“Guilty” by Barbra Streisand & Barry Gibb (1980)

I try to live my life in a way that’s fairly transparent and unapologetic. But there are definitely still occasions during which I am embarrassed or afraid to admit certain things. Which puts me here, where I feel like I have to defend the fact that I like-nay-love a Barbra Streisand song. I could very easily explain away my love for “Guilty” with the blanket (and highly stereotypical) explanation that all queer men love Barbra Streisand. But that would be reductive and also very untrue. Plus, there’s a huge part of me that aims to deliberately reject most widely accepted stereotypes about queer men. I’m not terribly interested in Barbra’s music overall, but “Guilty” is one of the handful of songs she’s made that resonates with me.

Which is at least partially due to my love for yet another “guilty pleasure”…Barry Gibb. Is it cool to like The Bee Gees now? Because I feel like it wasn’t cool throughout the ’80s and through much of the ’90s, as well. The Brothers Gibb had some jams, though. And they did it in at least four different decades. Following the success of Saturday Night Fever, the brothers graduated from being big-name artists to also being big-name songwriters and producers for others. Guilty (the album) had enough of a Gibb stamp on it that Barry appears on the cover with Barbra. “Guilty” (the single) was a Grammy winning top 5 hit that had at least some reverse-crossover appeal. I remember hearing it on the Quiet Storm back in the day.

Barry and Barbra alternate vocals on this one, although the song’s overall flavor is unquestionably Bee Gees. It’s less melodramatic than one would normally associate with Babs, and there’s a subtle underlying groove; the slightest hint of R&B that elevates “Guilty” a few slots above your ordinary pop ballad. There are also those plush Gibb harmonies; soft as a down comforter.

Even if most of her music isn’t my cup of tea, Barbra is undoubtedly one hell of a vocalist. This is a perfect match of vocalist and songwriter/producer. So, this particular collaboration, for me, is all pleasure and no guilt at all. See what I did there?

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