So Don’t Expect Me to Understand

I once told a friend that, when it came to music, I didn’t have any guilty pleasures because I never feel guilty about listening to something that I enjoy. And that’s still true! But when my fortitude on that front is tested, it’s not by my deep and abiding love of all things Sara Bareilles or even by my love of the occasional Meghan Trainor single. No, it’s by my affinity for “Besitos,” a song best described as the four-minute sonic distillation of everything about Hot Topic during Obama’s first term.

“Besitos” is empty calories. It’s two parts Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, one part Pete Wentz, one part generic mall emo, shaken and finished with a splash of Diet Mountain Dew. It’s too sugary, almost certainly glows in the dark, and will leave a gross film on your teeth. All of which would be an insult if it weren’t coming from someone capable of guzzling a 20 oz. Dr. Pepper in one swig or polishing off a whole bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in a single sitting. I love empty calories. But they’re hard to praise.

“Besitos” is all whiny vocals, needless screaming, and guitar work that vacillates between frantic riffing and chunky power chords, sprinkled with drum fills and irritating lyrics. Back in 2005, Kevin Dye—friend, reader, and lead singer of Gates—once joked that Chiodos’ All’s Well That Ends Well was a great screamo record because it codified all the cliches of the genre in one tidy package. And then, five years later, “Besitos” took the same approach, incorporating every new wrinkle that Equal Vision had been able to churn out in the ensuing half-decade. There’s not a single thing that happens in this song that’s not done better elsewhere. And yet it’s a great song!

Mocking any song for three paragraphs is a tough way to start a recommendation and it only gets harder when you open the fourth paragraph by shitting on the production but that has to be done here too because “Besitos” sounds like it was recorded by placing a laptop mic six inches off a Crate combo. But all my teasing only emphasizes the weird alchemy at work here because this song absolutely rips. For all the faults of its individual parts, “Besitos” totally works. It’s hard and fast, heavy and catchy, big and passionate. It’s a great song, even if I feel (almost) guilty about saying it.

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