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Life's Guilty Pleasures?

Updated: Apr 6, 2023


So, sitting here considering the theme of this month’s Groovelates blog, joyously singing along at the top of my voice to almost every word of Ace Of Base and their debut album The Sign, I was astonished that I still knew most of the lyrics to “All That She Wants”, “Don’t Turn Around”, “Happy Nation” & “The Sign” (and all the other tracks on the album, TBH!!!) after all this time! And, it got me thinking…would listening to Ace Of Base be considered a Guilty Pleasure? And for many, I suppose it would be, wouldn’t it? Let’s face it, they were never considered cool, were they? They were never regarded as being music pioneers, musical geniuses! And yet, at the time, I thought they were great fun, catchy Swedish pop, drenched in earworms!!! No one ever shouted from the rooftops that they were the world’s biggest Ace Of Base fan, did they? Even though this bunch of Swedes were a massive global success for a while! Which then got me thinking about another bunch of Swedes. For most of the 80s & 90s, ABBA were seen as a Guilty Pleasure too, weren’t they? Not any more though! So, is it just a Swedish thing? (LOL!) Obviously not but, it got me thinking, what exactly is a Guilty Pleasure? Hmmm…


Oxford Languages defines a Guilty Pleasure as, “…something, such as a film, television programme, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.” Wikipedia adds, “…or is seen as unusual or weird.” So, is it something that actually induces a feeling of guilt on some level? Is it something which we actually know is, has been implied as or which we have been told, directly or indirectly, is ‘wrong, to be avoided, totally uncool or simply bad’ for us? But, we still do it anyway? Does any of this ring true?


Let’s consider this further. What’s your Guilty Pleasure? Eating ice cream straight from the tub? “Mambo No.5” by Lou Vega? “YMCA” by Village People? Absolutely any movie starring Julia Roberts? 70s Disco? Locking yourself away for the afternoon and watching 10 episodes of Sex And The City back-to-back? Dynasty? 80s Music? Love Island? Double Denim? Cream cakes? Reality TV? That extra drink before heading home? Eurovision? Stock, Aitken & Waterman? What? What? What? OK, time to calm down, how does this sound…


A guilty pleasure is basically something that you enjoy which you don’t necessarily want other people to know about in case they judge you for it! The reason something is a guilty pleasure is not because it’s wrong but because we’re frightened of other people judging us! It’s that fear of disapproval!


And, in the end, THAT’S the paradox, THAT’S what’s so confusing! Guilty Pleasures actually evoke positive emotions in us, which is the whole point; they are called pleasures for a reason! They reduce our levels of stress because of the enjoyment and sense of satisfaction they bring us which, in turn, must surely improve our mental health and well-being, shouldn’t it? Why should that be turned into a negative by someone else? We should be embracing our Guilty Pleasures not hiding them away! So, I hereby embrace my love of (nearly) all things Stock, Aitken & Waterman! I mean, just try NOT feeling absolutely fabulous after dancing to Kylie’s “Shocked” or Mel & Kim’s “Respectable”!


So, what’s going on then? Are we getting it slightly wrong? Is it guilt? Or is it actually that we are associating our guilty pleasures with something else? Shame maybe? Social norms ‘tell us’ what we should like, what we should be doing, what we should be into, what’s cool and what’s not, who we should be following and who we shouldn’t! If we choose a different route, well, shame on us! If what we like or enjoy is seen as not being what society or our peers regard as ‘credible’ on whatever level they determine then we are shamed! What’s that all about then?


What does it matter? Who actually cares? Shaming someone over what they like is akin to bullying, it’s as simple as that! Don’t be bullied! Have you ever felt as if someone is using your Guilty Pleasure against you, as if they are using what you like as a weapon to manipulate you, to get power over you, to belittle you, especially in front of others? Well, don’t let them! We can’t all like the same thing, it’s simply not possible! And, even worse, just imagine a world where everyone was into the same thing, where there was no variation, no choice, no diversity, no way to compare and contrast! How would you actually know what you really, really liked if you haven’t got a choice, if you have nothing to compare it with? If there wasn’t any variety, where would we be now? How bland would our world be today?


Over the years, and it’s taken a very, very long time, I’ve slowly learnt to stand up for myself and be proud of what I like; I even avoid calling them Guilty Pleasures anymore! So, when someone thinks they are being smart but are actually trying to put me down for something I like, usually to do with music, I say to them, ”Without my music, which you are so derogatory towards, your stuff maybe wouldn’t sound half as good as you think it does! Have you ever considered that?’ It usually shuts them up or stops them in their tracks at least, as they have to think about that one for a while! (Sometimes, you can see the confusion in their face!)


We are all different, we all dance to a different beat and that should always be treasured and protected, and we should never, ever let someone put us down for what we like, for what is fundamental to our being, the very essence of what we are, what makes us tick, what makes us, US! I always think, you don’t have to like what I like, you can absolutely hate, detest even, what I like however, it’s what I like, it’s what I enjoy and, quite often growing up, it’s what has given me the support I needed when I needed it, it’s what has made me, ME! It’s who I am and I am proud of that so don’t ever think you can use it as a weapon against me, to bully me, to belittle me, and ultimately, to have power over me, ever!


So, is it guilt? Is it shame? Or, is it the fear of disapproval? In the end, it shouldn’t be any of those things. If it’s not hurting anyone then why not do what you enjoy? Why not shout it from the rooftops? Own it! In the end, it’s all about self-confidence which takes time to develop, and your self-identity which is so very important!


The moral of this story is, don’t be dependant on the approval of others. In the end, they’ll respect you more for being you, for having that self-confidence and conviction to stand up for what you believe in! And, always remember, no matter what they say, they almost certainly have one or two Guilty Pleasures of their own tucked away at the back of their closet too!


We’d love to hear about everyone’s Guilty Pleasures! They should be rejoiced! Are there any of your Guilty Pleasures amongst our chosen Mixtape tracks? Let us know! Shout them out? Tell the world! Who cares?


And remember, don’t focus on the guilt, focus on the pleasure!


by Sean Francis Cawley

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