Love songs about love and romance using fancy metaphors are cool – lots of people love them, no question. But songs that articulate desire powerfully and without beating around the bush can also be really great, without sacrificing craft and nuance. If you’re into it, sex can be awesome, sex can be fun, so why not get straight to it – even if it’s only in a song?
1. Let’s Get it On by Marvin Gaye
This is my No.1, hands down. It’s a song I loved, paradoxically, from the very first moment I heard it as a pre-teen who thought sex was gross. It has Marvin Gaye asking a woman to have sex with him. It’s smooth and seductive, maybe even a teeny bit humorous and self-aware (how else do you explain those opening wah-wah-wahs), and it’s an earnest plea for sexual openness.
Some twenty years on, I’ve learned more about the context of the song and Gaye’s life – I find it hard to separate the song from its story, and my love for the song, and for Gaye, has changed in some ways. But it’ll always be a special number to me.
2. Sexual by Neikid ft Dyo
This is a song I can listen to on endless repeat. It’s such a fun song, overflowing with desire and excitement and anticipation and joy. And it’s very hard to beat the singer’s teasing logic: “Just say you feel/ The way that I feel/ I’m feeling sexual/ So we should be sexual!”
Push It (Salt-N-Pepa)
Did you ever notice that it’s a guy who does the “Ah-gasp-push-it” and not always the girls? That suddenly makes it not-so-hetero, and it’s hard not to love this song anyway – so much of it has to do with the two rappers themselves: their kooky demeanour, the serious and jokey energetic dance moves, and overall exuberance. They’re slightly aggressive, maybe a little funny, and so very sexy.
Come Over (The Internet)
Everything in this song is ridiculously sexy, from the bassline to singer Syd’s voice to Syd’s jawline and slender waist (thank you, crop top). It starts straight off with teasing seduction and promises to “turn you on/ with my dirty mind” and moves on to lyrics that will have you melt into the floor:
“We can play Simon Says
Or watch TV in bed
Wake with the sunrise
Sleep in it’s alright
Ain’t even gotta sex
Mmm but, I know what you like
Can I come over, come over?”
There seem to be a few versions of this, one of which is overlaid on ‘Let’s Get it On’, and strangely, I can’t stand it. But there’s another version that appeared in an ad for Levi’s in the 1990s – it has an energy that is humorous and braggadocious and still seductive. It’s not a song about conquests so much as it is Shaggy trying to impress the listener – and his lover – by convincing them of his attributes, sometimes with hilarious exaggeration (“I’m boombastic/Rated as the best, the best you should get/Nothing more, nothing less”), swag (“With my sexual physique, jah know me well-built”) desire (“Would you like to kiss and caress/Rub down every strand of hair on my chest”) and sweetness (“And I could take rejection, so you tell me go to hell”).
Let’s Get Physical (Olivia Newton-John)
Bear with me on this one – if you only hear the song, you might find the lyrics meh and Olivia Newton-John’s voice sweet but boring. But the music video makes it suddenly fascinating. It is cheeky, a little grotesque, deranged, even. I’m very taken with the combo of that sickly-sweet voice singing “Let’s get animal, animal, I wanna get animal, let’s get into animal” and that pervy glint in her eyes.