20 Classic Guilty Pleasure Songs By Artists You Otherwise Can't Stand
In 2003, the awful film Charlie Angels: Full Throttle came out, and for the soundtrack, they got together Nickelback and Kid Rock -- two artists who, according to popular reputation, are guilty of war crimes. They covered Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting." The result was ... good? (Seriously, the track played to the artists' grunting strengths and could easily work as the Florida state anthem.)
That happens sometimes. Musicians with whom you'd otherwise refuse to share an airplane put out one song you just can't help liking. We asked our readers for their guilty pleasures, and here's what they told us.
"MMMBop" By Hanson
Andrea W. says she was at just the right age to "love the entire album when it first came out, but 'MMMBop' was the only one that stuck." Middle of Nowhere of course also gave us "Where's The Love?" and "I Will Come To You," but in an MMMBop, those songs were gone.
"BLKKK SKKKN HEAD" By Kanye West
"I cannot stand Kanye," says Sarah C. "He's an over-hyped narcissist who mistakes intensity for skill. That being said, 'Black Skinhead' is an amazing song that really takes advantage of what surround sound or good headphones can do."
"Walkin' On The Sun" by Smashmouth
Everything else by Smashmouth "makes me angry and want to destroy something beautiful," says Michael H. "But I can't stop loving this song." That's very tolerant of him, considering that the song rhymes "fashion" with "passion" then goes on to rhyme "fashion" again, this time with "smashin'."
"How You Remind Me" By Nickelback
Quite a few readers admitted liking Nickelback songs, but we're going to highlight Steve W.'s embrace of their biggest hit of all. "It's fine, I accept the hate," he says, laughing. "I find music that you hate is subject to what happens during that time of your life. Nickelback just happened to come out during a fun time of my life, so I don't mind their music."
"Smooth Criminal" By Alien Ant Farm
Not the Michael Jackson original -- Harold P. goes for Alien Ant Farm's version. "I'll bet less than 10 percent of people can name even one other Alien Ant Farm song," he says, "but god damn, they killed it on this cover."
"Don't Cha" By The Pussycat Dolls
"I'm a life-long metalhead," says Susan F., “but that song motivates me at the gym for some reason.” As for whether she pictures herself singing "Don't Cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me" or pictures a cruel trainer singing it about her, well, that's Susan's business.
"Crazy" By Gnarls Barkley
Christopher V. likes the song, but what's his problem with Gnarls Barkley exactly? Oh, it's how CeeLo Green was charged with giving drugs to a woman then having sex with her. "That makes him garbage," says Christopher. Some were surprised that Green was not charged with sexual assault. Explained Green, "If someone is passed out they’re not even WITH you consciously, so WITH implies consent." This explanation made people even angrier, and he walked it back.
"Barbie Girl" By Aqua
Besides delighting in how cheesy the song is, Michele M. points us to the legal case in which Mattel sued the group, claiming trademark infringement and saying the song tarnished their brand. From the Ninth Circuit's decision, she picks out such remarks as "If this were a sci-fi melodrama, it might be called Speech-Zilla meets Trademark Kong," as well as the judge's closing line: "The parties are advised to chill."
"Tubthumping" By Chumbawamba
"I don't think Chumbawumba is known for any songs other than 'Tubthumping'," says Jameson F. "Probably just as well. But there's something about 'Tubthumping' that makes you completely okay with getting it stuck in your head. Is it the song's overall simplicity? Is it the positive, motivating message? Is it the upbeat tune? Perhaps all of the above. Whatever the song means to you, like its own lyrics, 'Tubthumping' gets knocked down but gets back up again and stands the test of time ... unlike the band who sang it."
"Stars Are Blind" By Paris Hilton
Whatever you think of Paris Hilton as a person, Lucia V. calls this a "catchy pop song, instant classic. Cringey, but surprisingly unpretentious." The hit was recently featured in the film Promising Young Woman, which is surely just as bubbly and simple a movie as the song choice would suggest.
"Hey Jude" By The Beatles
James C. doesn't explain why he dares call The Beatles a garbage band, nor does he elaborate on what makes "Hey Jude" stand out among their many songs. Such boldness deserves encouragement. Cheers, James!
"Butterfly" By Crazy Town
Theresa U. is no fan of the band, who she says tried too hard to rip off The Red Hot Chili Peppers. But she makes an exception for "Butterfly." "The song was catchy," she says. How can anyone resist lyrics like "I used to think that happy endings were only in the books I read/But you made me feel alive when I was almost dead"?
"More Than Words" By Extreme
"I love to sing it or play it super loud to annoy my husband," says Lindsay P., "because he HATES it." If she uses its lyrics to explain why she refuses to say she loves him, power to her.
"We Are All Made of Stars" by Moby
Michael F. says he usually finds Moby "uninteresting or annoying." But with this song, "the overall hopefulness of the lyrics and the downtempo rhythm were calming for me when I was an angry teenager, and continue to be so as I’ve transitioned into jaded, depressed adulthood. It's a great song to listen to as I’m trying to go to sleep after a long day of work ... or just in the middle of a particularly stressful shift."
"Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle)" By Limp Bizkit
Stephen C. tells us this song "always makes me grin a stupid, 2001-era grin. It's hard to hate any song that The Undertaker used to walk out to." We too have fond memories of it, and we didn't even realize till 2019 that it might be about drugs. It very much is a 2001-era song: Fred Durst said the management of the World Trade Center sent him a letter on September 10, thanking him for featuring them in the video.
"Monster" By Justin Bieber And Shawn Mendes
Revealing that at least one of our readers listens to current music, Anthony C. picks out this song (though he identifies Shawn Mendes only as "the other guy" to Bieber). "I have a Justin Timberlake guilty pleasure," he says. "I listen mostly to death metal normally. And I thought that song was a Timberlake song the first few times I heard it. I've since tried other Bieber stuff and I hate all of it except that."
"I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" By Meat Loaf
It's not Meat Loaf's vocals that sells this for Mike D., or even the talents of writer Jim Steinman (RIP). Mike calls the song "doofy as hell," but "damn does Lorraine Crosby got a great voice." You won't see Lorraine Crosby in the video below. That's actress Dana Patrick. As for the music video's director, Michael Bay, we trust he went on to further success.
"Party In The USA" By Miley Cyrus
It's "embarrassing as hell to admit," says Alliekat A. But as an elementary school teacher, she's heard the song so many times over the years that it's grown on her. Us, we figure being subjected to a song over and over in an elementary school setting would turn us against even songs we like, but Alliekat is made of stronger stuff.
"Headstrong" By Trapt
Danielle K., Ari B., Amanda H., and Joshua C. all independently mentioned "Headstrong" by Trapt. Says Ari B, "I heard it first in 2004 on a video game soundtrack" (it appeared in a bunch) "and fell in love with it. Granted I was seven years old and didn't have the best musical tastes at that time. Looking back on it, it was a mistake to ever like that band." Says Joshua C., "I even saw them live twice and had a photo of myself and the lead, Chris Taylor Brown, framed in my bedroom. Looking back, though, it makes my skin crawl that I ever liked them and that I idolized Chris like I did." He even shared the photo of him and Chris with us. Gonna pass on publishing it, but thanks anyway, Josh!
Any Song By This Garbage Artist
Rachel D. tells us, "It would be hard to narrow down my favorite Garbage song."