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Shame songs: We all have them, we all love them

Tom Raaf | Monday, September 22, 2003

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must swallow his pride, cowboy up and admit to something that he has been hiding from the rest of the world. Today, that thing happens to be those irresistible yet embarrassing melodies that come on the radio for your listening pleasure. Yes folks, I am talking about the modern marvel that is the shame song. Loosely defined, shame songs are those which you love to listen to but would never admit to liking in front of your friends. The prime example comes when you are driving in the car and an addictive yet humiliating song pops on the radio. If you’re lucky enough to be alone, you say, “Yes! I just love ‘What’s Goin’ On’ by the 4 Non Blondes! Crank this up.” If you happen to be in a car full of friends, however, the song merits a much different response; “Turn this trash off and throw on the new Cannibal Corpse album” is probably more likely to come from your lips in this context. All of your friends will agree, although odds are that they would’ve just loved to belt out the lyrics to “Sk8er Boi” along with you. Most of the time, this common reaction can be attributed to the clear threat of weakening one’s masculinity or to other such social stigmas. Either way, in denying the song, one is truly denying who they really are.Well, I say that this has gone on too long. No longer should we keep these songs in hiding, but rather we should admit to their intoxicating allure. I’ll get the ball rolling by stating my current guilty pleasure; “Breathless” by the Corrs. Can you honestly tell me that you can hear that high-pitched “Ohhhh whoa, Ohh whoa, won’t you leave me breathless” without singing along? I just can’t get enough of it. I struggled with this notion for many sleepless nights, repeatedly asking myself, “Am I really this much of a sissy?” After days upon days of pondering this, I decided that, yes, I am indeed that much of a sissy. And so are all of you, whether you can admit it now or not. Before I go on, I must take a quick second to clarify one thing. Songs from the 80s cannot be considered shame songs because they reside in a realm of their own. For one beautiful decade, all musical bounds were broken and listening inhibitions lost. Bands like Wham and Culture Club only come along once in a lifetime. That being said, I move on. Now just in case you’re not completely clear on this whole concept, I have compiled a brief list of songs that I believe might be on the shame lists of others. “Stay” by Lisa Loeb, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” by Kylie Minogue, “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain, and almost anything by Smashmouth top the list. Naturally, the Spice Girls “Wannabe,” “Linger” by the Cranberries and “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys also make the cut. I know it’s hard to confess, but they’re just so undeniably catchy.I was actually lucky enough to find a few strapping young lads who were able to face their fears and chat with me on the subject. “When ‘1,000 Miles’ by Vanessa Carlton comes on, I go to another place. It’s the closest thing to heaven on Earth that I can imagine. I mean, come on. That piano is simply breathtaking,” junior Matt Schulte said.I received a similar response from Junior Kevin McCarthy. “When I hear ‘Murder on the Dance Floor’ it sends shivers down my spine. No one knows, but that song has helped me through many long, sleepless nights,” McCarthy said. Junior Mike Roaldi also added, “LFO’s ‘Summer Girls’ is my song … and I hate girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch. Ironic, huh?” Junior Dan Watson’s song of choice was “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia. “Anytime that song comes on, there’s a pretty decent chance of me ending up lying naked on the floor … just like Natalie says.” That’s a little disturbing, Dan, but I guess it takes all kinds.Noticing a pretty clear trend, I decided to get a female perspective on this development. Sophomore Kara Whalen remarked “My boyfriend just goes nuts when Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine’ starts playing. I hated it at first, but now I kind of see where he’s coming from. It’s so bad that it is actually kind of good.” Finally, junior president of the Shirt, Dave Brenner, had this to say: “I hate to say it, but I just love ‘MMM Bop!’ I even thought the lead singer was pretty hot until I realized it was a guy … man, what a let down.” Well put, Dave, well put. It seems that everyone has some sort of shame song, so this I say to you: Be proud of who you are, even if that might involve a little more Annie Lennox than you’d like.

Tom Raaf is a junior who can usually come up with a comeback in less than 10 days. More “Powers” to you, tiger.Contact him at traaf@nd.edu with comments.