As of this week, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea is 50, a fact that makes us feel a little older and a little grayer ourselves. But we also noticed that Mr. Balzary just about shares a birthday with… Ginuwine! Remember him? “Pony”? That video in the hillbilly club? That utterly filthy bassline? The cosmic coincidence got us thinking about some of the other naughty, naughty basslines from throughout the history of music — of all instruments, bass has the power to get the hips shaking, both on the dance floor and, y’know, elsewhere. We’ve selected some of our favorites, so let us know your suggestions, too. Just don’t do anything unspeakable in the comments section.
Ginuwine — “Pony”
This is as simple as it gets — three notes, played with a Bon Jovi style talkbox — but there’s something outrageously effective about it: the bassline is about as subtle as the song’s central, um, “metaphor” (“If you’re horny, let’s do it/ Ride it/ My pony”), it’s cheesy as hell… and yet it’s all kinds of awesome. And dirty. Very, very dirty.
Red Hot Chili Peppers — “Sir Psycho Sexy”
We’re referring specifically to the filthily squelchified bass that underpins this song’s verses. Apparently Flea stumbled across the distinctive sound when the battery in his Mutron III pedal started crapping out — when he replaced it, the effect wasn’t as pronounced, so he put the dying battery back in the unit and recorded the results.
Lou Reed — “Walk on the Wild Side”
Not so much filthy as coyly suggestive, just like the song, this bassline is a sly whisper from a back alley, a hint of something unimaginable going on behind a rickety motel door. And just like “Pony,” it’s only three notes — sometimes it’s the notes you don’t play that are just as important as the ones you do.
Digital Underground — “The Humpty Dance”
Despite its “Do me baby” refrain, this song is more comical than sexy, mainly due to Humpty’s oversize faux nose and his endearingly self-effacing persona. But that bassline… damn. It was sampled from a Funkadelic song — of course — and it’s as close to actual dance-floor grinding as a bassline can possibly get.
Salt-N-Pepa — “Push It”
It’s overshadowed by those thoroughly indecent synths, but listen carefully, and there’s a similarly suggestive bassline rumbling away at the bottom end of this track. The combination of bass and synths conspires to create something that made your writer feel very strange indeed circa 1987.
Marvin Gaye — “Let’s Get It On”
This is a classic track for, well, getting it on — and the reason is just as much the hot ‘n’ sweaty bassline as it is Gaye’s honeyed vocals. In fact, an instrumental version of this song wouldn’t entirely sound out of place on a compilation like this or this.
Peggy Lee — “Fever”
Oh, come now, understatedly classy upright jazz bass of ’50s restraint. You’re not fooling anyone. We know what’s really going on here.
Aaliyah — “Are You That Somebody”
This track’s insistent (and awfully catchy) bass figure was one the most instantly recognizable and memorable moments of ’90s R&B. Nearly 15 years later — and doesn’t that make us feel old — it’s still as sexy as ever. It even manages to overcome the baby sampled on the track, for Chrissakes.
Sadé — “No Ordinary Love”
No, come on, seriously, just listen to to that bassline.
Barry White, generally
You could argue that Barry White’s subterranean voice is a bassline in and of itself, but even setting aside the great man’s vocals, his tracks were generally underpinned by suitably suggestive basslines — the slow pulse of “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe,” the little trill that punctuates “You’re My First, My Last, My Everything,” etc etc. If there’s a master of the sexy low end (oh, stop it), it’s that man right there.