Sunday Sesh: A Pseudo-Scientific Exploration of Guilty Pleasures


Old Man Doom deconstructs guilty pleasures.

Welcome back, toileteers!  It’s my turn to hit y’all with a Sunday Sesh. Today I have an oft considered topic: guilty pleasures. I know we have done this before, and I am sure it has been discussed at length in the Facebook group, but I want to approach this contentious subject from a slightly different angle this time around.

I want to ask you whether we can (or even should) break our guilty pleasures down into different categories — breaking down the differing degrees of guilt and enjoyability. I know many of you freely and openly listen to whatever you like, whenever you want; that is truly awesome. But for the rest of us, there is still a certain level of cognitive dissonance associated with listening to our guilty pleasures: “I like this, but I know I shouldn’t,” or “I like this, but I don’t know why.”

For me, I have devised a paradigm to organize my thoughts on guilty pleasures, especially given the various degrees to which I consider certain music to be more or less “guilty” than others. I have here four categories that I believe account for all of my guilty pleasure listening. Some of the examples herein may cross over to other categories, hence the nature of this paradigm being totally subjective to the user. Feel free to adjust my categories as you see fit for your listening habits, but this iteration of the paradigm works well for me. Let’s jump in:

Disturbed’s debut album occupies a very prestigious place in my own Primary guilty pleasures category.

The Primary guilty pleasure is highest in the paradigmatic hierarchy. It is a guilty pleasure that is driven to a large extent by nostalgia. Entry-level metal bands from most sub-genres populate this category alongside many of the bands still receiving air-time on rock radio shows. These are bands or albums that provided your first introduction to music but perhaps are not on the same level as the music you surround yourself with today. That first Avenged Sevenfold album that you had back in middle school maybe does not fit in so well with your collected Neurosis discography, if you are anything like me.

Rob Zombie was one of my very first musical interests when I was young, and he remains just as influential for me today (even though much of his recent musical and cinematic output has been terrible).

This particular category is somewhat hard to define because it is so broad and subjective to individual experience. However, it can be said that the Primary guilty pleasures are the most prestigious of guilty pleasures due to the formational nature of them. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it is likely that most of us were not born with a predisposition toward Blackened Harsh Noise or what have you. Because of this, Primary guilty pleasures are often recollected with a sense of modest pride. Most of the time, they can be said to have been “highly influential” on our later listening habits and interests. In fact, many of these Primary guilty pleasure bands or albums still find themselves in our regular rotation of listening, even though they may not fit with our more recently developed tastes.

Zakk Wylde’s work in BLS has informed much of my guitar playing to this today. Even though BLS, especially their fan base, can be at times cringeworthy, I still find myself returning regularly to their classic albums. 

The Secondary guilty pleasures category is reserved for those musical interests that are not as influential or deeply ingrained in our personalities as the Primary, but they are still listened to with regularity or when the particular mood strikes. This is the point where a certain level of embarrassment can start to seep into the consciousness. Many of the bands in this category are either disliked almost universally by one’s community or have achieved a pariah-like status. But the listener remains interested due to factors outside of the community’s judgment.

Though I imagine most Toileteers would disparage this, I enjoy Thy Art Is Murder’s brand of ignorant deathcore as a Secondary guilty pleasure. For me, they are the perfect workout music: crushing grooves and loud-as-fuck production.

This category can also account for those maligned albums or songs created by bands whose reputations are relatively positive in the fan communities. For example, Slayer, while generally praised as a forerunner to extreme metal, has a few albums that are widely considered substandard to the metal community at large but still have a number of fans. These musical works usually attract guilty pleasure listeners in this tier regardless of the community negativity surrounding them. Again, outlier factors may be the driving force behind the listening.

This is my favorite Slayer album. This is one of my favorite Slayer songs. I am guilty of poserdom.

The Tertiary, or Peripheral, guilty pleasure is probably the largest source of cognitive dissonance, especially for music fans from traditionally closed-off communities like extreme metal. This category is broad because it encompasses any music that is firmly outside of one’s typical listening preferences. It can be understood as existing on the complete opposite side of the spectrum of your musical tastes. This is the category that prompts the most interior dialogue: “Why do I like this?” “I shouldn’t enjoy this, but I actually do.” “What is it about this song/band/album that attracts me? What the hell?!”  Many times, one particular aspect of the Tertiary guilty pleasure in question is the key the factor in the attraction, but often listeners are unable to articulate a reasoning past “I just like it.” Even though it produces that sometimes troubling cognitive dissonance, it is not necessarily a bad thing; rather, it shows a commitment to taste, even if it is, at first, unconscious and unarticulated.

I hate EDM. I hate house music and trap and all that shit. I love this song. I love the vocals and the groove. Help me.

This category can also be referred to as Peripheral because most of the exposure to this class of guilty pleasure occurs as a result of your environment or circumstance. There are many opportunities for exposure outside of a typical listening environment: parties, sporting events, etc. Pretty much any social gathering that is not solely comprised of individuals that belong to your specific musical community. And once this exposure occurs, that Peripheral listening can turn into the Tertiary level of guilty pleasure interest.

Lolbuttzian guilty pleasures are those musical interests that the listener finds pleasurable in some fashion and that can also be described in terms of “lolbuttz.” This category, I believe, bears no further explanation.

Ignorant, godawful slams with terrible production and stupid banjo riffs?  I love it.


Lulz. I’ll take an XL please.

So, there you have it, toilet fiends: my pseudo-scientific (but not really at all) break down of guilty pleasures and how I view them. Do your guilty pleasures fit into this paradigm? Do you have your own way of justifying or systematizing your guilty pleasures? Share them in the comments and I’ll see y’all next time. Happy flushing!


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