I grew up (musically speaking) in the disco era.
But that was not my tribe. I was a member of the prog-rock tribe and our mantra was “Disco Sucks!”
I’m still not a huge disco fan by any means, but last year when I started playing bass guitar again after a hiatus of some 15 years, I decided I was going to choose what songs to learn based solely on whether they had a great bassline.
Consequently, in my current repertoire, I have a vast range of musical styles represented, including disco.
It makes sense, of course, bass is the driving force behind a lot of dance music. What I found was songs such as “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor) and “Got To Be Real” (Cheryl Lynn) are wildly fun to play on the bass and not nearly as simple as our prog-rock sensibilities were willing to recognize back in the day.
Nevertheless, I still felt that old twinge of guilty pleasure enjoying disco so much.
Guilty pleasures are interesting phenomena. Let’s start with a simple definition: A guilty pleasure is something you know you shouldn’t like, but like anyway.
Something we shouldn’t like according to whom?
Why should we feel guilty about liking the things we like?
Kresnicka Research & Insights, an American consultancy firm that touts itself as “business anthropologists,” conducted a study that offers an interesting explanation.
“Our individual survival, in large part, depends on maintaining a sense of connection to our social group,” wrote company president Susan Kresnicka.
“Yet that connection comes at a cost — we must constantly navigate tensions between our individual desires and the group’s expectations. From the moment we wake up in the morning until the moment we fall asleep at night, our varying social roles (parent, spouse, friend, employee, etc.) set expectations for how we “should” look, act, feel.
“When we derive pleasure from something that society judges as “bad” or “bad for us,” we set limits on society’s influence over us. It is a momentary act of boundary-setting in which we refuse to let the social group’s expectations hold power.”
Okay, so that is not exactly Earth-shattering insight, but it is very well put.
It’s amazing to me how persistent it can be, though. It’s been decades since I was part of that prog-rock tribe, but that identity must have been profoundly important to me at the time. That makes sense because I was a teenager and we all know how important social belonging is in those formative years.
We all inhabit a variety of identities and I have found over the past two years examining and admitting my guilty pleasures is really helping me to find my authentic self.
In the words of the immortal Diana Ross (or actually Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers who wrote the song and a great bassline to go along with it):
I’m coming out.