Guilty Pleasure Songs You Don’t Have to Feel Guilty About Loving
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 Perhaps the beat is too outdated or the lyrics are too schmaltzy to appear on a Hallmark card, but it doesn’t matter.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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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.