On guilty pleasures

I play air drums. Perhaps you’ve seen me around Burlington with bigger-than-my-head headphones on, beating the shit out of nothing at all. I don’t consider this a guilty pleasure, it’s just something I do and have very little control over.  What you probably don’t know, and perhaps can’t even comprehend, is that when I’m doing this, I’m most likely listening to Counting Crows. Maybe Matchbox 20, depending on my mood. If you’ve read my column before, you know that I don’t write about this sort of music and don’t write like someone who would even consider listening to, let alone writing about, these kinds of bands. If you haven’t read my column, do yourself a favor. I’m telling you all of this because I’d like to discuss the concept of “guilty pleasures” and to dispel any shame you might have about yours. Surely people have their own definitions of what a guilty pleasure is, what the concept means to them and how it makes them feel.   I’ll leave it for you to discuss with your friends all of the subtleties that combine to produce guilt — you don’t have to tell them about “that one Train song” that you love if you don’t want to — and hope that we all have a relatively similar understanding of the term. Americans know a thing or two about guilt. Our country was practically founded on the idea that this excruciating emotion makes one a worthy citizen and human being, and we continue to live within its merciless grip hundreds of years later.   Guilt, I’m prepared to argue, constitutes the core of our American personalities. It is this guilt that determines our actions and triggers our often reckless reactions. This guilt extends to our eating habits, our sexual fetishes, our taste for blockbuster cinema and our hush-hush love of Delilah. We’re living it, so we might as well embrace it, right?   Guilty pleasures are sources of comfort that we don’t have the vocabulary — or perhaps even the ability — to describe and explain to others.   For this reason, we’ve stopped trying to communicate our most sincere passions, musical and otherwise, to others and have opted to live with them in the backs of our closets and under our mattresses.   As a generation in a never-ending state of turmoil, our guilty pleasures provide us with the majority of the reassurance available to us.   Now don’t get me wrong, I think Bob Dylan is one of the most provocative and mind-blowing songwriters of all time — is that an overstatement? — and Van Morrison never fails to inspire me in a million different ways. But when a bad day gets worse, I want nothing less than to listen to those dudes.   It is for this reason that Adam Duritz, front man of the Counting Crows, is up there with the very best on my top 10 list of songwriters. And I’m not ashamed. I truly believe that, at least when it comes to music, people’s guilty pleasures make them happier than anything they openly admit to loving.   You can pretend you only sing along to the “bad” radio with your friends because y’all are so funny, but you know you love it.   And your friends love it.   And I want you to know that I love it, too.   And so does Mr. Jones. I’m not ashamed, and you shouldn’t be either.