Songs That Are Great (That You’d Never Admit Were Great)

But truly, what is the shame in admitting that every once in awhile an oh-so-bad-but-just-so-great song enters your musical inventory?


When I was in fourth grade, I fell in love-a love triangle, as it were, between myself, Eddie Vedder, and Kurt Cobain. I had the good fortune to come of age when grunge was at its zenith, and I fell hard for all things Seattle and all musicians alternative. I spent my free time scouring Sub Pop leaflets, I listened to my Walkman in the back of the classroom (with one other kid who loved Def Leppard, which was also OK by me), and I had the coolest pair of maroon high-top Converse that I actually wish I still owned. For all of these reasons, it would have been heresy to admit that on one of my mix tapes, sandwiched between Alice in Chains and the Pixies, was a Michael Bolton song that I absolutely loved. "Said I Loved You But I Lied" was as perfect a love song as any to my 10-year-old ears, and it brought me near tears every time I listened to it. I'd fast-forward through it when other people were around, but then I'd sneak it into the cassette player at night before falling asleep, content to leave my rock-kid veneer unscathed.

Looking back, I have no idea why this was such a big secret. Sure, it's a little embarrassing to admit that some part of me once loved a Michael Bolton song with heartfelt fervor, but it hardly merits waiting 15 years to unload the dreadful truth (in print, no less). Moreover, it's not like Bolton marked the first and last guilty indulgence of my own musical archives. Shortly thereafter, I got hooked on the "Chariots of Fire" theme, which replaced poor Michael as the most powerful song ever. After that it was Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love," but not having my own recording of it confined me to waiting for its magical appearance on the soft rock station.

Nor was high school exactly bereft of songs that induced instant mortification when discovered by others. Case in point, the time my sister and I got sucked into seeing Can't Hardly Wait in the theater because we were shamefully wooed by the trailers that used Third Eye Blind's "How's It Going to Be" in such a melodramatic yet irresistible way. We chose a matinee showing at some random, far-off mall, and we sat in the very last row. Halfway through the previews, my sister leaned over and whispered, "Anne, don't ever tell anyone we came here." Well, whatever. The cat's out of the bag now. And for all of that stealth on our part, the song wasn't even in the movie.

Television shows had a way of hooking me on particularly bad songs as well, for their unabashed association with high drama. In particular, they allowed me to believe that my own life was in fact also riddled with high drama, as was the case when Sophie B. Hawkins' "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" was used to accent the torrid affair between Kelly and Dylan in an old episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 while Brenda spent the summer in France. At the time, I was a broken-hearted fifth grader, having just found out that my "boyfriend" at school (a whopping three-day relationship) had another girlfriend at Sunday school. It was like Sophie B. and Aaron Spelling had glimpsed into my hardened heart and extracted the perfect song to describe my crestfallen state of affairs. (I'll admit that this song still sends my heart a-patter, and that recent months may have found me performing a wretched version of it at a karaoke bar, having consumed maybe a pint too many.)

But truly, what is the shame in admitting that every once in awhile an oh-so-bad-but-just-so-great song enters your musical inventory? You're probably thinking, "Sure, she admitted to liking bad music years ago, but what about today?" Fine—I like Kelly Clarkson. Not every song, but something about that "Since U Been Gone" snags me every time I'm flipping through the FM dial. I know I'm not alone in this. A few months ago, this song came on in the car while my boyfriend and I were driving to the grocery store. We have a rule that the person driving gets to control the music, and as I was behind the wheel, I let the song play on. We both made the obligatory snide comments at first, but then a silence fell across the car and I muttered, "I kind of like this song." There was a brief pause from the passenger seat, and then a quiet admission: "Yeah, me too."

Which leads me to realize that absolutely everyone has their underground favorites, hidden sneakily from other people in order to avoid public disgrace. The next time you have a private moment with a friend's iPod, maybe while they're in the bathroom or on the telephone, see if, amid the hip indie rock and experimental electronica, you can't find a single track (or maybe a few) by none other than Roxette. Preferably something really good, like "The Look." It will make your day.

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