The Year in Guilty Pleasure Pop Songs

Admitting we like mainstream pop and cheesy novelty music can be an exercise in shame. But every year, a handful of songs are so good that we have to put our fears aside and declare our fierce love for them. It’s rare that the Top 40 gets anywhere close to bearable, so if we have to suffer through 30 Seconds To Mars, The Black Eyed Peas, and some of this year’s other worst releases, the least we can do is be happy when something undeniably catchy comes on the radio. We won’t tell, but we bet you love a lot of these, too.

Ke$ha – “Tik Tok”

Considering that Ke$ha doesn’t take herself particularly seriously, we shouldn’t actually feel that guilty for loving this song. But it’s still totally bereft of lyrical merit or actual singing, so we can’t say we’re too proud of enjoying it, either. Maybe we’re just jealous — none of us had as much of the same kind of fun as Ke$ha when we were her age (23), and at least a little bit of loving this song is indulging our inner longing for a really good rager. “Tik Tok” falls firmly in the so-bad-it’s-great category, and since it’s so horrible it happens to actually be completely amazing.

Lady Gaga and Beyoncé — “Telephone”

Although everyone knew the next song Lady Gaga released after “Bad Romance” wouldn’t be quite as good, “Telephone” was better than we expected. But because — unlike its predecessor — it isn’t quite genius enough to transcend guilt, we’re still a little ashamed for loving it. With an undeniably great hook in the chorus, it’s easy to get the song stuck in your head for hours. And we must admit, a collaboration with Beyoncé was both unexpected and pretty cool.

Autotune the News — “The Backin’ Up Song”

We’ll admit to actually backing it up a few times to the beat of this parody song. It deserved more attention than it got, especially considering that it’s one of Autotune the News’s best compositions. The group doesn’t always focus on making their songs catchy, but in this instance they turned some truly bizarre source material into oddly believable lyrics. The woman’s “my daddy taught me good” remark, completely out of place in a TV interview, was just waiting to appear in an R&B/hip-hop song. Thanks for this one, ATN.

Eminem ft. Rihanna  — “Love The Way You Lie”

After a long hiatus and some embarrassing attempts at a comeback, this song proves that Eminem’s still got it. The subject matter is pretty trite, and yeah, it’s super gross to watch Megan Fox slobbering all over some burly dude in the video. But the song is so catchy, and the lyrics work perfectly with a beat that could sink a boat. It’s oddly comforting to hear Eminem fall back into his familiar trademark cadence, and very welcome to hear him rapping about intentionally not perpetuating violence against women. Rihanna’s just icing on the cake.

Katy Perry — “California Gurls”

The other obvious contender for the obligatory Katy Perry spot was “Teenage Dream,” but that song is too creepy to fully endorse. Everything about “California Girls” should make us hate the song: Snoop Dogg completely debasing himself, rampant and not-at-all-clever slant rhymes, clunky sexual innuendos, and a middling beat that’s not particularly danceable. But dammit, we still cannot get this summer jam out of our heads. Maybe it’s the video that pushes the song into enjoyable territory. No matter what state you’re from, don’t you want a bra that shoots whipped cream? Yeah, we do, too.

Die Antwoord — “Enter the Ninja”

We know liking this duo is hip in some circles, but let’s step back for a second and consider Die Antwoord. They basically pulled a fast one on the music world this year. Their debut left more people scratching heads than nodding along, but somewhere in that confusion, certain music critics exoticized their backstory to the point that it eclipsed their music. It’s impossible to believe Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, the group’s vocalists, aren’t pulling our chain a little bit with their outrageous lyrics and cheesy synth beats. And just look at those dollar signs. You know who else has a dollar sign? Ke$ha.