Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 13 — A song that is a guilty pleasure

Fairly or not, I have long thought of The Eagles as a guilty pleasure. They were, it seems, huge in the 1970s, before disintegrating in a haze of volatile egos and substance abuse that proved to be at least as influential as their music. Whatever.

I've always enjoyed "Lyin' Eyes" and a few others by them, and I planned to link to a good-quality version of that song, but The Eagles are evidently one of those bands that actively and obsessively polices youtube, so I won't. It's one of a number of pretty good songs by The Eagles, but it looks as though you'll need to purchase it, or wait around to hear it on the radio, before you know whether you will like it enough to spend the money, which is how it worked in the 1970s when The Eagles were bigger than Lou Ferrigno. It's probably not worth it, so take their hint, or their label's hint, or some law firm's hint, and forget I ever mentioned them favorably.

A singer I have even more unfairly tended to class as a guilty pleasure is Cheryl Crow. It's unfair because she is genuinely talented as a songwriter in her own right who is guilty of nothing worse than an occasional willingness to make radio-friendly songs and to indulge, once in a while, in earnest schmaltz. She shows an impeccable sense and a deep respect for her varied musical predecessors, and she has proven willing to share the stage and the limelight with those she admires.

A good instance of her best -- one I just found because she is not playing the game as The Eagles are playing it -- is her excellent cover of "No Depression in Heaven," a song I originally learned from Uncle Tupelo's version, but which has much deeper roots in Americana.

This is part of the 30-Day Music Meme.


Anonymous said...

I think it is unfair to include those artists in the "Guilty Pleasures" category because, after all, it is damnation by faint praise, and they've put out some good songs in their day. Taken as a whole, the "Hotel California" compilation does not make me vomit.

Now if you'd said something like Peter Frampton's "Show Me The Way," or Bon Jovi's, "Livin on a Prayer," or "I Wanna Know What Love Is," by what's-his-name, I'd say "fair enough."

Dale said...

Anon., I see where you're coming from. For me, a 'guilty pleasure' is a song I truly like but wouldn't want my 'cool' friends to know I like. It doesn't necessarily translate to "this performer truly sucks but I can't help but like them." Not for me it doesn't.

I think my 'cool friends' have swept the Eagles into the 'uncool' bin because they're lumped into the 1970s-boomer-music mess, and probably unfairly. Though I detect a glare of 'raving asshole' coming off of everything that comes at us from the Eagles, I always try to separate performer from the performer's works (especially in rock-era music, which is a gigantic minefield of assholes), and I really do like much of their early stuff. The earlier of their 'best of' is desert island material, and Hotel California is right up there.

As for Cheryl Crow, it's a little of the same. She really does have talent, and I really do like her work. I love how she embraces people like Stevie Knicks, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, and so many others -- she doesn't walk around as though she invented this kind of music. She's one to hide from the 'cool friends' due to the element of schmaltz and earnestness that sometimes creeps in. Being earnest is not, in fact, a crime, but don't tell the 1990s, which were so formative to my Way of Thinking (TM).

Remember: I never said I wasn't vain (for purposes of this comment to this blog post). People who are *truly* not vain bore me (said the vain person), and people who loudly protest they're not vain bore me most of all (said the vain person who has been known to declare that he isn't vain).

AnonymousWeasel said...

There's where I was confused. I don't have any cool friends, but I do have teenagers who think they're cool, so any music I listen to would be considered a 'guilty pleasure' at best by them.
The only music they'll listen to is music that references (or whose band members engage in) ritual cutting, multiple body piercings, and the angst of not being understood (show me a teenager who feels he IS understood). How banal.

If I read you correctly, and there's a good chance I haven't, Your Way of Thinking (TM) would seem to discredit a song for being earnest. Another person's view might be to embrace it for putting words and music to his experience. Or maybe calling a song a 'guilty pleasure' has something to do with where and when one is raised. Maybe it's the way technology exposes people, especially kids, to so much, and they become jaded.

'Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.' (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

I see I've used up my quota of parentheses.

Dale said...

@AnonymousWeasel, fair points. And you have successfully quoted the one Bible book I don't think is a 100% time-suck that isn't The Book of Job! Well played!

The ways of teen angst are unknown to me. I was perfectly content throughout my teens, each day more pleasant than the last -- find the grave I drove my mom to and ask her! If she doesn't deny it, it is confirmed -- it is her way. Warning, though: she's not quite the conversationalist she used to be.

It's absolutely true that accidents of time and circumstance have a great deal to do with how we 'interpret' music. For this reason I try to resist mocking baby boomers for thinking music died in the 1970s. I don't try very hard at all, but I do try.

The fact is, for any music that's familiar enough that we can meaningfully discuss it, there are large numbers of people who truly like it. Even Aerosmith and Steve Miller!