I'm a live-and-let-live kinda gal. The Wiccan rede of "An it harm none, do what ye will" really speaks to me, except for the whole 20th-century-religion-opting-to-speak-Middle-English thing.
This mindset of mine applies to pretty much all hobbies, interests and tastes a person can have. Sure, I can dismantle and debate ideologies with the best of them, but ultimately, you doing things differently than I do them doesn't bother me. Hate peanut butter? More for me! Practice an unusual fetish? Have fun, you crazy kids! Don't wear leather? Fine with me; hope you don't mind if I do.
My free-to-be-you-and-me sensibilities come to a screeching halt, however, when I find out someone listens to music I find intolerable. I don't hold back when it comes to criticizing the contemporary country music my sister and father love; there's something so juvenile and predictable about it, to the point that I just have to rain (well, more like drizzle) on their musical parade. And if I hear a friend listening to music I find bafflingly cheesy, I immediately offer to make them a Spotify playlist in an attempt to open their mind to what I deem higher-quality songs.
I realize this is snobby. I realize music is a very, very personal kind of taste. I realize this goes against my you-do-you attitude about virtually everything else.
I also realize I'm a sanctimonious fraud when it comes to music.
Even though I feel — strongly, as you can probably tell — that the musicians and songs I prefer are of a higher caliber in regard to both quality and coolness, there are a handful of totally corny songs I'd be mortified to be caught rapturously singing along to; songs that would very likely be picked apart and mocked very easily and enthusiastically by other music snobs.
And I will confess those very songs to you now for the sake of fairness.
"What Kind of Fool" — Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
I've never worshipped Streisand the way many of her fans do; I've always had a level-minded appreciation for her. In fact, it was the Bee Gees I adored in high school, listening to their greatest hits as palate cleanser when I would temporarily tire of Jagged Little Pill.
But no Streisand or Gibb song has ever moved me quite like when Babs and Barry came together for "What Kind of Fool." And it wasn't even the two of them that made this song a beloved tearjerker for me; it's what I'm assuming are the other Gibb brothers, Maurice and Robin, singing backup starting at 1:40. The key change they usher in... the soft, in-unison "we cried"...
I can't listen to this in public.
"The Downeaster 'Alexa'" — Billy Joel
Billy Joel meant a hell of a lot to my childhood. I think that's true of a lot of kids who grew up in the New York metropolitan area around the time I did. But even though I was only 11 years old when I first heard it, I knew I had no business falling in love with a song about the struggles of a Long Island fisherman.
I knew nothing about fishing. I still don't understand the terminology in about 25% of this song's esoteric lyrics. But every time I've heard it in the past two-and-half-decades, I gladly suspend my disbelief and accept that Billy Joel is, in fact, a Long Island Bayman who named his boat after his daughter and can't sell no stripers. Yayayaaaaaaaaohhhhhhhh!
"Spanish Flea" — Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
I'd like to blame my love for this song at least partially on the fact that Herb Alpert is the hottest trumpet player ever, but I was shamelessly tapping my feet to "Spanish Flea" long before I ever knew what he looked like.
I think a lot of people born after "Spanish Flea" became a Grammy-winning hit have heard it and thought, Old game show theme? And yes, this and several of Herb Alpert's recordings were used on The Dating Game back in the '70s, which would, in most cases, disqualify any song from being in my iTunes library.
But there is something so stupidly joyful about these two minutes of instrumental brilliance, and who am I to deny myself that happiness? (Also, the gals in this '60s video make dancing to it look surprisingly cool.)
"Stars" — Switchfoot
I don't listen to Christian rock. (I dabble in Wicca, remember? Duh.) But I'll be damned (to hell, for being a heathen) if I don't love this thoughtful and unusual Switchfoot song.
I know, I know — all you Switchfoot fans (and I'm sure there are at least one-and-a-half Switchfoot fans reading this) will say they were a Christian rock band but no longer considered themselves that by the time this number-68 hit started playing on the radio for the first of maybe a dozen times. But it still weirded me out that I was so impressed by a song that might secretly be about Jesus.
"Nobody Does It Better" — Carly Simon
Like so many of the songs I'm embarrassed to admit I love, "Nobody Does It Better" crept into my brain when I was a little girl in the backseat of my mom's car as she listened to light adult contemporary stations. But I have never outgrown my fondness for this song, especially the coda full of strings and horns.
(For some reason, it's really hard to find a video on YouTube that actually includes the studio-recorded coda, so here's one with a rather intimate stock photo of a couple on screen throughout all three-and-a-half minutes. Enjoy!)
For a long time, I thought I had to hide my love for this Bond-movie theme. No one's ever like, "You're super-into Carly Simon and Marvin Hamlisch? You seem really cool!" But then I found out that Radiohead covered it live, and Thom Yorke even called it the "sexiest song ever written," so I feel like maybe my peers wouldn't shun me after all.
I hope that admitting some of my less-cool favorite songs will remind me to be less judgmental of other people's musical tastes, but I wholly expect you guys to make fun of me. But at least admit one of your own embarrassing favorite songs while you do!