Theme Ride Thursday: Guilty Pleasures Ride…Do You Dare?

Do we care about what other people think of our music choices? Apparently, there are many of us who do.

Guilty pleasure songs…do you play them? The term conjures images of secret enjoyment, songs we love but hesitate to admit due to potential judgment or social stigma. These musical gems often fall outside the bounds of our usual taste, leaning toward the cheesy, the uncool, or the otherwise unexpected.

It’s essential to acknowledge that guilty pleasures are incredibly subjective. What might cause one person to cringe can be another’s favorite tune. It’s a territory of musical diversity, so don’t be surprised if your selections stir up debate and a few raised eyebrows or eye rolls.

r/memes - a blue and white iceberg

But where do guilty pleasure songs come from? The truth is, nobody sets out to create music designed for hidden enjoyment. These songs often emerge unexpectedly from various sources, with the internet playing a significant role.

Platforms like TikTok have become breeding grounds for music memes, thrusting songs into the guilty pleasure spotlight. And let’s not forget one-hit wonders—those brief flashes of musical glory that captivate us, even if they only shine briefly in the spotlight.

A curious phenomenon surrounds many guilty pleasures—songs by certain artists or groups tend to attract both love and loathing. Take Nickelback, for instance. Mentioning their name can evoke universal disdain, yet they maintain a sizable fan base. It’s almost become trendy to hate them, even if you’ve never delved into their music. (Before you comment, I know there are atrocious grammatical errors in the meme below, and ICA editor Shari is going to bang her head against the wall when she sees this, but it proves the point perfectly!) 😀 

Alan Cross has an anthropological question: Why do so many say they hate Nickelback? - image


(Note from Shari: Ooof.)

Another intriguing trend is the public expression of dislike for songs from particular demographics, even though many people secretly harbor affection for them. Despite a song’s quality or catchiness, it may still face judgment if it was recorded by a young woman or a group of good-looking young boys. This paradoxical phenomenon often leads people to privately adore songs they publicly criticize.

Such songs become guilty pleasures because, over time, they charm their way into our hearts, making us genuinely enjoy what we once scoffed at.

Since there’s no concrete definition of what qualifies as a guilty pleasure song, let’s kick start a conversation about the music we secretly love, the songs we despise, and those we’re ashamed to admit enjoying. For an extra dose of fun with your indoor cycling class, consider polling your riders to uncover their guilty pleasure songs. Then, create a profile using a playlist that combines your favorites and your riders’ contributions.

Before you embark on this musical adventure, a word of caution: building a playlist of guilty pleasure songs requires a strong rapport with your class. Your regulars must trust your music choices and understand that this playlist is all in good fun. Without that trust, you risk alienating newcomers or causing some to walk out of the class (or never to return).

Fern Stancer, an experienced instructor at two Toronto clubs with a loyal following after 15 years, has curated a ride featuring some of her guilty pleasures. She knows her class will have a blast and laugh (or cheer) along with her, even if they roll their eyes at some of the selections. You can find her profile and playlist below, as well as a bucket playlist of what we’ve curated as guilty pleasure songs. Even if you don’t use the playlist as-is, it might inspire you to replace a few of the songs with your own (or your class’s) guilty pleasure songs.

Whether you love or loathe the songs on Fern’s playlist or the bucket playlist, we want to hear from you. Do you have any songs you secretly adore or only play when you’re alone? Share your own musical confessions in the comments below—you might discover that others secretly love them too; we want to add them to our bucket playlist!

Now, let’s take a look at some songs that might be in this category. What’s your vote on these tracks below…guilty pleasures or not?

I’m Too Sexy, Right Said Fred, 2:50, 122 bpm
Do you ever find yourself wondering about how cheesy some song lyrics are? How about these lyrics: “I’m too sexy for my shirt” and “I’m too sexy for my cat.” What does that even mean? But it’s certainly an amusing song to climb to!

Barbie Girl, Aqua, 3:18, 130 bpm
This track has popped up on many lists in Google as a guilty pleasure song. But since the Barbie movie came out this year, people are once again loving this song. What do you think? Guilty pleasure or not? Given that the YouTube video has over 1.2 billion views and reached number 6 on the global top music video list, someone out there is liking this song. And you know what? It has the perfect beat for a steady climb!

How Bizarre, OMC, 3:44, 125 bpm
Speaking of one-hit wonders. Some people love it, some hate it, but the tune is snappy and sticks in your head, a definite earworm and great for a climb.

Tubthumping, Chumbawamba, 4:39, 101 bpm

A person gets knocked down but they get up again and you’re never gonna keep them down. But this is one of my favorite songs to ride to. It’s so fun but yes…CHEESY TO THE MAX! It’s a great flat road with leg surges at 0:33–0:53 (20s), 1:20–1:40 (20s), 2:05–2:25 (20s), and 2:40–3:40 (60s).

Never Gonna Give You Up, Rick Astley, 3:34, 113 bpm
IS THIS THE MOST FAMOUS GUILTY PLEASURE SONG OF ALL TIME OR NOT??!! Have you been Rickrolled? How about Rickrolling your own class? You have to admit, the dancing in the video can’t be beat. It’s great as a flat road with leg surges at 0:44–1:00 (16s), 1:26–2:00 (34s), and 2:42–3:20 (38s).

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Taylor Swift, 3:12, 86 bpm
Pick any Taylor Swift song and someone will hate it, but this track has one of the most infectious hooks ever. How can you resist singing along? It is great as a flat road with intervals at 0:39–1:00 (41s), 1:29–1:51 (21s), and 2:24–3:08 (43s). Even though there are millions of Swifties in the world—just look at the ticket sales to her Eras tour—I’m going to guess that there is a sizeable number who might only play a Tay Tay song while driving alone in their cars with the windows sealed shut.

How You Remind Me, Nickelback, 3:44, 172 bpm
Out of virtually every other musical act on the planet, Nickelback seems to attract the most hate and abuse. Admitting to be a Nickelback fan is like saying you hate puppies and kittens. *sigh* It should be noted that—love them or hate them—numerous Nickelback songs make excellent high-intensity cycling tracks and you’ll find a few sprinkled into ICA playlists. This song is great as a float road. You could add resistance and build with intensity, and…maybe hate too?

Check out Fern’s Guilty Pleasures Ride profile and playlist below.


  1. Thank you very much for this ride suggestion. I did it yesterday with my group and we really had a lot of fun with that kind of music. I never knew that my students are such party people!

    I am from Germany and there is Modern Talking, two guys from the 90s, who are most hated, but anyway very successful (nobody knows exactly who bought their music as they are so hated ;-)). Their songs have a good beat for cycling. “You’re my heart, you’re my soul” for example. Another suggestions by my students was “Coco Jambo” by Mr. President. It’s an endless list and for sure I will start another class with this kind of music after a while!

    1. Author

      So glad you had fun with this! Thanks for the new suggestions!

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