Everyone has a guilty pleasure song. Even if you don’t openly label songs as ‘guilty pleasures’ there’s bound to be at least a handful that make you cringe when you listen to them. We’ve all been there. Here are Soundsphere’s Top 10 guilty pleasures in rock and metal.
Black Stone Cherry – ‘White Trash Millionaire’
Considering they pack out arenas all over the world, there’s something of an aversion to the current crop of hard-rock bands. It can be hard to separate one from another if just comparing songs by ear, but they’re the right balance of generationally accessible and capable of busting out brilliant riffs and choruses to have succeeded in the capacity they have. Kentucky’s Black Stone Cherry are arguably leaders of the pack in this field, and while their discography boasts some huge tunes, they do have the odd questionable cut, one of which being 2011 single ‘White Trash Millionaire’. Of course the title suggests it, but the track omits a sleaziness and bigheadedness that makes your skin crawl (“count your cash and kiss my ass / this whole damn world’s gonna know I’ve been here”). The stereotype painted here seems so outdated and unreachable, but it’s wrapped in such a brilliantly beefy package – with a middle eight that demands crowd participation – that resistance is futile. Losing yourself in rocking out to ‘White Trash Millionaire’ is the way to enjoy it – thinking any deeper might make your skin crawl.
Fall Out Boy – ‘Uma Thurman’
Since ending their hiatus in 2013, missteps have been rife in Fall Out Boy’s career. From migrating to a controversial pop sound and declaring that they were the “saviours of rock and roll” to abysmal new single ‘Young And Menace’, they’ve definitely rubbed more than a few people up the wrong way. 2015’s ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ may have been critically panned and shunned by many, but the ratio of great to not-so-great songs seems to be pretty even. ‘Uma Thurman’ is a track that toes the line between the two sides – a repetitive, staccato piano line, nonsensical lyrics and a Munsters theme sample? Add in an irresistible catchiness and it somehow actually all works together. Patrick Stump’s vocals are always the driving force of Fall Out Boy tracks regardless of what’s going on around it, and ‘Uma Thurman’ is no exception. His contribution brings the other aspects of the song (somewhat) down from the realm of ridiculousness. While the premise of ‘Uma Thurman’ is a silly one, and the telling earworm hook isn’t something Fall Out Boy themselves actually wrote, its infectiousness makes it all too easy to tentatively love.
Alestorm – ‘Keelhauled’
It’s seen success and sold out venues across Europe, but pirate metal is often very much sniffed at. As a concept, it’s admittedly utterly ridiculous, but it’s possibly one of the biggest riots in not just metal, but music in general. Alestorm are very much leaders of the pack in the genre, and perhaps capable of singlehandedly changing perspectives of people everywhere – just listen to ‘Keelhauled’ for persuasion. It boasts a huge, camaraderie-enhanced chorus and incorporates sounds and instruments you don’t hear every day, that are executed with genuine musical skill – something most bands who are dying to be original can only dream of doing. The accordion that opens ‘Keelhauled’ is going to make you giggle at first, but as the track continues and subsequently beefs up it demands your respect. All in all though, it’s the fun factor that’s ultimately going to sell people on this track, and Alestorm and pirate metal overall. Alestorm have that in spades, so swallow your pride or get ready to walk the plank.
Falling In Reverse – ‘Bad Girls Club’
Everyone has an opinion on Falling In Reverse’s ‘Fashionably Late’, and to hazard a guess, the vast majority of them aren’t positive. The 2013 release crammed in, well, everything, from rap to 8-bit synths to country to metal. It’s fifty minutes of mouth-gaping confusion in musical form, and while it’s unlikely most of the record would ever be revisited after the first listen, it’s out of the question to ignore second track ‘Bad Girls Club’. Putting together Ronnie Radke’s over-enunciated vocals, bubblegum pop synth, cheesy lyrics and a cheerleader chant in one song seems like a recipe for disaster, but it’s arguably one of the most surprising earworms of the last few years. Even the most adamant of naysayers won’t be able to resist imitating Radke’s stylings and doing even the tiniest of head bobs. The rest of the songs on Fashionably Late seem to either be too laughably serious (no matter the wacky genres fusions that are going on) or too stupid to actually work. ‘Bad Girls Club’ sees Falling In Reverse strike a perfect balance of the two while keeping tongues firmly (and obviously) in their cheeks.
We The Kings – ‘Say You Like Me’
Every fan of alternative music has gleefully screamed along to ‘Check Yes Juliet’ at some point. It’s a rite of passage. But the number of people who can name many, if any at all, other We The Kings songs is much smaller. The majority of these seem to be part of the typical pop-rock audience – teenage girls – and the sweet, lovelorn lyrics and mellowed guitar backdrop of the Floridian quintet’s single ‘Say You Like Me’ hypnotised Kerrang!-reading, lovers of the genre everywhere in 2011. Six years later and rose-tinted glasses aside, the ska-tinged song doesn’t resonate anywhere near as well. The super-obnoxious post-chorus “whoa-oh”s are a particular highlight. But while on paper ‘Say You Like Me’ should be like an aural sugar crash, it’s impossible to stop the cutesy naivety of the lyrics from slowly winning you over (getting some enjoyment from imitating a “whoa-oh” here and there is mandatory). While this corner of alternative music is very much a sniffed-at niche (the teenage Kerrang! fan factor is again worth noting), there’s an undeniable irresistibility to ‘Say You Like Me’ that should keep it you smiling whenever it pops into your head.
Crazy Town – ‘Butterfly’
Yes, it might be a ‘classic’, but how many people actually think ‘Butterfly’ is a genuinely good song? It’s just cringeworthy rapping about how sexy a woman is over a pretty guitar part – two aspects that really don’t go together (on paper, at least). The downhill success slope Crazy Town have been on since the song’s release speaks for how well the rap-metal genre has aged (although they miraculously are still going today), but ‘Butterfly’ has managed to exceed any lifespan predicted at the start of the 2000s. But despite it generally oozing “yuck”, the chorus is so fun to sing along to that it somehow makes sitting through the verses manageable. Instrumentation-wise, the guitar line that provides the background to the vocal line is simple, but inexplicably lush and gorgeous. So much so, in fact that the song shouldn’t make sense. But it does, solely due to the enjoyability of that chorus. ‘Butterfly’ may be a publicly-accepted guilty pleasure, but there can’t be many people who feel good about listening to it alone in their bedrooms.
Don Broco – ‘Thug Workout’
Don Broco have proved their worth as one of British rock’s most creative talents with 80s-tinged opus ‘Automatic’ – a record so jampacked with funky motifs and huge choruses that it dominated end of year lists and shifted opinions everywhere in 2015. Beforehand, though, they weren’t taken as seriously as they perhaps would have liked, and it’s likely single ‘Thug Workout’ played a big part in that. There’s just something unsettling about hearing a low-budget scream/rap hybrid in place of Rob Damiani’s usual dulcet tones. But the change in vocals is nothing compared to the lyrics – the main cringing point. This song reeks of arrogance and desperation, just like that letchy guy in a club buying multiple girls drinks hoping and praying to take them back home with him. Of course this song is intended to be tongue-in-cheek and Don Broco didn’t bet on serious critical acclaim with it. Despite being released eight years ago Thug Workout remains a live staple for the band, but it’s the fun factor that makes people love it. But looking deeper strips that away (temporary as that may be) and the realisation that the song is a true guilty pleasure well and truly hits you.
Good Charlotte – ‘I Just Wanna Live’
Good Charlotte’s career-defining album ‘The Young and the Hopeless’ boasts some of the biggest pop-rock songs ever – ‘Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous’ was completely inescapable around its release in 2002, while ‘The Anthem’ and ‘Girls & Boys’ remain staples in any ‘2000s Rock Hits’ playlists. But the quality of their releases seemed to deteriorate further as the stars of bandmates/brothers Joel and Benji Madden rose. Brilliant tracks like ‘The River’ were fruits of that gradual decline, alongside many toe-curling, half-arsed songs showcasing their new fame-driven arrogance. 2004’s ‘I Just Wanna Live’ is one of these. Joel Madden’s falsetto-led chorus is so irresistible that it makes the synthetic string accompaniment and lyrics describing all of his suits (black, white, law and birthday) totally unproblematic. There’s a certain quality to this song that makes you want to strut instead of walk down the street with a three-minute burst of confidence – a feeling Good Charlotte are bafflingly good at instilling in people. ‘I Just Wanna Live’ is throwaway, cheesy pop-rock at its absolute finest.
Smash Mouth – ‘All Star’
The meme lovers reading this are sure to have audibly reacted to this one in shock, and that’s exactly why it’s on this list. ‘All Star’ has totally transcended any innocent connotations to become a poster track for anyone who’s laughed at something on the internet. It’s gone so far beyond a well-loved 90s rock classic that it’s totally impossible to take even somewhat seriously anymore. It’s a shame, because the song’s philosophical look at passive media consumption has far more depth than any other ‘girls and partying’ tracks released around the same time by genre counterparts. The song being put so under the microscope (or just being played so much) has somehow exposed how similar it is to anything else in that vein – not so special after all. But like it or not, it’s wormed a place in everyone’s hearts regardless of any meme status it may have, and you’re still going to sing every word with a huge grin on your face as soon as you hear it. Altogether now…somebody once told me…
Steel Panther – ‘Gloryhole’
Of course Steel Panther need a place on this list. Yes, they’re a parody band, but they’ve gotten so monumentally huge that their premise needs to be talked about in this context. We’ve chosen ‘Gloryhole’ to go into detail on (although any number of Steel Panther songs could be discussed in far more words than the amount we have spare). The over-the-top guitar solos! The ridiculously vulgar lyrics! It’s all completely misogynistic, superficial and politically incorrect, but it’s impossible not to love. Is that because everything about Steel Panther is so overblown and in-your-face that it overrides any and all possible guilt that comes with listening to such content? Absolutely. Anything Steel Panther puts out is an absolute riot, and their concept of exploiting hair metal clichés (both musically and image-wise) is totally genius – not to mention that they’re great musicians on top of that. But as brilliant and postmodern as their existence may be, there’s still a little niggle in the back of your head whenever lyrics like “while a beast greases up my pole / I’m gonna blow my load at the gloryhole” are spouted. Thankfully, it’s all a big joke so it’s totally fine…kind of.