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The 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time

August 29, 2013  |  11:40am
The 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time

Yesterday we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s legendary Let’s Get It On album—a record packed with sex jams like “You Sure Love to Ball,” “Keep Gettin’ It On,” and of course its inescapable title track. To pay tribute to the seductive singer and his timeless hit, we’re counting down the 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time.

Of course, sexiness is in the eye of the beholder, and there’s a lot of accounting for taste here. Our picks span a variety of eras, genres and styles—and while some are more overtly sexual than others, they all make us weak in the knees. To keep this from being a list of Prince and Al Green songs, we’ve limited ourselves to a maximum two tracks per artist. So queue up the playlist we’ve compiled, hang a sock on your doorknob, do whatever you need to do…and be sure to tell us all the sensual songs we forgot about in the comments section below.

50. “Make it Wit Chu,” Queens of the Stone Age (2007)

The same band that wrote the be-all, end-all tribute to drug culture with “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” primed a steaming zipper-shifter of a sex jam years later with “Make It Wit Chu.” With a guitar solo as smooth as velvet sheets and Josh Homme’s sultry plea, there’s only one thing you’ll want to do after this Queens’ Era Vulgaris cut. And it ain’t eatin’ ice cream. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.—Tyler Kane

49. “Be My Baby,” The Ronettes (1963)

This might be an odd choice to some, but there’s something about this song. Released in August of 1963, “Be My Baby” became the first hit single for The Ronettes, while establishing Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” studio wizardry. The big, descending chorus will absolutely melt your heart, but Ronnie Spector’s lead vocals are the real dagger—sassy and vulnerable all at once. This song’s sexiness lies in its romanticism, and it also captures the innocence of the time perfectly.—Mark Lore

48. “Carrizo Plain,” Gardens & Villa (2011)

The haunting chorus, “You and I are intertwined,” stitches a sensual sinew backbone. Guitar ripples over glassy water like stones tossed from two lovers’ canoe. It’s all organic, coasting with whistles, quiet strings and swirling wind. This song works for meaningful romps only—so that heartstrings and limbs weave into an enchanting macrame, a sturdy rope that lassoes souls tightly together. Tom drums tumble to climax just shy of the three-minute mark—but for only a second, before cooling. It steams until it simmers, warm to the finish.—Beca Grimm

47. “Too Much Love,” LCD Soundsystem (2006)

LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy was known for his arhythmic, almost conversational singing style…either that or for his jubilant party shouting. But on “Too Much Love,” from his group’s 2006 self-titled debut, he sounds as if he’s in a kind of lobotomized trance, singing about “too much love” as if it’s totally beaten him down. Combine this with a steady, thumping beat and a series of sinister screeching echoes, and you’ve got one of LCD’s darker, sexier tracks, perfect for locking eyes across a smoky club.—Ryan Bort

46. “Do You Remember The First Time?” Pulp (1994)

To some degree, every ‘90s Pulp song is about sexual frustration or struggling against class. Usually, it’s both rolled into one. But Jarvis Cocker got to the heart of distorted sexual longing best on His ‘n Hers’ “Do You Remember the First Time?” At its core, the song is about trying to manipulate someone’s marital boredom in order to sleep with them again, but the startling thing about the jam is its wistful humanity. The gangly frontman’s pleas are desperate from beginning to end: “You say you’ve got to go home / Well, at least there’s someone there for you to talk to.” Even if Cocker can’t remember a worst time, the first time you hear this song is something you’ll always long for time and time again.—Mack Hayden

45. “Stir It Up,” Bob Marley (1973)

As a divine mouthpiece for Jah, Bob Marley was all about spreading the tenets of Rastafarianism to as many people as possible. He was also about spreading the love, both literally—he had at least 10 children with a number of a different women—and through his songs. “Stir It Up” is one of Marley’s most affecting straight-up love songs, playing out almost in slow motion, as if he’s been suspended in a blissful daze by his love. Of course, weed might have also played a role in this blissful daze, but for the purpose of this list we’ll peg it on love.—Ryan Bort

44. “Your Legs Grow,” Nada Surf (2005)

Matthew Caws’ voice is hot in your ear when he starts, “If you were here / Baby, we’d increase the dose / There was no fear in my room when we got close / Call me anytime you’ve got a ghost.” That’s a promise, and reliability like that is really hot. It’s almost acoustic—because just Caws’ feathery words are enough. But the moment of ignition comes later: “You’re the only person in the world / I feel that way about / And if you move off to the side / I’ll get swept back out.” Those last lines my high-school boyfriend sang along into my ear, his breaths shallow, when we drove five hours to see Nada Surf shortly after The Weight Is A Gift dropped in 2005. Talk about shaky knees.—Beca Grimm

43. “Freedom,” Jurassic 5 (2003)

Most of the songs on this list are explicitly about love or sex in one way or another. “Freedom,” the second single from Jurassic 5’s 2003 album Power in Numbers is not—it’s about how precious freedom is in a world full of oppression—but its beat and slow burn are too inherently seductive to ignore. And hey, maybe you find social consciousness sexier than guitar solos and smooth baritones, in which case “Freedom” is practically a home run on the sexy scale.—Ryan Bort

42. “66,” Afghan Whigs (1998)

An alt-rock heartthrob with none of the crippling angst or intense introversions—and therefore with none of the inhibitions—of his whiny ‘90s peers, Greg Dulli blurs the lines between seducer and seduced, between desirer and desired, and (of course) between dominant and submissive on this standout from the Afghan Whigs’ swan song 1965. It could be a blueprint for Robin Thicke’s recent hit, but it’s less date-rapey and more intriguing in its understanding of male sexuality. So when’s that Dulli/Pharrell Williams collaboration going to happen?—Stephen M. Deusner

41. “Fever,” Peggy Lee (1958)

This Little Willie John number has been recorded by everyone under the sun, but it was Peggy Lee who made it her own, adding the “Romeo loved Juliet” and “Captain Smith and Pocahontas” verses. Her sparse arrangement—just a bass line and some jazzy snaps—really allows her voice to shine and those lyrics to burn up.—Bonnie Stiernberg

40. “I Hate The Way You Love,” The Kills (2005)

If it’s hate sex you’re in the mood for, look no further. Off of 2005’s No Wow, the vicious, grating “I Hate The Way You Love” epitomizes frontwoman Alison Mosshart’s punch-you-in-the-face sex appeal. With jet black hair, a brash stage presence and a general air of disdain, of course she’s going to hate the way you love…But that’s what makes her so attractive. Adding to the sexiness of “I Hate The Way You Love” is the track that follows it on No Wow, “I Hate The Way You Love, Pt. 2,” which serves as a pleasant post-coital pressure release.—Ryan Bort

39. “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Paul McCartney (1970)

It might not be the obvious choice for “sexiest song by a Beatle”—we all know what “Please Please Me” is hinting at, and tracks like “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” and “I Want You” cut right to the chase—but this Paul McCartney solo effort (penned for his wife Linda and rerecorded as a live track with Wings in 1976) sees Macca, so often slapped with the dreaded “cute” designation, at his most passionate and adult-sounding. There’s something about the way he cries “Baby, I’m a man” that suggests he wants to do a little more than hold your hand this time around, and when he continues proudly shrieking “you’re the only woman who could ever help me,” it’s an excellent reminder that love songs need not sound neutered—vulnerability can be hot.—Bonnie Stiernberg

38. “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” The Rolling Stones (1967)

The Stones have tackled love and sex in just about every way imaginable, both in their songs and in their personal lives, but rarely have they approached the subject so bluntly and so sweetly as on “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” which they released as a double single with “Ruby Tuesday” in 1967. Its mild suggestiveness was still a little too racy when it was released, though, and the subject matter became an issue when the Stones were slated to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan told Jagger, “Either the song goes or you go,” and a comprise of changing the lyrics to “Let’s spend some time together” was eventually reached.—Ryan Bort

37. “You Really Got Me,” The Kinks (1964)

We don’t really look back on The Kinks as a “sexy” band, per se, but back in 1964 “You Really Got Me” had the black-and-white teenage girls screaming their faces off with the best of them. It was the band’s breakout song, and because it’s been covered so much over the years, it’s still one of the era’s most recognizable hits 50 years later. Simple chords, simple lyrics—sometimes getting straight to the point is the sexiest thing a song can do.—Ryan Bort

36. “Crimson and Clover,” Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (1982)

The Tommy James and the Shondells 1968 original is absolutely deserving of its own spot on this list, but Joan Jett takes the tune and cranks the sexiness up to 11; if Tommy and the boys’ innocent-by-comparison version is the sonic equivalent of some over-the-clothes stuff with a high-school love, hers is an R-rated grope session with a stranger at a bar. The reverb gets turned up, and James’ pleaful vocals get swapped for Jett’s trademark snarl: “Yeah, I’m not such a sweet thing / I wanna do everything.”—Bonnie Stiernberg

35. “Everybody Here Wants You,” Jeff Buckley (1998)

One of too many reasons why Jeff Buckley’s passing was so tragic is that we never got to his full album of baby-making music. This track from his posthumous Sketches from My Sweetheart the Drunk proves simple and direct in its seductions, thanks to a slinky rhythm section and Buckley’s in-the-moment vocals. He sounds appreciative of both the sight of a beautiful woman and the power she wields by virtue of sheer style, but the way Buckley sings it, everybody here wants him.—Stephen M. Deusner

34. “Electric Feel,” MGMT (2007)

Remember that time when you were at that festival and MGMT was playing and it was packed and everyone was dancing? Maybe you had Day-Glo streaked in faux tribal patterns across your face and arms and they started playing “Electric Feel” and you accidentally brushed hands with the girl standing next to you and you looked at each other and it felt magical and not just because of the drugs you were on? I don’t have that memory, but I’m sure more than a few people do, and it’s a testament to just how big Oracular Spectacular was in 2007 and 2008. “Kids” and “Time to Pretend” were nice, but “Electric Feel” was the real banger of the album, and there were certainly plenty of indie kids who parlayed whatever physical contact they could orchestrate between the song’s beginning and end into something more substantial.—Ryan Bort

33. “Moments In Love,” The Art of Noise (1983)

Although the term “quiet storm” is usually relegated to slow R&B jams and soft soul, it could easily be used to describe this delicately unfolding 10 minutes from the otherwise playful popsters The Art of Noise. Like some of the most affecting songs in this world, “Moments In Love” is surprisingly simple: a mid-tempo 4/4 beat overlaid with a steady series of synth lines that float in and disappear at different intervals. But the combined effect feels like being bathed in the warm glow of a candlelit room or the first shock of rain on a summer day.—Robert Ham

32. “Turn Me On,” Norah Jones (2003)

Originally written by John D. Loudermilk and recorded by Mark Dinning in 1961, “Turn Me On” has been covered by everyone from Nina Simone to American Idol contestants, but no one does it quite like Norah Jones. Her smooth, breezy vocals lend just the right amount of sultriness to lines like “Like a flower, waiting to bloom / like a lightbulb in a dark room / I’m just sittin’ here, waiting for you / To come on home and turn me on.”—Bonnie Stiernberg

31. “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” Aretha Franklin (1967)

With Aretha it’s always about the vocals. On her 1967 smash—her first for Atlantic and her first at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala.—she uses that powerful gospel wail to proclaim a lover’s prowess, but it’s the quieter moments that make this song all red-faced and flush. When the instruments fall away and leave only Aretha and her back-up singers, they sound positively breathless; their exhalations are nearly X-rated.—Stephen M. Deusner

30. “Let’s Stay Together,” Al Green (1972)

“Let’s Stay Together,” from Al Green’s 1972 album of the same name, might be the ultimate make-up sex song. On top of a steady, rolling drum line, Green sings about how and why he and his lover should stay together and keep on loving each other forever with a vulnerability that would make any woman tremble. Adding to the song’s romanticism is how it has endured through popular culture. It’s been covered countless times, appeared in several films, perhaps most famously during Bruce Willis’ recruitment in Pulp Fiction, and Barack Obama even sang a line from it during an appearance at the Apollo Theater in 2012.—Ryan Bort

29. “Criminal,” Fiona Apple (1997)

I’ve been a bad, bad girl. A confession, yes, but barely to be trusted. Barely legal. Wild-eyed with this brand new sense, a power at once electric and loathsome and depraved and thrilling. Yes—life. Fully complicit and fully uncomprehending. So much, this body. Captured forever on camera—not the midriff, not the lingerie; we’ve all seen our share of skin and bones. But the desire. The damage. The disgust. Caused, causing, who’s pulling the strings? Who knows. This girl in pigtails, all these bodies intertwined, a mind-fuck of irresistible forces. Save me from these evil deeds before I get them done. Yes. Please.—Nathan Huffstutter

28. “Fade Into You,” Mazzy Star (1994)

Easily Mazzy Star’s biggest hit, “Fade Into You” is almost too romantic. The joining of two people has been described in myriad ways in song, both crudely and sweetly, but never has a sought-after union come across so purely and intimately as it does on the shoegaze duo’s 1994 single. The pedal-steel guitar adds a touch of wistful sentimentality, and I’m sure a sea’s worth of tears have been shed with this song playing in the background.—Ryan Bort

27. “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” The National (2010)

Okay, so we’re not entirely sure that this High Violet track is about sex, but Matt Berninger offers a few hints with lines like “Stand up straight at the foot of your love / I’ll lift my shirt up” and “Lay my head on the hood of your car / I take it too far.” Whatever he’s talking about, it sounds pretty good, and those mournful vocals are the perfect soundtrack for getting swept off your feet in the rain. If Lloyd Dobler was trying to woo Diane Court nowadays, he’d hoist his iPod over his head and crank this instead of “In Your Eyes.”—Bonnie Stiernberg

26. “Crazy Love,” Van Morrison (1970)

Who wouldn’t want to just curl up and live inside the tender, flinty voice of Van Morrison as he sings his sweet nothings on “Crazy Love”? With delicate acoustic guitar and lyrics like “The heavens open every time she smiles” and “She got a fine sense of humor when I’m feeling low down,” Morrison’s 1970 single may be better suited for some passionate hand-holding or gazing into the depths of a lover’s eyes, but passionate hand-holding often leads to passionate other things, so when things are going right between you and your significant other, just make sure you don’t forget to give a tip of the cap to the Moondance Man for setting the mood.—Ryan Bort

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