Non Sequitur: Guilty Pleasures (Musical Edition)

Queen is one of those guilty pleasures: a band whose music is great, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I like.

Anonymous, during a recent conversation we had about music.

I don’t have any trouble admitting that I like Queen, personally, but I do hesitate sometimes before revealing that enjoy some other musicians and musical groups, like Ace of Base and (gasp!) Yanni. I also like enough of the music from The Backyardigans, a Nick Jr. show that my young apprentice occasionally watches, that I’ve purchased several songs from their repertoire (ostensibly for my son’s enjoyment, though I listen to them when he’s not around).

Some people consider ABBA a guilty pleasure, but so much of my childhood occurred while “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo” were spinning on my dad’s record player that I can’t feel even the slightest bit of embarrassment about enjoying them. ((In my memory, my father owned exactly three distinct categories of LPs: ABBA, Bill Cosby and Country & Western.))

Yanni: Live at the Acropolis
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What makes a guilty pleasure? Why should I (or anyone else, for that matter) feel guilty for enjoying the music of a 70s Scandinavian pop group (or a 90s copycat of a 70s Scandinavian pop group) or a smug, over-coiffed, Greek synthesizer slinger? ((I don’t know that Yanni is actually smug, but he certainly comes across that way. If you’ve ever seen his Live at the Acropolis performance, you may know what I mean.))

Context plays a big part; the music I’ll readily cop to enjoying depends a lot on who I’m talking to and what sort of music we’re discussing. ((Peer pressure: no expiration date.)) Am I likely to mention that I own half a dozen Enya albums when the musical topic is metal groups? Not terribly. ((I may not be likely to mention that I own three Metallica albums, either, as Metallica fans seem to be divided into pre-Load fans and…me.)) That’s not to say I’ll deny owning those Enya albums, mind you—there’s just less of a likelihood they’ll be mentioned in that context than if the genre of the moment is overdubbed, ethereal Irish New Age. ((Which, admittedly, is a fairly specific genre.))

ABBA: Voulez-vous
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There’s also the context of the artist or group itself. ABBA is a product of the early 1970s, and everything about ABBA—from their glam-pop sound to their stage costumes and album covers—is a testament to the time period. There are aspects of every decade in the past half-century that are mocked, from the exaggerated Nuclear Family of the 1950s to Free Love in the 1960s and Big Hair in the 1980s, ((What are the 1990s mocked for, you ask? Mostly Ace of Base and Yanni, I think.)) but I don’t think any decade is shunned with such socio-fashionistic fervor as the 1970s. ((Is there any musical genre more scorned than disco? I think not. Nonetheless, I do enjoy a Bee Gees tune every now and then.))

Then there are individual songs from artists or groups who might not otherwise be considered guilty pleasures. Neil Diamond’s “America” with its bombastic, unabashed patriotism; the saccharine sweetness of “Lovely, Love My Family” by The Roots (produced for another Nick Jr. show, Yo Gabba Gabba!); the sappy sentimentality of Marc Cohn’s “Silver Thunderbird”—all songs that tug at my emotions to such a degree that I often struggle to keep the tears down when I listen to them. ((Yes, I’m destined to turn into the sort of father who is moved to tears by long-distance telephone service advertisements on television. I’m told it’s hereditary.))

What else about a genre, group, artist or song might make it a guilty pleasure? What are your personal musical guilty pleasures and why are they guilty?

At last we have the mighty Butterball…

“We’re going to get a turkey,” I said on the way to the grocery store last night. “Gobble gobble gobble!”

From his car seat behind me, Kyle asked, “Why did you say ‘Gobble gobble gobble’?”

“Because that’s the sound a turkey makes,” I said. “Well, a live turkey, anyway.”

“But not dead ones?” Kyle asked.

“No,” I admitted. “Not dead ones. The one we’re getting is a frozen turkey.”

“Frozen?” Kyle asked. “In carbonite?”

HoNoToGroABeMo and Beards4Boobs

Beardless Kris by Natalie MetzgerOnce upon a time, I thought it might be fun to see if—by not shaving for an entire month—I could grow a beard. In homage to National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo), I decided to call my delusional pursuit How Not To Grow A Beard Month, or HoNoToGroABeMo for short; and in deference to the nigh-obsessive desire to inform the world of one’s progress that comes along with endeavours like NaNoWriMo, I decided that I would photograph my “progress” every day and post it—along with some of my typical inane babble—on this very blog.

I was not in the least bit surprised when, thirty days later, my face looked as though it might once have had a proper beard but had since gotten the mange. I was, however, surprised when—a year later—my friend Bob Voegerl announced that not only would he join in my mad beard-not-growing farce, but that he was building a website dedicated to the effort. And thus sprang into being the official HoNoToGroABeMo website.

Eight people—men, we shall call them—from two continents participated in How Not To Grow A Beard Month last year, and there was some talk about possibly trying to raise some money for charity. I didn’t think we would manage to drum up enough interest to make a charitable pursuit worthwhile, so the notion fell into the deepest recesses of my mind.

Then, in May of 2009, Bob’s mother passed away after a short but intense battle with undetected breast cancer that had spread to her brain. In late October, Bob announced that he had added a new feature to the How Not To Grow A Beard Month website: Beards4Boobs, a charity fundraiser for the Ann Voegerl Memorial Breast Cancer Research Fund. The idea is simple: donors can choose to sponsor their favorite beard, and the beard that raises the most money for the fund will receive a fabulous prize.

I’ve been overwhelmed at the response so far. We’re just a few days into November and we’ve received nearly $700 in donations. One of our participants, Dr. John Cmar, has $250 worth of sponsorship for his beard. ((Truth be told, he needs to grow that beard back. His naked face haunts my nightmares.)) Last night, our first female participant threw her bare chin into the ring; Mur Lafferty arrived to show us boys that we don’t know jack about not growing beards.

It’s amazing to watch something that was born out of pure silliness turn into something that’s actually worthwhile doing. Please, if you can, go to the site and sponsor one of these folks and their chins (be they growing hair upon them or not).

  1. Wesley Clifford
  2. John Cmar
  3. Gus “The Bearded Goose” Gosselin
  4. Jeff Greiner
  5. Michael Harrison
  6. Adam Johnson
  7. Kris Johnson
  8. Mur Lafferty
  9. Chris Miller
  10. David Moore
  11. Jim Van Verth
  12. Bob Voegerl

To everyone who has already sponsored a beard: thank you for your generosity. I’ll be posting updates throughout the month.

[UPDATE] If you’ve donated and you don’t see the total update immediately, worry not. Bob currently has to update the donation amounts by hand, so there may be a delay before your generosity is reflected on the official page.