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Best Songs About Sex: 10 Down’n’Dirty Tracks About Getting It On
Yuri Arcurs / Alamy Stock Photo
List & Guides

Best Songs About Sex: 10 Down’n’Dirty Tracks About Getting It On

Exploring the full range of sexuality, the best songs about sex are powerful expressions of identity and freedom for everyone to enjoy.

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Sex is completely entwined with the history of popular music. From century-old blues tunes, through to rock’n’roll (whose very name evoked the rhythm of lovemaking), disco, soul and hip-hop, the best songs about sex have seen the world’s greatest stars create down’n’dirty tracks about getting it on, getting it up and getting off.

For musical artists, singing about sex has often proved a freeing and, sometimes, maturing experience. As Kylie Minogue said, when she was asked in 1991 about her “raunchier” songs and videos, “A lot of people still think that I should be like I was four or five years ago.” Raising her famously arched eyebrow, she added, “People really like to pigeonhole you.”

There are as many different sexualities as there are lyrical ways of expressing them, and while the majority of songs about sex relate to male-female coupling, many of the best songs about sex encompass gay, lesbian and trans identities. Kinks and fetishes are also fair game for musical exploration. In the words of Leonard Cohen, “There are no unilateral agreements on sexuality.”

So, slip into something comfortable (or uncomfortable, if that’s your fancy), and we’ll peer inside the best songs about sex.

Listen to our Love Songs playlist here, and check out the best songs about sex, below.

10: Missy Elliott – Pussycat (2002)

Originally planned as the third single from Missy Elliott’s fourth album, Under Construction, in a remix featuring Lil’ Kim and Janet Jackson, Pussycat’s release was shelved when Elliott’s record label got cold feet over the track’s highly sexualised content. “Pussy don’t fail me now,” Elliott sings, as she pays tribute to the persuasive powers of her downstairs delight.

Elliott has specifically credited Pussycat to the influence of 70s and 80s soul music, particularly some of the era’s best songs about sex, as recorded by such stars as Marvin Gaye and The Temptations. “I remember when Sexual Healing came out,” she said in 2017. “It made me listen to a record like that and think of how to do records like ‘Pussy don’t fail me now.’”

9: Led Zeppelin: Custard Pie (1975)

The blues, so beloved of Led Zeppelin, was rife with inventive euphemisms for genitals, sex and fetishes. Lil Johnson wanted hot nuts from the peanut man; Blind Lemon Jefferson found all kinds of filth in the word “crochet”; and Bessie Smith definitely needed a little sugar in her bowl.

For this hard-rock number from Led Zeppelin’s 1975 album, Physical Graffiti, the group continue this tradition with Custard Pie – take a wild guess what that might be – which is “sweet and nice” and ready for chewing. By all accounts, the band members practiced what they sang about, though Custard Pie is more playful than some of their other songs about sex, and it proves that hard rockers can be whimsical as well as explicit.

8: Kate Bush: Feel It (1978)

Kate Bush’s albums are frequently suffused with an earthy eroticism of the kind that can be found in gestures and looks as well as in touch. As she sang on Symphony In Blue, from 1979’s Lionheart, “The more I think about sex, the better it gets.” When Bush grew older, she maintained this core conviction with songs such as The Sensual World, from the 1989 album of the same name, and Misty, from 2011’s 50 Words For Snow, which is about a tryst with a snowman.

Feel It, from her debut album, The Kick Inside, is a brilliant example of Kate Bush’s carnal craft. Evoking teenage experimentation (the act takes place after a party) as well as lust, the track is a tentative yet licentious dive into fleshy pleasures that more than earns a spot the best songs about sex. As Bush herself once said, “The communication of music is very much like making love.”

7: k.d. lang: Sexuality (1993)

From k.d. lang’s third album (which has the charged title of All You Can Eat), Sexuality is a highly sensual, liberating song of lesbian desire. With its narrator urging a woman to act on her queer impulses, listeners are impelled to “Free the hounds of chastity/Unleash your sexuality on me”.

lang had come out as gay a couple of years earlier, at a time when proud, public lesbian identity was a rarity. “I came out because I thought it was an important, responsible thing to do to open myself up to having people have a connection to what gay culture is,” she said in 2023. “I came out so people would have some relatability to it.” This openness meant lang did not have to be coy or ambiguous about the gender of her lovers on Sexuality; and this gives her lyricism, by turns suggestive and audacious, glorious free reign.

6: Buzzcocks: Orgasm Addict (1977)

Many of the best songs about sex are of couples (and sometimes more, as on I U She, by Peaches, or Christina Aguilera’s hints at group sex in Dirrty). And though there are some notable songs on female masturbation, songs of male self-pleasure are rarer.

Banned by the BBC, Buzzcocks’ Orgasm Addict is about the fun, shame, fantasy and exploration involved in masturbation. Although the band’s guitarist Pete Shelley claimed to find the song “embarrassing” in later years, Orgasm Addict’s brutal humour and honest acknowledgement of masturbation’s role in our lives is unparalleled.

5: Otis Redding: These Arms Of Mine (1962)

One of the greatest ever songs of sexual yearning, These Arms Of Mine gets across the particular intermingling of physical sensation and emotional connection in human sexuality, all through restrained implication. Written early on in Otis Redding’s career, and included on his debut album, Pain In My Heart, These Arms Of Mine was the “King Of Soul”’s first hit.

One of the best soul songs of the 60s, These Arms Of Mine came out in an era when sexuality on record was evolving from the 50s rock’n’roll roughness of Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Wanda Jackson into something that evoked both sensuality and subtlety. Early soul pioneers, such as Redding, developed a sound that would eventually birth some of the most stimulating and downright erotic music of all time. From Marvin Gaye to Ginuwine, sex has proved fertile lyrical ground for soul’s smoothest operators over the years, and it all began with Otis Redding.

4: Madonna: Justify My Love (1990)

Released on her bar-raising best-of, The Immaculate Collection, Justify My Love is among Madonna’s boldest tracks, sonically as well as sexually. Written by Lenny Kravitz and Ingrid Chavez as a document of their love affair, and with a beat sampled from Public Enemy’s Security Of The First World, the song features spoken and minimalist vocals from Madonna – but that only adds to its sensual charge, its hypnotic deep beats becoming harmonious with Madonna’s sexual vocal rhythm.

Cementing its place among the best songs about sex, Justify My Love was accompanied by one of Madonna’s greatest promo videos, a ravishing clip which moves the song decidedly from a one-to-one sexual relationship to something encompassing other people. The video was notable for its gender-fluid and androgynous imagery, making Justify My Love one of the most sexually inclusive promos ever made by a mainstream artist. Predictably, the video was deemed controversial, and banned by MTV, which Madonna found ludicrous. “When I did my Vogue video, there’s a shot of me where I’m wearing a see-through dress, and you can clearly see my breasts. They told me that they wanted me to take that out, but I said I wouldn’t, and they played it anyway,” she said. “I would like to address the whole issue of censorship on television.”

3: Prince: Soft And Wet (1978)

Prince’s debut single, Soft And Wet, set the scene for his career-long attitude to sex: a dedication to pleasure, both his own and that of his partner(s); a belief that sex is a cornerstone of human wellbeing; and a limitless lyrical skill in describing all manner of erogenous acts. Prince’s songs about sex could be gently stimulating (Kiss, If I Was Your Girlfriend), refreshingly direct (Sexy MF; Do Me, Baby) or downright humorous (Jack U Off, Horny Toad), but all had a strong conviction of shared sexual bliss.

There was no mistaking what Prince’s imagery was all about on Soft And Wet, and, in a pattern that would become familiar, he avoided explaining the meaning of his songs, right from his earliest days. “If people would just listen to the music,” he told label staffer Marylou Badeaux, “they’d know where my head’s at.”

2: Frankie Goes To Hollywood: Relax (1983)

Like many of the best songs about sex, Relax was controversial and subject to an airtime ban – this time, famously, by the BBC. But Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s debut single is one of the milder lyrical paeans to sex, and its banning had more to do with the fetishistic and proudly gay imagery in the song and its accompanying promo video. ZTT, Frankie’s label, took full advantage of the furore, producing an advert that proclaimed “They’ve tried to BAN IT. BURN IT. BAIT IT. But it keeps STICKING OUT!”

Unlike many of their contemporaries, members of Frankie Goes To Hollywood did not hide their sexual orientation, nor did they seek to overtly politicise it in their music, as Jimmy Somerville and Tom Robinson did. Frankie frontman Holly Johnson has instead referred to his form of political comment as “my fuck-you form of gay activism: ‘If you don’t like it, fuck off’”.

1: Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion: WAP (2020)

“Some people just don’t know what to do when a woman is in control and taking ownership of her own body,” Megan Thee Stallion has said. “I feel like for a long time men felt like they owned sex and now women are saying, ‘Hey, this is for me. I want pleasure.’” WAP (short for Wet Ass Pussy) was a collaboration by two of the best rappers working today, a deft and vigorous tribute to their own pussy power.

With lyrics that switch between a bracing frankness and ingenious metaphor, Cardi B and Megan created the hands-down winner among the best songs about sex. Accompanied by a video set in a house where even the door knockers have a sexual meaning, WAP fulfils Cardi B’s wish to make “a very, very nasty song… I have done records before, but this record is so nasty!”

Find out where WAP ranks among the best Cardi B songs.

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