Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience: Don’t Feel Guilty About “Guilty Pleasures”

Fuck me, I am going to overdose on this new Justin Timberlake album.

I know that I’m supposed to be ashamed of certain selections in my album collection. I know this from all of the times that people have looked through my CDs or records or iTunes and been all, “Hey, what’s this doing here?” before handing me, say, a Carpenters album or some weird movie soundtrack and calling it my “guilty pleasure.”

Everybody seems to be hung up on some kind of notion that the music you like says something about you, that it makes you a certain kind of person. How boring and closed-minded and, well, teenagerish.

Do you know what my music says about me? Nothing. At the most, it says that I like good tunes, because I think the stuff that I own is all good tunes. But I feel zero guilt over any of the music that I enjoy and you shouldn’t, either.

As a music writer, people usually assume that the “bad” in my music collection got there because somebody sent it to me for free or because I had to write about it or something. Nope. Most of that “bad” stuff is there because I bought it myself with cash money dollahz.

I think that, for the most part, the pop music you like isn’t a representation of your personality. It can’t be. As a matter of definition, pop music is popular and loved by millions. That’s one of the great things about pop music: It subtly provides opportunities to cross boundaries and engage with others who are unlike you because you have something in common. You can meet someone on the other side of the planet who speaks an entirely different language, but you can still manage to bond with them over the magic of Michael Jackson.

I have one exception to this universal love-fest. I will openly admit to a prejudice against diehard U2 fans. I just don’t understand it. And while I hate everything about the bloated, pompous beast that is U2, I still like a few U2 songs. I mean, damn, you can’t argue with “One.” That song is perfect.

So you don’t get to decide what you like, you just like it. That’s it. (Trust me, if I could find a way hate “One,” I’d be way stoked.) Instead of being weird or bashful about it, celebrate your personal diversity. Don’t like certain songs or bands in an “ironic” way. Who has time for that? And don’t justify or feel like you have to defend or explain your potentially embarrassing favorites. Just go on liking them and tell all haters to step off.

For example, I don’t know how may times I’ve had to explain to somebody that, no, I actually really like Taylor Swift. Sure, sometimes I dig Swift in a very detached way, like when I’m analyzing her fame or her success. But usually when I’m listening to T-Swiz, there’s not much cerebral action happening: I’m just another dumb broad rocking out in her car. I’ll be all singing along and thinking about boys and making exaggerated arm gestures while driving down Highway 44 and loving it.

I’ve heard time and time again that my taste in music is very confusing. Like, I really love Tool, but I also love Mary Chapin Carpenter. (I can roll from “Hooker with a Penis” to “Passionate Kisses” without blinking.) And I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Veruca Salt, but Nina Gordon’s solo album is just as likely to get played as Minor Threat. And at my house, music listening decisions come down to things like Neil Young vs. Britney Spears all of the time.

Am I really supposed to be ashamed of this? All of this stuff is good, yo.

There is only one album in my entire collection that makes me cringe every time I see it. It’s Tori Amos’ “Crucify” single. I hate the sight of it, but not because I’m embarrassed that I own it: It’s because I really can’t stand that woman’s music, her earnestness or my memory of that nasty pig sucking her breast. But I’m a Nirvana completest, and that particular CD contains her hilariously snobby, overly pronounced cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Whenever I’ve played it, it’s become an instant favorite among any friends with a sense of humor.

So, damn, don’t take your music taste so seriously. And don’t analyze or complicate your instincts. If it has a good beat, dance to it. Just like what you like, and don’t worry about bullshit labels like “guilty pleasures.”

And, for the love of God, give that new Justin Timberlake album a spin. It’s totally good, I swear. Like, actually.

Now go bump this and don’t feel guilty at all when it owns you:

link: Riverfront Times