Last week, we ran a feature on some of the most ridiculous and cringe-inducing lyrics about sex that pop music has given us over the years. A couple of commenters asked whether we’d be running a similar feature about good lyrics on the same subject, and the answer is “yes, definitely,” and in the pursuit of egalitarianism, we have indeed gathered a list of some of our favorite lyrics about sex. To be clear — I’m not just talking about sexy songs here, although they certainly feature. There are also songs that address the deed in all its messy glory, from sex gone wrong and sex gone bad, to sex that ends up being hilarious — and sex that ends up going very well indeed.
Missy Elliott — “Work It”
The relevant bit: “Call before you come, I need to shave my chocha/ You do or you don’t or you will or won’t you/ Go downtown and eat it like a vulture/ See my hips and my tips, don’t ya?/ See my ass and my lips, don’t ya?”
Beneath the braggadoccio, there’s something compellingly vulnerable about “Work It” — the mentions of “[losing] a few pounds… for ya” and the claim that “I’m not a prostitute but I could give you what you want.” And yet, it’s also sexy as hell. It’s sex in all its ambivalence, the sense that you’re opening and exposing yourself to someone, that you want to but you’re also aware that you’re making yourself vulnerable — even for someone as empowered and generally awesome as Missy.
D’Angelo — “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”
The relevant bit: “I’d love to make you wet in between your thighs/ ‘Cause I love when it comes inside you”
And as if the lyrics and the arrangement weren’t sexy enough, then, of course, there’s the video. God damn. How are the rest of us dudes meant to compete? (And seriously, what exercise is it that gives you that weirdly defined action-figure thing at the top of your thighs, which will forever after be known as the D’Angelo Muscles?)
Salt N Pepa — “Shoop”
The relevant bit: “If looks could kill you would be an Uzi/ Or a shotgun: bang!/ What’s up with that thing?/ I wanna know, how does it hang?/ Straight up, wait up, hold up, Mr Lover/ Like Prince said you’re a sexy mother…”
The great thing about the awesomely filthy “Shoop” is that it’s all the dirtier for how oblique it is. There’s nothing completely explicit about its lyric, and its suggestiveness is all the more effective than just being flat-out nasty. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s not until a dude gets on the mic that things get really graphic, with his memorable claim that “I hit the skins for the hell of it, just for the yell I get/ Mmm mmm mmm, for the smell of it.”
Arab Strap — “The Good Part”
The relevant bit: “The good part comes between wanting and needing/ When it’s less about eating and more about feeding”
Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat are rightly renowned for the sordid nature of their lyrics, but there’s a humanity to their songs, too, which is what makes them so effective. This covers both bases, entailing both astute observation of the comfort provided by a sexual relationship, and also the constant restlessness that comes from monogamy: “You know the best could always be better/ When the hardest could be harder and the wettest, wetter.”
Serge Gainsbourg — “Les Sucettes”
The relevant bit: “When the anise-flavored lollipop goes down Annie’s throat, she is in heaven”
Oh, Serge. This song, which he wrote for the unfortunately ingenuous France Gall, features one of the most sneakily filthy lyrics ever — deploying the lollipop-as-phallus idea before Lil Wayne or 50 Cent were even thought of — and the whole affair was made all the more sordid by the fact that the poor singer clearly had no idea what she was singing about. The subtleties of the lyric are somewhat lost in translation — for instance, the verb “baiser” means “to kiss” but also “to fuck”, and the phrase “pour quelques pennies” means “for some pence,” but the rhyme is rather suggestive — but you get the idea. (And that’s not even mentioning the video.)
Marvin Gaye — “Let’s Get it On”
The relevant bit: “Don’t you know how sweet and wonderful life can be?/ I’m askin’ you, baby, to get it on with me”
Antony & the Johnsons — “Cripple and the Starfish”
The relevant bit: “Mr Muscle forcing bursting stingy thingy into little me, me, me/ …It’s true I always wanted love to be hurtful/ And it’s true I always wanted love to be filled with pain and bruises”
Yikes. Popular music is well-stocked with songs about S&M, but there really can’t be any more graphic — or, frankly, kinda disturbing — than this one. There are definitely rapey overtones, which make the song decidedly difficult listening, but ultimately you have to take the chorus at its word when it insists “I am very happy/ So please hurt me.”
Betty Davis — “He Was a Big Freak”
The relevant bit: “He used to laugh when I’d make him cry/ He was big freak, a big freak, yes he was!/ I used to whip him with my turquoise chain”
Also on the S&M front, Betty Davis’s memorable ode to beating her partner with a turquoise chain. (Not just any old chain, mind you.) It finds her fulfilling various roles — housewife, geisha, mother, princess — none of which left any doubt as to who was in charge.
Grace Jones — “Pull Up to the Bumper”
The relevant bit: “Pull up to the bumper, baby/ In your long black limousine/ Pull up to the bumper, baby/ And slide it in between”
True story: your correspondent used to rather enjoy this song as a youngster, oblivious to the fact that the “long black limousine” was a rather obvious metaphor for… well, you know. I did always wonder why she sang “Let me lubricate it,” though.
Khia — “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)”
The relevant bit: All of it, basically
No danger of misinterpreting this, though. But then, the startling thing about this song was precisely that it was startling — after all, graphic depictions of sex from the male point of view are dime-a-dozen in popular music.
Nina Simone — “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl”
The relevant bit: “I want a little sugar in my bowl/ I want a little sweetness down in my soul/ I could stand some lovin’ oh so bad/ I feel so lonely and I feel so sad”
Still, the urge for sex isn’t always the urge for pleasure. Sometimes, it’s an urge for companionship and intimacy, a need to have someone to sleep next to on cold nights. This song — originally by Bessie Smith — captures this all too well, and even with the mildly risque metaphor of the title, the lyric feels more melancholy than anything else. (That, of course, may well have something to do with Simone’s mournful delivery, too.)
Little Richard — “Tutti Frutti”
The relevant bit: “Awhopbopaloobop alopbamboom!”
Behold: the best (anal) sex song not to mention sex at all. The original lyrics went “Tutti frutti, good booty/ If it don’t fit, don’t force it/ You can grease it, make it easy” — unsurprisingly, in the conservative 1950s, Little Richard’s record company heard this and nearly fell off their collective chair. The version that was released had no such explicit lyrics, but the meaning remained perfectly clear.
Buddy Guy — “Hoochie Coochie Man/Love Her With a Feeling”
The relevant bit: “She had one leg in the east/ One leg in the west/ I’m down there in the middle/Just trying to do my best!”
The great man has been doing this medley of his song “Love Her With a Feeling” and old blues standard “Hoochie Coochie Man” at his live shows forever, and it’s exactly what a dirty blues number should be. It’s raw, it’s filthy and, most importantly, it’s hilarious — Guy spends each verse getting more suggestive, building up to the show-stopping final verse.
Frank Zappa — “Bobbie Brown Goes Down”
The relevant bit: “I can take about an hour on the tower of power/ As long as I get a little golden shower”
Zappa’s lyrics about sex were just as hilarious as his lyrics about… well, everything else, really. There’s “Dinah-Moe Humm”, wherein Frank takes a $20 bet to see if he can bring a girl to orgasm, and a whole lot of others, but really they all pale in comparison to the sexual odyssey of the eponymous frat bro whose unfortunate encounter with a “dyke by the name of Freddie” leaves him castrated, lubed-up and questioning his sexuality. You can’t go that on stage any more, indeed.
My Bloody Valentine — “Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside)”
The relevant bit: “Soft as snow and warm inside/ Penetrate then redivide/ Slip away forever…”
Now then, what could this ever be about?
Pulp — “This Is Hardcore”
The relevant bit: “That goes in there/ And that goes in there/ And that goes in there/ And that goes in there/ Oooh, and then it’s over”
There are plenty of Pulp songs to choose from, but really, this entire lyric is relevant here, given that it catalogues a home “film-making “session from start to finish. But it’s the denouement that really resonates, a mechanistic depiction of sex that can’t possibly warrant the build-up. And, indeed, it’s over all too quickly, leaving only the question with which Cocker finishes the song: “What exactly do you do for an encore?”
Nine Inch Nails — “Closer”
The relevant bit: “I want to fuck you like an animal/ I want to feel you from the inside”
Well, no-one can ever accuse Trent Reznor of not knowing what he wants.
Liz Phair — “Flower”
The relevant bit: “Every time I see your face I get all wet between my legs/ Every time you pass me by, I heave a sigh of pain/ Every time I see your face I think of things unpure, unchaste/ I want to fuck you like a dog”
The female counterpoint to “Closer,” and as with “My Neck My Back,” it seems to have been deemed all the more shocking because of its frank depiction of female sexuality. After all, there’s never been a long discussion on SongMeanings as to whether “Closer” is ironic or not — Phair’s lyrics always been well-known for their frank discussion of sex, and there’s nothing affected or anything less than straightforward about this.
Prince — “If I Was Your Girlfriend”
The relevant bit: “Would you let me kiss you there/ You know, down there, where it counts?/ I’ll do it so good/ I swear I’ll drink every ounce”
Prince’s androgyny has always been one of the most fascinating aspects of his persona, and it’s on full display in this gender-bending lyric, wherein he imagines what he’d do in the scenario described by the title. Of course, the answer involves sex. Lots of sex. (Watch/listen here.)
Dead Kennedys — “Too Drunk to Fuck”
The relevant bit: “Now I got diarrhea!”
Hey, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Especially where booze is involved. It’s happened to the best of us. (But for the record, no, we haven’t all shat ourselves in bed — sorry, Jello, but you’re on your own there.)