Five Guilty Pleasures I Can’t Do Without (Only Four More ‘American Idol’-Free Months, Thank God!)
I’ve never been called an entertainment snob, but if I were, I suppose it’d be half true. I don’t like genre films and summer blockbusters (favorite movies: Three Colors: Blue, Dangerous Liaisons, Interiors), shun fast-food literature (favorite books: Atlas Shrugged, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Brothers Karamazov), and have blogged unflatteringly about Miley Cyrus, Josh Groban and NCIS — and been ripped apart for doing so.
Newsflash! For all of my occasionally snooty leanings, I’ve never considered my taste to be anything approaching high-brow or “cool.” Yes, I love serious films that tend to get Oscar nominations, and classic books by dead authors, but when it comes to TV and music, I can get as low-brow and mainstream as the best (worst?) of them. My all-time favorite TV show is The Golden Girls, which was an Emmy favorite during its seven-year run but is not exactly Arrested Development or 30 Rock (neither of which I particularly care for). And at various times in my life, I’ve been hooked on Three’s Company, Two and a Half Men and Days of Our Lives.
Yes, Days of Our Lives. Soap operas are perhaps my most questionable indulgence, my strongest weakness, and one of the things I miss most about living in the United States. Every weekday, beginning around 8pm, I log onto YouTube from my couch in Buenos Aires for screenings of my four favorites (One Life to Live, General Hospital, All My Children and Days). I’d love to say that I tune in for the stellar acting (and yes, I do think some of the acting is as good as what you’ll find on prime time or in film — for proof, check out these scenes from the August 24 episode of GH), but in reality, it’s the far-fetched story that keeps me coming back. I just can’t resist a good cat fight, baby-switching drama and characters talking to themselves.
But as guilty pleasures go, some of the best ones are music to my ears — literally. Though in general, I won’t love anything with an anthem-y chorus or songs that might inspire group sing-alongs or wedding-reception line dancing, there’s no method to the madness that is my taste in music. I ping pong from the cutting edge to the mainstream, from high brow to low brow, from trendy to uncool. I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit that I can take or leave critically hailed acts like Smashing Pumpkins, Outkast and Eminem. I understand their appeal, but for the most part, they don’t do much for me. I’d rather spend a karaoke outing or a long shower belting out songs by artists that “cool” people love to hate and I just plain old love, or immersing myself in the following five favorite musical guilty pleasures.
1. Celine Dion Yes, everyone knows that Canada has produced some talented musicians (Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, k.d. lang, Sarah McLachlan, Shania Twain — I love them every one), but it’s also given us Justin Bieber, Nickelback and Celine Dion. (For the record, I’m no fan of Bieber or Nickelback, but I’m not a hater either.) Despite selling millions of records, Dion has never made any “serious” music critics’ list of albums you must hear before you die. None of her releases would earn a spot on my list of desert island discs either, but that’s because I usually find her singles from them to be dreadfully schlocky. The beauty of Celine Dion isn’t in “My Heart Will Go On” or “Because You Loved Me,” but in her album tracks that never made it onto the radio (such as “My Love,” a Linda Perry composition from 2007′s Taking Chances), and in her French-language songs. If her lovely, understated emoting on “Un garcon pas comme le autres (Ziggy)” (a song about, of all things, a woman in love with a gay man!) doesn’t warm your heart, check to see that you have one.
2. Samantha Fox The Ke$ha of her time (the late ’80s) never fooled anyone into thinking she was in it for the long haul, but she did produce exactly two perfect Top 10 pop singles: “I Wanna Have Some Fun” and “Naughty Girls (Need Love To).”
3. Country with a twang I wouldn’t dare knock Nashville’s finest. Though most of the pop-leaning stuff currently crowding the charts doesn’t interest me much, country from the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s ranks as some of the best music I’ve ever heard. And I’m not just talking about cool, respected artists like George Jones, Emmylou Harris and Merle Haggard, but truly down-home, just-this-side-of-ridiculous corn-pone classics with titles like “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home,” “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma,” “Teach Me to Cheat” and, yes, “I Love My Truck.”
4. Enya At one point in the ’90s, you couldn’t go to the movies, without hearing an Enya song in at least one trailer. She’s a multi-platinum superstar, a Grammy winner and an Academy Award nominee, and though she’s got a far better reputation than Yanni, she’s been deemed uncool enough for merciless skewering on South Park. Perhaps it’s the supposedly soporific quality of her new-age music. When people say that its great for falling asleep to, I’m not sure whether that should be taken as a compliment or an insult. Personally, I would never nod off during Shepherd Moons, her best album, from 1991, and miss “Angeles,” “Evacuee” or “Afer Ventus.” (I admit it: Her song titles are beyond pretentious and make Sting look almost down to earth.)
5. American Idol Though it’s still the highest-rated show on television, recently, more and more people have been telling me, “I’ve never watched an episode of American Idol,” as if that should be a reason for me to think more highly of them. Last season kind of bored me, and I sort of don’t care who’s sitting at the judges table when the 10th season premieres on January 12, 2011 (good luck, Steven Tyler!). I’ll be watching, though, because I still find it to be one of the most suspenseful shows on television, occasionally filled with ovation-worthy entertainment. It’s also produced at least two great, deserving stars — Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood — and courtesy of another winner, one of the most brilliant pop singles of last few years: Jordin Sparks’s “Battlefield.”
I know, “Battlefield”? How sappy of me. Well, make that guilty pleasure No. 6 then.
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