever I hear the term “guilty pleasures”. I hate the term. Why would anyone feel guilt or shame in listening to music they love?

It’s a particularly 21st century phenomenon whereby people who like to think of themselves as music aficionados declare that it’s okay to listen to music that doesn’t fit in their pantheon of the greats, as long as it’s done with a wink.

“I may be dancing to Katy Perry here but I’d like you to know that when I get home I’ll be digging out the old Bowie b-sides and Fugazi demos.”

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division is often called the greatest song of all time.  Really?  It was played at a recent wedding I went to and no one danced. No one was even listening to it. Then Jacko’s sublime Rock With You came on and there were yelps of joy, the dancefloor filled and people that were previously chatting were bobbing their heads.

Let’s look at the evidence:

Love Will Tear Us Apart: Repetitive, murky, a bit out of tune and very, very gloomy indeed.

Rock With You: Perfect melody, crisp production, danceable and life-affirming.

It comes down to these notions of what’s acceptable that seem to have been set for us by the leading figures in music print media. These people are invariably white, middle aged, middle class males.

They have built a musical timeline that starts with an angry white man with a guitar (Dylan), goes through numerous other angry white men with guitars (Stones, Pistols, Smiths) and ends at…er…angry white men with guitars and samplers (Radiohead), with few variants.

They have a notion that happy pop music is easy to churn out. Not so. Pop songwriters such as Cathy Dennis, Guy Chambers and Brian Higgins are paid a lot of money to come up with the hits. It’s a craft.  Downbeat songs are much MUCH easy to write; whereas it’s in fact very difficult to write something happy that doesn’t sound twee.

But to me, that’s what music is – it’s the way it makes you feel.  It’s about forgetting your troubles, singing at the top of your voice, dancing (even though I can’t) and becoming immersed in great melodies.

And that’s why I will take New Radicals over Bob Dylan any day.


By Ben Haynes