That Damn Song: Guilty Pleasures and Pop Music

That damn song! Everyone has one. Everyone has a damn song. Know what it is?

A “damn song” (/dam sôNG/) is a piece of over-commercialized, over-hyped, bubblegum pop that supersaturated the radio waves at their peak. Damn songs now thrive on YouTube and the soft rock stations your mom listens to.

Put more simply, “damn songs” are guilty pleasures. They’re the songs that everyone knows, that everyone loved, now everyone hates because “the damn radio killed it,” and now live on as that song you would normally shrug off when it comes on at the supermarket. But that’s generally every pop song, for the most part. “Damn songs” are different.

You love these songs. And, as far as you’re concerned, only you.

The Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” is my damn song. It’s a horribly guilty pleasure that sits in my iPod, comforts me when I go to sleep, eases me in when I wake up, or offers a reprieve when I walk between heavy sprints in my cardio. I don’t think can sound any girlier right now.

Until the movie, I felt Aiden was totally right for Carrie.

But there’s a reason why you love that damn song of yours. You know the one. Or five. I’ve discussed lightly upon the power of music, and here I stress that music as an audio time machine. We think back to happy memories, times, places, people, old friends, etc. when certain music comes on. I can immediately teleport back to my freshman year when I listen to the Oldboy soundtrack for example.

But damn songs are different. They’re not the seemingly obscure indie rock songs only you and one other friend likes. They’re not the orchestral wonders that entertained the aristocratic over a hundred years ago. No, no. Damn songs are the music from that overrated artist whose target audience are now 8th graders, or people who never really grew out of the 8th grade. Or, bands that you listened to in the 8th grade but don’t anymore… I, I don’t know. All I know is that Panic! At the Disco still has a God damn exclamation point to me. Crazy fuckin’ kids.

Why “Hey There Delilah”?

This is just my own experience, but “Hey There Delilah” brings me back to a happier time. The song peaked in 2007, and that was a life-changing year for me. I ended a childhood dream of meeting several actors from Power Rangers, and I met dozens of great people who I now call good friends and were previously just screennames. The summer of 2007, I bummed at my aunt’s place in Manhattan where I spent many a sunny day wandering the upper west neighborhoods eating Gray’s Papaya, and spent every rainy one gathering new information on this strange, untitled movie whose trailer came on right before Transformers. I had always loved New York, but that year I decided: I’m going to live in fucking New York.

2007 marked the beginning of my love for tokusatsu: cheap, Japanese sci-fi in all its glory. Kamen Rider Den-O was an incredible thrill-ride, Jyuken Sentai Gekiranger was a surprise wonder, and I really began to watch everything else I could. The most influential among them were Garo, Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, and Kamen Rider Ryuki.

Between conventions, Cloverfield’s viral marketing, my nerdiness accepted with Transformers’ gigantic domestic box office success, and cheap $5 DVDs at Walmart, it was all one big revelation. In 2007, I decided to work in movies. “This is what I want to do,” I said to myself as I watched Chow Yun-fat elegantly kill people in a hospital.

And “Hey There Delilah” wouldn’t stop playing on the radio.

Other “Damn Songs”

I’m going to relinquish all “indie cred” or whatever I ever had of it because I don’t just have one damn song. I have several, each of them accompanying personal memories that I cherish. You can laugh all you want. But some of these songs mark some very important times in my life.

Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long,” an ungodly mixture of “Werewolves of London” and “Sweet Home Alabama” conveys a very southern feel that I admittedly don’t have much exposure to. The song was released in 2008 I think I actually managed to ignore it, even if it was the theme song to the WWE Backlash pay-per-view. And yet, a few summers ago I got to know this girl from high school just a bit better. Unfortunately she became one of those “who got away,” as we parted ways that July night at the county fair.

Tinie Tempah’s “Written in the Stars” featuring Eric Turner is a song about climbing the ladder towards success, and there was a time in my life when I thought I really wouldn’t go anywhere. That everything I touched was a failure. Then one day on a cold January night, the WWE plays their promo for WrestleMania 27. This song, accompanied with the images that paint the “spectacle” of success that only WrestleMania could bring, I got out of my funk and redirected my aim. Months later, this song helped motivate me to revive this blog.

Yup. It’s a damn song all right. Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are,” in the same vein of “Hey There Delilah,” is about the nice guy who expresses love for the girl of his dreams in the only way he knows how. It’s cheesy and touching, and it came at a pretty weird, yet positive time in my life. I was entering college and I had just gotten back from Pasadena, from the second Power MorphiCon. I already had a pretty filled summer at that point — I grew closer with certain people, took up jogging and health more seriously, Inception — and the release of that song just iced things on the cake. The first time I heard it was when my father handed me the keys to my first car. I started the engine and this was playing on the radio.

I’ll also never forget how this one girl said to me before class, “this is our song.” Damn.

I am going to continually jerk-off New York all I can until you can see it all over my face. (Uh…) I first heard Jay-Z’ and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” at their live performance during the now-infamous 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. It’s the one where Kanye did that thing that was bad. I was impressed by the performance, but completely forgot to find the song. When the WWE aired this promo in honor of Madison Square Garden later that November, I had to have it. Couple that with my new-found love of How I Met Your Mother, and this song became more important to me than any other.

Yeah. I know. I know. And, yeah. Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” is perhaps the most offensive here. Not only was it Vanessa Carlton’s most commercially successful, but also everyone else’s damn song. I’m willing to bet ownership of this fine internet publication here that, if you had at least one song from this category, it would be that fucking song. Aside from having just entered a post-9/11 society, there was a general cultural shift at the time of this song’s release. It’s hard to pinpoint it exactly, but when two overly-sexualized blondes named Britney and Christina dominated pop culture, in comes this reserved brunette and her piano to shake things up a little. I didn’t see things like that at the time but having been affected just as much as anyone else could be, I saw the pleasantness in such a light, innocent song. I can listen to the opening piano notes and immediately become 9- or 10-years old again, still trying to learn what the world was all about. And I won’t deny it: I still have a lot of learning to go.

But in the meantime, I’ll just fall into the sky, thinking time will pass me by…

Do you have a guilty pleasure song? Do you have one or two damn songs?

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3 comments

  1. Lips of an Angel by Hinder, anything by The Killers and Goo Goo Dolls.

  2. Eric James · · Reply

    What? Goo Goo Dolls a guilty pleasure?

    Get out.

  3. “All Summer Long”, “Just The Way You Are” and “A Thousand Miles” are good songs! I won’t listen to this!!

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