Guilty Pleasure Songs You Don’t Have to Feel Guilty About Loving

By Michael Kasian
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Photo Courtesy: Michael Putland/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Everyone has a song or two that they can’t help but love. Perhaps the beat is too outdated or the lyrics are too schmaltzy to appear on a Hallmark card, but it doesn’t matter. The song can always find its way into your favorite playlists.

It’s time to take off those headphones and turn the dial to max volume, because we’re about to celebrate the best and most embarrassing guilty pleasure songs of all time.

Chumbawamba, “Tubthumping” (1997)

Did anyone know what "Tubthumping" was about? Did it matter? The song came out of nowhere with random lyrics about booze and a chorus recorded at the world’s happiest Irish pub. Get knocked down, get up again — and keep drinking!

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Photo Courtesy: Margaret Norton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

It turns out "tubthumping" is an Irish phrase for going to bars and drinking with your mates after protesting. It makes sense when you remember Chumbawamba was a collective of anarchists and libertarian socialists.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: I get knocked down (we'll be singing) / But I get up again (pissing the night away)

Blink-182, “All The Small Things” (1999)

Even if you weren’t 15 when this song came out, Blink-182’s music can make you feel like a rowdy teenager. You’re not old enough to drive yet, but you’re still old enough to get into some trouble. The catchy sing-along was a perfect catalyst for thrashing about and feeling totally foolish.

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Photo Courtesy: blink-182/YouTube

Twenty years later, the pop-rock smash still has legs at karaoke bars. It’s one of those annoying little tunes you can’t help but sing along to.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Late night / Come home / Work sucks / I know

Bobby Pickett, “Monster Mash” (1962)

In ‘62, music makers topped the charts with novelty songs about kooky monsters or foolish dance moves (remember "Purple People Eater"?!). Bobby "Boris" Pickett had the genius idea of combining those trends for an instant Halloween classic.

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Photo Courtesy: Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images

It’s not a socially acceptable song for 11 months out of the year, but come October, this foolish anthem is a Halloween-party playlist staple.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: The ghouls all came from their humble abodes / To get a jolt from my electrodes

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Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime” (1981)

Are you in the right job? Is your clock moving too quickly? Are you in the throngs of an existential crisis? If these or any other reality-warping questions are in your head, then blast "Once in a Lifetime" at full volume.

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Photo Courtesy: David Byrne/YouTube

While you’re at it, don’t forget to dance in public like David Byrne in the iconic video. People will look at you like you’re crazy, but maybe they’re the crazy ones.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: You may ask yourself, "What is that beautiful house?" / You may ask yourself, "Where does that highway go to?"

Earth, Wind and Fire, “September” (1978)

It’s the disco song played at every wedding. But admit it — you kinda like it. Yes, the chorus includes a strange assortment of sounds that mean nothing. But a song without any decipherable meaning is universally enjoyable!

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Ochs Archives/Stringer/Getty Images

Disco has a reputation for being cheesy, and "September" is one of the cheesiest disco tracks ever. But no one likes the bump-on-the-log at weddings, so get up and "Ba de ya" with the rest of us.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Ba-dee-ya, say, do you remember? / Ba-dee-ya, dancin' in September / Ba-dee-ya, never was a cloudy day

Celine Dion, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (1995)

Power ballads from the ‘80s and ‘90s can sound pretty campy. They’re meant to be emotionally charged and powerful, but in most cases, they sound pretty absurd. Take Celine Dion’s classic "It’s All Coming Back to Me Now," the most over-the-top ballad of all time.

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Photo Courtesy: Phil Dent/Redferns/Getty Images

The exaggerated emotional drama is off the charts, which makes it perfect to play in a karaoke bar.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: There were things I'd never do again / But then they'd always seemed right / There were nights of endless pleasure / It was more than any laws allow

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The Doors, “People Are Strange” (1967)

The Doors could keep their fans guessing. Their songs could incorporate energetic blues-rock or be 12-minute-long psychedelic masterpieces. But sometimes, they would come out of left field and release songs like "People Are Strange."

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Photo Courtesy: Mark and Colleen Hayward/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The best way to enjoy a song this bizarre is to walk around your home like a zombie made of rubber bands. It’s jazzy. It’s sultry. And it’s a great song to play if you want to freak out the neighbors.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: People are strange when you're a stranger / Faces look ugly when you're alone

La Bouche, “Be My Lover” (1995)

La Bouche hit it big with "Sweet Dreams" back in ‘94. Their sound was a perfect fit for the ultrafast dance songs that dominated the early ‘90s. So why reinvent the wheel? "Be My Lover" was essentially the same track but performed even better than their first single.

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Photo Courtesy: Rodrigo Soares/YouTube

The aggressive dance track is far from romantic, but it’s hard not to want to be La Bouche’s lover.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: My love is definitely the key / Like Boyz II Men, I'm on bended knee / Loving you, not like your brother, ah yeah /I want to be your lover

Dead Or Alive, “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” (1985)

New wave and synth-pop are two musical genres that produce a lot of guilty pleasure music. Dead Or Alive’s "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" is a classic example of a new wave guilty pleasure.

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Photo Courtesy: Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

The song’s message is so simple a child could explain its intent. But it’s Pete Burns’ epic crescendo at the bridge that makes this one of the campiest new wave songs of all time.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: You spin me right 'round, baby, right 'round / Like a record, baby, right 'round, 'round, 'round

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Pitbull, “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” (2009)

Ah, Pitbull. Your mother likes to dance to his music at weddings, and she always raves about him when he's on TV. But if she were to actually pay attention to the lyrics of his songs, she might sing a different tune.

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Photo Courtesy: @pitbull/Twitter

His breakout hit had a combo of catchy horns, spanglish come-ons and shout-outs to filmmakers that make it a universal guilty pleasure.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Got her in the cockpit playin' with Pit's (Como?) / Now watch me make a movie like Albert Hitchcock, ha

NOTE: (He meant to say "Alfred Hitchcock")

Spice Girls, “Wannabe” (1996)

The Spice Girls’ positivity and cheeky personalities made them global icons in the ‘90s. "Wannabe" was their signature song that was possibly about getting their lovers to sleep with their friends.

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Photo Courtesy: Ray Burmiston/Photoshot/Getty Images

It didn’t matter what they were saying because we're all wired to sing along to "I’LL TELL YOU WHAT I WANT, WHAT I REALLY, REALLY WANT!" "SO TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT, WHAT YOU REALLY, REALLY WANT!"

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends

Modern English, “I Melt With You” (1982)

"I Melt With You" is the cutest new wave song about finding love at the end of the world. It feels like it's meant to play as rain begins to pour at the end of a prom in 1982. And who doesn’t love a little melodrama at their prom, amirite?

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Photo Courtesy: Paul Natkin/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The song was Modern English’s top-performing song, and it still brings in income thanks to appearances on shows like Stranger Things.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: I saw the world crashing all around your face / Never really knowing it was always / Mesh and lace

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Whitesnake, “Here I Go Again” (1982)

Let’s all agree that ‘80s arena rock was super cheesy. The cliche lyrics about girls and partying. The leather. The hairspray. It’s all way too much. Whitesnake’s "Here I Go Again" is a standout arena anthem about battling loneliness on a search for love.

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Photo Courtesy: @Whitesnake/Twitter

Its accompanying video had a scantily clad woman, of course, doing cartwheels on luxury cars, so they clearly weren’t taking the song seriously. You shouldn’t, either.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: I'm just another heart in need of rescue / Waiting on love's sweet charity

Toto, “Africa” (1982)

Before recording "Africa," Toto’s biggest hit of all time, the band had never been to Africa. In fact, they wrote the song because they wondered how they could help the continent after seeing a documentary about it on TV.

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Ochs Archives/Stringer/Getty Images

It’s weird to celebrate a band who wrote a song about how they could help a place they’d never been to before, but we guess that’s what makes Africa a guilty pleasure.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: I bless the rains down in Africa / Gonna take some time to do the things we never had

Usher feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris, “Yeah!” (2003)

Usher’s musical career typically stayed within the realm of smooth, seductive R&B. But "Yeah!" was his opportunity to take his fans to the dance floor with a catchy beat. And any song with Lil Jon and Ludacris, arguably hip hop’s most ridiculous court jesters, automatically propels the song into "guilty pleasure" territory.

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Photo Courtesy: Usher/YouTube

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Watch out, my outfit's ridiculous / In the club looking so conspicuous / And roar, these women all on the prowl / If you hold the head steady, I'ma milk the cow (yeah!)

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The Bangles, “Walk Like an Egyptian” (1986)

In 2019, glamorizing cultures with stereotypical tropes can be problematic. The Bangles’ ‘86 hit skirts the line between questionable and celebratory with a dance move that probably only gets used during this song. Seriously, when is the last time you've seen someone walk like an Egyptian on a dance floor?

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Photo Courtesy: Gie Knaeps/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: All the bazaar men by the Nile / They got the money on a bet / Gold crocodiles (oh-way-oh) / They snap their teeth on your cigarette / Foreign types with the hookah pipes say / (Way-oh-way-oh, ooh-way-oh-way-oh)

Taking Back Sunday, “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team)” (2002)

When you’re young and in love, a failed relationship can feel like the end of the world. Taking Back Sunday’s rapturous ode to a young love lost perfectly captures how maudlin mourning a failed relationship can be when you’re 15.

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Photo Courtesy: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage/Getty Images

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Hoping for the best just hoping nothing happens / A thousand clever lines unread on clever napkins / I will never ask if you don't ever tell me / I know you well enough to know you'll never love me

La Roux, “Bulletproof” (2009)

"Bulletproof" sounds like a pixie with gravity-defying hair got angry at you for not paying enough attention to her. Don’t get us wrong — La Roux’s piercing falsetto pairs well with the song’s buzzing synths, but when it’s played at full volume it’s not always a crowd-pleaser.

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Photo Courtesy: La Roux/YouTube

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Do, do, do your dirty words / Come out to play when you are hurt? / There’s certain things that should be left unsaid / Tick, tick, tick, tick on the watch / And life’s too short for me to stop

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Grace Jones, “Pull Up to the Bumper” (1981)

Grace Jones is an artist like no other — a statuesque, gender-bending innovator with a voice like a hurricane. Her music can be complex, avant-garde and downright out of this world. But her most successful hit, "Pull Up to the Bumper," has some of the cheesiest double entendres ever.

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Photo Courtesy: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

The song is mostly clever wordplay about sex but told through car references. It’s a foolish gimmick, which makes it a total guilty pleasure.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Pull up to it / Don't drive through it / Back it up twice / Now that fits nice

Filter, “Take a Picture” (1999)

Alternative rock in the ‘90s had some of the genre’s most introspective music. Nirvana, Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine all made songs that dealt with serious personal issues. Filter’s "Take a Picture" tried to sound serious but wound up sounding like a sappy after-school special.

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Photo Courtesy: Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The song covers serious issues like neglect and addiction, but at its climactic bridge, the song turns into a self-indulgent rock star's lament.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Hey dad, what do you think about your son now?

Hey dad, what do you think about your son now?

Sublime, “Santeria” (1996)

Have you ever been to a beachside dive bar with sand all over the floor? If you have, chances are you’ve heard Sublime’s ode to revenge on a cheating lover. Not only did the late Brad Nowell threaten to find a new girlfriend, but he also planned to shoot the cheater’s new lover.

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Photo Courtesy: @THR/Twitter

It’s revenge porn for SoCal surfers, but it’s still catchy enough to make you want a margarita.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: I don't practice Santeria, I ain't got no crystal ball / Well, I had a million dollars, but I'd, I'd spend it all

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City High, “What Would You Do?” (2001)

The R&B trio City High hit it big in 2001 with a warning for youngsters to avoid stripping and gang violence. It sounds like a depressing song if you haven’t heard it before, but trust us, it’s meant to be uplifting.

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Photo Courtesy: Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage/Getty Images

If you’re around a crowd of former T.R.L. teens and start the song’s opening line, you’ll see how many people will chime in with every sappy lyric.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: So for you this is just a good time, but for me this is what I call life

Gigi D’Agostino, “I’ll Fly with You (Bla Bla Bla remix)” (1999)

In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, European synth-pop had taken over nightclubs. One of the men at the center of the invasion was the larger-than-life Italian DJ Gigi D’Agostino. His songs were all fluffy romance tracks, but they were also incredibly catchy.

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Photo Courtesy: @ivy_hollivana/Twitter

His biggest hit was a combination of his other hits "L’amour Toujours" and "Bla Bla Bla." A totally sappy banger you won’t be able to get out of your head.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: I still believe in your eyes / There is no choice / I belong to your life

4 Non Blondes, “What’s Up” (1993)

When you think about the song’s message, "What’s Up" was ahead of its time. It called for peace, equality and understanding of the way the world works. It could honestly do quite well given today’s current political climate.

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Photo Courtesy: Paul Natkin/Archive Photos/Getty Images

However, if you leave your house and scream "What’s going on?!" at the top of your lungs, you may wind up on YouTube for the wrong reasons.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: And I say, hey-ey-ey / Hey-ey-ey / I said "Hey, a-what's going on?"

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Vanessa Carlton, “A Thousand Miles” (2002)

Vanessa Carlton made more than a piano ballad. Her charming song and its accompanying orchestrations were joyful explosions of sincerity. She never landed a song that was as successful, but she really doesn’t need to.

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Photo Courtesy: @VanessaCarlton/Twitter

The song amassed its own cult following. From frat boys on dance floors to metalheads who like to mash it together with heavier songs, Carlton has a timeless guilty pleasure on her hands.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: If I could fall into the sky / Do you think time would pass me by?

Madonna, “Hung Up” (2005)

Madonna holds the record for the most number 1 songs on Billboard’s Dance Club chart. It’s safe to say she knew her away around a dance floor, which is why her 2005 album Confessions on a Dance Floor performed so well.

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Photo Courtesy: Madonna/YouTube

"Hung Up," the album’s lead single, took the hook from Abba’s "Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)" and turned it into a campier dance floor classic.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Every little thing that you say or do / I'm hung up, I'm hung up on you

Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’” (1981)

Sometimes a song can be so oversaturated that it can be embarrassing to admit you like it. That shouldn’t be the case with Journey’s signature song. Sure, it’s one of the most downloaded songs of all time on iTunes and plays at every karaoke bar and sporting event. Who cares?!

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Photo Courtesy: @JourneyOfficial/Twitter

Whether it means something deeply introspective or is pure Hallmark schmaltz, allow yourself to love this gem.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Don't stop believin' / Hold on to that feeling

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Wham! “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (1984)

If you need an upbeat guilty pleasure song, look no further. Wham!’s wishy-washy love song is so corny Ned Flanders would likely make it his karaoke go-to. They’re able to reference Doris Day and the Jitterbug while sounding totally sincere.

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Photo Courtesy: Michael Putland/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It’s the kind of song that can melt the coldest of hearts and turn the biggest frowns upside down. Just give in and get that boom-boom up in your heart.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: You take the grey skies out of my way / You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day

Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe” (2011)

Some songs are so sweet they raise your blood sugar. Carly Rae Jepsen’s "Call Me Maybe" is one of the happiest and most infectious earworms of all time. Spotify even revealed Jepsen’s signature track appears the most on their male users’ "guilty pleasure" playlists.

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Photo Courtesy: @carlyraejepsen/Twitter

It doesn’t even matter that she sounds a little nuts when she confesses to missing you before she even meets you.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad

Seal, “Kiss From a Rose” (1994)

Seal, the debonair and dreamy crooner, made guilty pleasure history with his brooding R&B classic "Kiss From a Rose." It was released at a time when Enya and other ethereal artists made songs that were perfect for the waiting room at the dentist’s office.

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Photo Courtesy: @Seal/Twitter

But let’s be real. If Seal were to appear from behind the door with a rose and say, "The doctor will see you now," you would immediately drop everything and follow that man.

Strange Yet Super Catchy Lyrics: But did you know that when it snows / My eyes become large and / The light that you shine can't be seen?

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