COLUMN: Innocence And Guilty Pleasures
Outside The Lines
Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 22:01
I recently experienced a musical epiphany with the help of two very different sources: my father and One Direction. It happened over winter break, when my dad was driving and I was responsible (as always) for choosing a radio station that would please him for the next five minutes, until he decided that he prefers silence to Top 40 music. I was flipping through Ke$ha and OneRepublic, until he shouted, “Wait! Go back. I like that one.” My guess was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”—timeless and appropriate for all ages.
Wrong. It was “Story of My Life” by One Direction.
I’m not a 1D-hater by any means—boy bands will always have a special place in my heart. But there was something so strange about my father feeling such a strong attachment to one of its songs, and even more surprising that he recognized it as one of the band’s newer hits. As I listened to his very off-key rendition of the chorus, I started to feel immense pride for my dad—not only for embracing One Direction, but also for not being afraid to admit it.
Music sometimes seems to be divided into two categories—“good music” and “guilty pleasures.” While the former varies depending on the person, most people can agree on the latter—there’s always that one song that came out over the summer that everyone pretends to hate but will secretly sing along to when no one’s around. There’s this sense that we’ll be judged for enjoying certain types of music, and that we should feel guilty for listening to songs by certain artists.
There is also a third category of music: songs and artists that you just shouldn’t listen to under any circumstances. Nickelback immediately comes to mind, although I probably wouldn’t have come to that conclusion were it not for the band’s frequent condemnation from peers and an onslaught of Buzzfeed articles on the matter. I tend to have an open mind when it comes to music, until someone comes along telling me that I should reconsider my taste. Case in point: my childhood devotion to Linkin Park.
I acquired Hybrid Theory, my first Linkin Park album, when I was a second grader, and I proceeded to play the album over and over again on my Walkman throughout elementary school, until my light blue iPod mini took its place. I would bob my head up and down and mutter the lyrics under my breath whenever someone would approach me, thinking I was the coolest kid around.
To be honest, it was my older brother who inspired my Linkin love—he started listening to the alternative rock group, and I wanted to be like him, so by default I decided Linkin Park was my favorite band in the entire world. The more I listened to its music, the more I decided that Linkin Park actually wasn’t that bad—although Chester Bennington’s signature screams are slightly unsettling after a while, the majority of the band’s songs satisfied my pseudo-angsty childhood self.
I can admit that Linkin Park’s sound hasn’t improved much in recent years, and I can somewhat understand why people give me looks of shock or disappointment or mere confusion when I tell them about my former obsession. Linkin Park has become somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me—whenever I’m feeling nostalgic, I play “Runaway” or “Place for My Head,” and I smile because in a strange way, these songs make me think about my brother, and the moments that we shared listening to these songs in our youth. In the same way, I’ll never be able to hear One Direction again without thinking of my dad, and his innocent appreciation of “Story of My Life.”
What was so beautiful about that moment in the car with my dad was that he was able to enjoy a song purely because of the sound itself—not because of what people said about it, or because of the artist’s popular image (I’m pretty sure he doesn’t actually know who One Direction is). In the same way, I used to listen to Linkin Park without feeling ashamed or guilty, because I heard the band’s music in isolation from critical or popular opinions. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to abandon the “guilty pleasure” notion, but maybe it’s possible to feel a little less guilty about who and what we listen to, and just allow a song to be itself. If you think One Direction is the greatest boy band of all time, or you feel that Nickelback deserves more appreciation, you will probably be judged. But hey, maybe it’s time to put that judgment aside and be proud of who you listen to.
I’ll start: I like Linkin Park, and I don’t care who knows.