Friday, 19 May 2017
A song I am ashamed to love.
This might be a good time to talk about guilty pleasures again. To restate my case: fuck guilty pleasures. Not the pleasures themselves, obviously. What I despise is the idea of the guilty pleasure; the smug, self-satisfied insistence of self-appointed gatekeepers that there are some slices of entertainment that you should actively feel bad for enjoying. "Oh, that's so cheesy, you should feel bad for liking it!". "Man, that's so manufactured; don't you feel awful having such fun with it?". Sod off and hang out with that Portuguese prick who pissed away his Eurovision victory speech on "fake music" rather than the plight of refugees.
Even the phrase itself is terrible. It might not be so bad if it were "embarrassing pleasures"; profoundly uncool songs and shows and movies that you love but would rather not admit that in public. There's still all sorts of issues around the concept of "uncool" that would need unpicking, but at least "embarrassing pleasures" is a more accurate framing. It's about you going against conventional wisdom and public opinion. "Guilty" dare to suggest you're actually doing something wrong.
And the thing is, there really are things you should feel terrible about liking. This song is a case in point. I hate that I love it so much. I think my feels for it say something unpleasant about me as a person. This is after all a song about a man who goes to bars, gets women drunk, lies to get into their underwear, and then sleeps with them when they're on the verge of unconsciousness. If the narrator isn't actually a rapist, he's so close to the line that quibbling over whether he's actually crossed it would be an act of supreme ugliness. This is some full-on Roosh V shit. How could I not feel guilty taking pleasure from this?
I tell myself it's just the music that gets me. And for sure the tune is genuinely wonderful. It's sad and slow and yet still heavy with barely-restrained power. Melody and riff both descend across each line of the verse as the narrator drags unsuspecting drunks down into his "unadmirable plans", making them focus on him instead of the football on the TV or the music on the jukebox. The instrumental break at 3:21 is rather lovely, and just under a minute later the song stops holding back and finally erupts into a squall of self-loathing, or sex, or probably both.
But that's the problem, isn't it? The song is so cleverly structured around this horrifying tale of a calculating predator that every part of it simply further underscores the ugliness on display. Every part of it is shot through with the vileness of this stalking monster. This would be the best, saddest song on the soundtrack to a Ched Evans biopic, but how much can the quality really matter with something as villainous as this? I know I'm really just describing the idea of a problematical fave, but rarely has something so earned so much of my favour despite being so problematical.
But it works for me. I don't know why. I don't know why, and I'm terrified to interrogate myself on the subject. Better to not know. Better to just shoulder the guilt.
I certainly can't see any argument that says I shouldn't have to.
And now the B-side, which is at least a little less Rape Culture The Movie, if nothing else. It's also interesting to see how Mae builds the song up via changes to the harmony to compensate for not being able to tack on the full-tilt emo ending.