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Guilty Pleasures, Part II

More music figures confess their deep, dark secrets

Well, folks, it's the moment you've all been waiting for: the second installment of my "guilty pleasures" project, in which I try to find out what local, state and national music figures jam when they think no one is listening, the songs and artists you love but play only on headphones or with the windows rolled all the way up. So as one of the choices on this list might say, "Let's get it started in here…"

Alvarez, Olivia Flores(arts editor, La Semana/Bravo Houston and Press contributor). Alvarez digs George Michael's Faith era ("Corn, corn, corny, I know. Corny and commercial") as well as Mr. Jiggy, Will Smith, whom she admits is "the most un-rapper rapper in the world." Alvarez blames the media for her Doris Day fixation, one she says "even embarrasses my friends": "I watched her biography on TV one time, and they said she had incredible phrasing. That must have sunk into my subconscious or something, because ever since then I think she can sing. She's more certain about her belief that she is the only person in the world to have seen The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia -- The Movie no fewer than three times. "Bad enough I listen to Vicki Lawrence sing," she says, "but then I watched the movie, with Kristy McNicholand Dennis Quaid singing. Mark Hamill, who has a small role as a Kristy's love interest, was smart enough to be embarrassed, but not me. Kristy McNichol singing -- gosh, can you get any lower?" You can, as Alvarez demonstrates with her next Diamond Jammer. "Kenny Rogers," she says. "I know all the words to 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town.' Worse, I know all the words to 'She Believes in Me.' And 'You Decorated My Life.' And 'Coward of the County.' All of them. The shame, the shame."

Johnson, Felicia(Press contributor/ hip-hop journalist). Johnson's selections cross a far wider musical spectrum than you might expect from a hip-hop scribe. First off, there's a smattering of pop divas including Ashlee Simpson ("She sings much better than her sister, and has a cuter style -- you know, that trendy/ poseur/punk fashion thing. Ashlee rocks!"), "Toxic" by Britney Spears ("She is so bold to get in front of the world and beyond, knowing she can't sing a lick, and can dance even worse. But that song is really cute, and she gets to live out her fantasies on video. I can't even be mad at that"), Madonna ("She touched my life at a time when I was young and impressionable, and her songs are pure pop pleasure"), and I guess Boy George, who Johnson says "holds a special place in my heart," wouldn't object to being called a diva, so we'll throw him in with this group. George Michael and Journey are other '80s-era choices for Johnson. Of the latter group, she says, "I still jam any Journey song that I hear. Anywhere. In the grocery store, on elevators, in the car -- that's my favorite place, 'cause I can really belt it out like me and Steve [Perry] are on stage somewhere doing our famous duets, hehe. Y'all know he can sing…" And then she's willing to admit that her love for Maroon 5 is taking its toll. "That lead singer is too cute," she says. On the hip-hop/R&B tip, she admits to digging Ciara and Petey Pablo's "My Goodies." "In the video she tries to look so hard, but it comes off hilarious to me," she says. "Plus, that Petey Pablo is a fool, talkin' 'bout, 'Any girl in this club I can get.' Yeah, okay…" Johnson is forthright in her admiration of T.I. ("Always in trouble, man. Yeah, stay in some trouble. I'll get you in trouble. That's that thug love baby…"), though she is more reluctant about the Ying Yang Twins' "Get Low." "Y'all can't front, but that shit is live," she says. "It's been out forever, but when that beat hits, and they start up with 'From the window to the wall…' The sheer ignorance of it -- I love it."

Lomax, John Nova(music editor, Houston Press). Why does everybody hate on the Black Eyed Peas? I know, as Craig D. Lindsey put it in a phone call to me a few weeks back, that they are exceedingly "nonthreatening black guys" and all, and I also know that "Let's Get Retarded" is the last thing you hear before Barry Manilow takes the stage, but c'mon! That shit's funky! Also, almost exactly ten years ago in this paper, then-music editor Brad Tyer called Blind Melon's "No Rain" "wussy crap somewhere between Supertramp and Yes, which is hell." Virtually all of my friends and 99 percent of critics agree with that assessment. But fuck it, I dig it. And anywhere that's halfway to Supertramp is halfway to heaven to me. As is a lot of hyper-weeny soft-rock stuff from the '70s, such as Al Stewart("The Year of the Cat"), Bread("Baby I'm A Want You," "Make It with You"), Orleans("Still the One") and Seals and Crofts. The last group's "Summer Breeze" is pure pop perfection. And then there's Gordon Lightfoot. I still get teary-eyed when I think of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

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