By Whitney Pastorek
August 24, 2009 at 07:27 PM EDT

EW’s Music Mix is searching for the Greatest Guilty Pleasure Musical Act of All Time. With 32 seeded contestants (see all the matchups), this tournament is sure to change hearts, minds, and lives for weeks to come. Read/listen to the following, and then cast your vote in the poll after the jump; reader comments will be used in subsequent rounds, so we encourage you to also post a comment explaining why you chose the way you did. Note: In case of a tie, please select the artist you feel more ashamed to adore. Thank you.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: The role of Savage Garden will be played by Poison for the remainder of this competition. Savage Garden were forced to drop out due to an unfortunate combination of astute reader response pointing out that somehow we totally forgot to put any hair metal on the list — a truly egregious oversight we hope has now been sufficiently remedied — and because certain proprietors of the Guilty Pleasures game could not come up with anything interesting to write about Savage Garden. The Music Mix regrets any confusion, and encourages fans of Savage Garden to leave their aggravated feedback about how the band is so totally not a guilty pleasure in the comments anyway.


Why, just a few months ago I had an email wrestling match with a smarty-pants music coworker who was slamming my own snobby love of an indie band and then tried to undo the damage by saying, “There’s no accounting for taste — my friends think I’m lame because I like Hall & Oates!”  Clever man. But trying to use my mullet-haired music heroes of the ’70s and ’80s as a weapon of crass destruction did not work, because I knew Daryl Hall & John Oates were hipster deities whom cool kids worshipped with great pride. (Exhibit A: Brooklyn Vegan’s archive of people disguised as Daryl & John for Halloween. Please note the Meg and Jack White doppelgangers proudly dressed up as Halls Cough Drops and a carton of Quaker Oats to represent their cheesy idols.)

So, to quote Huey Lewis, it is hip to be square in the case of Daryl and John. But I love their music. I do. The only problem with loving Hall & Oates for me is that their songs have been overplayed and veer dangerously close to easy-listening territory ever since Muzak versions of “Maneater” and “Rich Girl” were piped into the sound systems of dental offices like aural ether. I now like to take back the hits by pretending I am in the recording studio with these musicians, imagining what it was like to hear the intricately produced “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” for the very first time and thinking, “Wow, that’s a hit, Ahmet!” as I patted then-manager Tommy Mottola on the back.

While I would like to say I have unabashed Hall & Oates pride, I am embarrassed to say I do not. In fact, just yesterday I found myself on a five-hour flight and was psyched to pump “Private Eyes” into my ear canals, but I am ashamed to report that I instinctively turned my iPod over so the khaki-trousered business gent reading Who Moved My Cheese in the window seat next to me would not see what I was playing. I get so much pleasure out of watching the insane “She’s Gone” video repeatedly, but that gesture told my truth: I, the prideful and super-judgmental owner of mp3s created by bands khaki man has never heard of (I am really listening to Dirty Projectors, swear!) had Hall & Oates shame. Guilty!  — Michele Romero


Once upon a time, I wanted to buy Open Up and Say…Ahh!, the second album from the hit ’80s rock band Poison, because Poison was, like, iconic. To me, they were not yet a spandex-clad monstrosity milking the very lifeblood from heavy metal and turning it into Diet Rite. No, they were a hit ’80s rock n’ roll band. And I wanted to play “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” at my leisure, without the annoying DJ chatter that always cut off the beginnings and endings of songs I taped off the radio.

Hair metal historians may recall that the original cover for Open Up and Say…Ahh! featured a “demonic” creature with a tongue that indicated said creature might be something of a cunning linguist, and that many, many Tipper Gore types were up in arms about it. The label was forced to release a “censored” cover, with black bars covering everything but the eyes. Were it not for those black bars, I truly believe my mother would have forbidden me to own this record; as it was, she was pretty mortified by the whole thing. And without this record, god only knows where I’d be. Probably a nice girl teaching elementary school social studies somewhere, married, three kids, big Paul Anka fan. Instead, I was clearly scandalized by the Sunset Strip sensibilities of “Nothing But A Good Time,” and that is why I am now a heathen living in L.A. who sometimes drinks alcohol. I’m pretty sure that was my mother’s train of thought at the time, at least. Sorry to make your worse fears come true, Mom.

Poison, god bless them and their hair product, were really not worth all the hubbub. Sure, they made for one hell of a VH1 Behind the Music, and Bret Michaels and his wig have gone on to great fame and fortune in the celebreality game, but musically, hot damn this stuff is bad. We’re talking about a band that can’t even pull off a listenable cover of KISS’s “Rock and Roll All Nite.” And by comparison, their peers become virtuosos: Def Leppard rocks power-pop harmonies; Poison prefers the drunken-party chant. Guns N’ Roses weaves loin-trembling spells of sinewy sex via both Axl’s vocals and and Slash’s solos; Poison just kind of pounds away like a sailor on leave. Bon Jovi made us fall in love with Tommy and Gina; Poison wrote “Fallen Angel.” Yes, sometimes it is like heads they win, tails I’m gonna lose, but I don’t need a morality play about how running away from home and becoming a prostitute or whatever is a bad idea. And yet… maybe I do. Cause I still listen to it. It’s a really good song for jogging. Hey Mom! I jog! There’s hope! — WP

Want to vote in a previous matchup? Click here to visit Guilty Pleasure Bracket Central!

Photo Credit: Andre Csillag/Rex USA/Everett Collection