Guilty pleasures: Copping to Culture Club, Madonna — and, OK, much worse

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I have a confession to make. The other morning, while munching on a bowl of hemp granola and slurping my first cuppa, I watched a Justin Timberlake video … and I really liked the song (“Senorita”). Not the vocals so much ’cause let’s face it, Timberlake is doing Michael Jackson better than anyone else these days. No, it was the keyboard riff. Simple, yet funky and slinky. I started wobbling back and forth at the breakfast table, and started scheming to sneak a copy of Justified into the house (or maybe just the CD single, if I can find it).

But even as I imagine listening to “Senorita” again on some future drive to work or something, I can’t shake the feeling that I just shouldn’t be liking this stuff!

A new guilty pleasure is born.

Everybody’s got ’em, so why not just let ’em fly? So here are a few more of mine. The listing is mostly chronological beginning with high school (where peer pressure started the ‘closet listening’ phenomenon) and going through, well … last week.

“KNOCK ON WOOD,” AMII STEWART (1979): Yeah, that disco-fried version from back in the leisure-suit days. Right there in the middle of my ‘disco sucks!’ years, I would sneak over to our local dance radio station in hopes of catching a listen to this gem. Who know what attracted me? The sound was classic disco, practically dripping with dance-floor reverb. I bet it was just the pure ‘danger’ of listening to ‘forbidden’ music. Man, I woulda been laughed right out of my disco-hatin’ circle of friends.

“HELLO,” LIONEL RICHIE (1984): OK, the chick in the video was hot … but that wasn’t it. It was the guitar solo. A soulful, slightly jazzy thing that was just perfect for the song. For some reason I remember listening to “Hello” backed with The Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” as I sat in the daily 20-mile traffic jam heading back into southern New Hampshire.

“STATE OF SHOCK,” MICHAEL JACKSON, WITH MICK JAGGER (1984): Mick has always been pretty capable of producing awful things in his non-Stones career. This song rates right up (or down) there. I like it anyway. Hmmm … now that I think about it, this just might be the very last 45rpm disc I ever bought.

“CRAZY FOR YOU,” MADONNA (1985): Geezuz, not only was it a ballad, it was a ballad by Madonna! Even worse, it was a ballad by Madonna from a cheesy 1980s movie. Oh well, it was nice. A sappy love song. Certainly not the last one that would get to me … and to this day it reminds me of a time when I had absolutely no idea of what I wanted to do with my life — but was having a blast tryin’ to figure it all out.

“KARMA CHAMELEON,” CULTURE CLUB (1983): Never had much use for Culture Club back in their heyday … but they were all over the place: print, radio, TV. So, a couple of years ago, I caught the VH1-Storytellers thing and enjoyed it from beginning to end. Weird. Anyway, both “Karma Chameleon” and “Church Of The Poisoned Mind” were loads of fun.

“GET THE PARTY STARTED,” PINK (2001): I really should not watch videos while I’m eating breakfast. Maybe I’m too mentally vulnerable at that hour. Pink was kinda cute there, acting all dorky and whatnot. The song’s a blast and makes me remember the anticipation of Friday night debauchery.

“WORK IT,” MISS ELLIOTT (2002): The tune is pure pop madness. Backward vocal tricks, skittery rhythms, silly (and sexy) lyrics, and a perfectly-placed elephant sample.

Honorable mentions:
“Still The One,” Shania Twain
“Genie In A Bottle,” Christina Aguilera
“Come On Eileen,” Dexy’s Midnight Runners
“Waterloo,” ABBA
“Afternoon Delight,” Starland Vocal Band

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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