Bad songs say so much

Music says a lot about a person. For instance, when I recently started a new job, some of my coworkers initially were a bit cautious around me, since many of them are in their twenties and early thirties and I, well, am not. But I noticed that, one by one, they relaxed as they happened to walk my by cube and hear my channel playing Feist or Clapton or Janis.

Of course, we all have our guilty pleasures. You know – the music you secretly listen to, but might be embarrassed to acknowledge in a public forum like, say, This week, asked some of its distinguished members and readers to do exactly that. And I think that if Liz Smith can admit that she sings along in the car to “The Cat Song,” we can own up to some of the more humiliating selections on our iPods.

I go through musical phases, which means that I often listen to rather odd music. Last fall, I was walking in my neighborhood and ran into a friend (not literally) who took one of my earpieces and put it in her ear. Playing at the time was “Take My Hand, Lead Me On” from Sister Gertrude Morgan’s Let’s Make a Record.

Morgan was a street singer in New Orleans who sang acappella gospel, keeping the beat with her tambourine. She was the subject of an NPR story a few years ago and I found the CD at a Tower Records going-out-of-business sale. I love the album, but it definitely has limited appeal. I tried to explain my fascination with Sister Morgan to my friend, who was by that time backing away. She gave me an Amy Winehouse CD for Christmas.

I suspect that’s Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, can relate. Her musical embarrassment is Jessica Mitford’s foray into singing, Decca and the Dectones.

Not all mortifying music is obscure, however. In fact, the better known the song, the more potential it has to be embarrassing. I recently got into a coworker’s car to go to a meeting and, when she started the car, what blasted out of the stereo was Barry Manilow. “Copacabana,” to be exact. I pretended not to notice as she rushed to turn it down, not off. Some people don’t know when to be embarrassed.


Our own Reese DoWitt admits to having an album by Wilson Phillips in a shoebox wrapped with duct tape and buried deep in her closet. My first thought was, “Get that cassette and come out of the closet, Reese. Wilson Phillips isn’t embarrassing.” Then I listened to the one song I remembered, “Hold On.” Maybe the closet is OK in this case. Thankfully, the women themselves have aged better than their music.

Maybe carolinagrrrl was in a closet of another kind when she gathered her collection of boy band albums: New Kids on the Block, Creed and Backstreet Boys. (Creed? Seriously?) If you, too, secretly harbor a crush on Donnie Wahlberg, you may be excited to know that the grown-up Kids are launching a reunion tour this fall. Have they aged as well as Wilson Phillips? Um, I have no idea. Where’s a gay man when you need one?

Other bloggers weren’t quite as brave in revealing their musical embarrassments. But I suspect every last one of them of having “Ice Ice Baby” on frequent play. Am I right, ladies?

How about you? Have a hankering for Hanson? Keen on Kina? Crushing on the Crash Test Dummies? Somebody stop me! What embarrassing music do you own?