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There's No Such Thing as a Musical Guilty Pleasure

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Having done my fair share of interviews over the years, there are three questions I can't stand:

  1. How do you guys write your songs?
  2. Do you like playing festivals more or clubs more?
  3. Do you have any guilty pleasures?

The first two questions are benign queries usually employed by music journalists to conceal their lack of research, lack of interest or lack of interview skill. Either way, it's not too troublesome. I always answer politely and get ready for the next set of vapid questions. I'm fully aware how much a privilege it is to have someone take time out of their own life to ask questions, insipid or not, about you and your life. I know I could be doing a lot worse and never take it for granted, but it's the third question that has me biting my tongue and holding my breath in order to keep from lashing out.

I detest the term "guilty pleasure."

"Guilty pleasure," when applied to music, means there's something you can only listen to in secret because is hasn't been deemed "cool" enough by self-appointed music gate-keepers. It's a term most likely coined by A&R reps at major label companies because they've always been the ones at the club who constantly look around, particularly at other A&R reps, to see if they too should like whatever's being watched. Sadly, this habit has now been adopted and embraced by scores of wannabe aficionados too spineless to stand by their own musical convictions.

When a music is tagged as a "guilty pleasure," it's viewed as socially unacceptable. It also happens to bring down the pastime of music listening to a ninth grade high school cliquish level, except it involves supposedly grown adults. People who actually feel guilty listening to certain music are the same people who picked on you in high school, screw in the missionary position with a three stroke maximum and need a laugh track when watching comedy to prompt them to guffaw. They also don't know what "guffaw" means.

Many people use one's musical tastes as a sieve for finding like-minded individuals and harshly judging others whose tastes don't correspond. It's a practice that assumes the direction in which one's ear bends is in direct correlation with one's quality of character. Of course, it only takes two minutes to realize that these rationalizations are based on some set of juvenile, made-up rules that are truthfully completely pointless.

And who is making up these rules for discerning taste? From my observations, just like in high school, style-bullies preside over what gets deemed "cool." And in the weirdest Twilight Zone episode ever, the same kind of people who used to wear varsity letterman jackets, throw footballs around and wear lacrosse shirts have now traded it all in for pork pie hats, ironic Rollie Fingers/Mr. Monopoly moustaches and calabash pipes in a desperate bid to look distinguished, but have only succeeded in looking like assholes.

You like Justin Timberlake and Kanye West while the rest of your friends listen to The Lumineers or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs? You like Nachtmystium and Watain but your buddies like The Black Keys and Fun.? You like AC/DC and Katy Perry but your co-workers like Wolf Eyes and NOFX?

Who gives a shit?

Rock 'n' roll, or whatever you want to call it, to me, has always hinged on deviance. When I start to detect a set of rules being implemented by these numbskull moderators, I knee-jerk into my true asshole self and thumb my nose at their stipulations. Over the years, our band has paid dearly for stubbornly sticking to our hard rock stylings amidst transitory musical tides, enduring the slings of johnny cum-lately hepcats everywhere. It's been a small price to pay to be able to look at yourself in the mirror each morning.

So exactly what music has been accepted in the inner sanctum du jour? It all depends on what circle you want to join. These types of condescending overlords exist in every scene, office space and social clique. You should never feel guilty about the music you like. The only people who should feel guilty are these tastemaking, gate-keeping bullies and their need to cover up their own self-doubt.

Danko Jones is a proud fan of Billy Joel, Danzig, Polvo, The Scorpions, Kylie Minogue, Ice-T, The Gories, George Michael, The Doomriders, Fugazi, Wu-Tang Clan, Manowar and Bruno Mars.

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