One of the prerequisites for being a music writer is believing in your own impeccable taste. If we have the potential to influence the public’s perception and consumption of new music, we have to like stuff that doesn’t suck. Still, we’re only human, and we all deserve a few get-out-of-jail-free cards. We can hold on to our favorite guilty pleasures without owing anybody an explanation. It could be worse. It could be Nickelback.
Britny — Britney Spears
Oh, Brit-Brit. I should probably be ashamed to love this Pop-Tart, but I’ve been with her since the beginning. “…Baby One More Time” came out when I was seven, and it was one of the first albums I ever owned. I had the subsequent albums and even the McDonald’s-exclusive VHS tape. I’ve stuck with her through the unfortunate marriages, the bad public behavior, even 2007 as a whole (we all have bad years). When she made her triumphant post-meltdown comeback as sparkly, silly and dancey as ever, I felt like a proud parent. Brit’s amazing — a true icon. Plus, she’s got a killer name.
Lauren — Rihanna
Her lyrics may be shallow and her music Auto-Tuned, but I honestly think Rihanna is the baddest bitch in music today. All of her songs are either sexual and promiscuous, like “S&M,” or empowering and fearless, like “Take a Bow” and “Man Down.” That breaks down the stereotype that women must fit into either one category or the other. Some of her songs may seem totally vapid, but they never fail to still be catchy as hell, even when she’s singing about money and alcohol, like in “Pour It Up.” It’s a bonus that Rihanna actually loves her fans and always looks like a flawless angel.
Maria — One Direction
Yes, I’m a Directioner. Should I be ashamed of it since I’m a sophomore in college and past my acceptable boy-band-loving phase? Sure. Am I? Absolutely not. I joined the fandom right when the band got eliminated from the UK edition of “The X Factor” back in 2010. It’s been quite a journey. After spending countless hours watching interviews on YouTube and learning all the inside jokes and random facts about each member, I can shamelessly say I take pride in all of the hard work and dedication that I put into this band. Say what you want about their music (I realize there are plenty of shortcomings), but Niall, Harry, Louis, Liam and Zayn hold a special place in my heart.
Note: I got so slap-happy when their new album leaked this week that I gave my boyfriend bruises. He is not pleased.
Adam — Sum 41 – “Fat Lip”
If you didn’t carry around a skateboard pretending you knew how to ride it between the ages of 11 to 15, you might not understand where I’m coming from. For me, those were the glory days. I could do an Ollie. While stationary. On my front lawn. So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say I was a skater kid. It wouldn’t be official if I didn’t spend my day listening to “Fat Lip” by Sum 41 on repeat, hoping to be like them when I grew up. Now, it’s a bit off-putting that they were filled with that much angst as grown men, but that doesn’t stop me from giving the song a spin every now and then when I’m feeling overwhelmed with adulthood.
Tess — Avril Lavigne’s “Let Go” album
It’s probably slightly strange that one of my fondest memories of second grade is jumping on my best friend’s bed jamming along to Avril’s “Let Go” album, or that I cried when her mom banned the CD from their household because “I’m With You” had the word “damn” in it. I was a strange kid, and now I’m a strange adult that gets enjoyment out of secretly bobbing her head along to “Complicated” on bad days. While Lavigne’s songs may be filled with an embarrassing amount of teenage angst, I still find tracks like “Anything but Ordinary” and “Mobile” extremely relatable.
Bryan — The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – “Don’t You Fake It” album
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’s debut album shows the young Jacksonville band breaking absolutely no new ground. Seriously, Senses Fail and Hawthorne Heights had already written the book on confectionary emo-core two years prior. Still, RJA delivered these 11 tunes with so much conviction that it was impossible to slight them for lack of originality. Ronnie Winter’s gorgeous, impassioned vocals propel tracks like “Face Down” and “Damn Regret” to an all-new level of pop-punk greatness, while he displays his tender lower register before rocketing into the stratosphere on breakout ballad “Your Guardian Angel.” I may have cut my hair and ditched my skull hoodie years ago, but this album still brings me right back to the junior high Friday nights spent prowling through Hot Topic and leaning against things at the mall arcade.
Quinton — “Party In The U.S.A.”
This song was the last we saw of the real Miley. That might be why it’s a national treasure. The then-17-year-old actress bared her soul on the “Time of Our Lives” single, admitting the anxiety she had about her future as a pop star. It erased any doubts we had about her musical talent, it still sounds awesome and makes me feel incredibly nostalgic five years later. As we trudge forward in our own quests to find ourselves and our own version of happiness, we have all felt the same things as Miley. It’s the human experience. Miley let it out in an incredibly catchy song, and that is why I love this record. That is why I unashamedly crowned it as one of the greatest of all time (on Twitter). I only wonder if she feels like she fits in now?
Devon — Gym Class Heroes
Their lyrics aren’t especially moving, their beat isn’t especially bumping, the band isn’t especially… special. But for some reason, I haven’t let go of my “As Cruel as School Children” and “The Papercut Chronicles” CDs since I jammed to them at parentally supervised pool parties back in 2005. Maybe my childhood crush on singer and “rapper” Travie McCoy still lingers in some weird, nostalgic corner of my heart. Or maybe “Cupid’s Chokehold,” their unoriginal billboard hit (a rip-off of Roger Hodgson of Supertramps’ “Breakfast in America”), is just too damn catchy. Either way, I still find myself at parties wishing someone would play “Clothes Off” — of course, I’d be too ashamed to ask!
Sam — Selena Gomez – “Birthday”
Sultry shades of red paint the walls in Selena Gomez’s new music video, in which the pop star celebrates her 21st birthday, hinting at some characteristically hedonistic activity. The beauty of this video lies in its ability to flirt with the cliché of Disney star gone bad, while still retaining an aura of classic Disney purity. Although I’ll rarely say it publicly, Selena’s visual interpretation of the American 21st birthday is incredibly endearing and — yes, I’ll admit — gets me on my feet and into a jovial, dancey frenzy.
Jenna — Ke$ha’s “Warrior” album
Many people know Ke$ha for her obnoxious, Auto-Tuned, trash-pop single “Tik Tok,” which took over the nation in 2009. The pop star received less notoriety from her sophomore album “Warrior” in 2012. This guilty pleasure has a little bit of everything: heartfelt slow songs, hyper-pop dance anthems and the too-crazy ragers. No one can deny the catchiness of the synth-heavy, sing-along choruses of “Die Young” and “C’mon.” Of all of the pop artists of today, none scream dance party more than Ke$ha. There’s nothing that extraordinary or moving about the lyrics or music, but I will jam harder to this album, in all of its raunchy glory, than any other pop album today.