Sex is not exactly a rare subject in music, and in fact many songs are infamous simply for how graphically they depict it. A bit less popular though, it seems, are songs more focused on the expression of the actual desire that precedes the act, and that's what I wanted to focus on with this week's list. So without further rambling, let's get on with it, shall we? As usual, feel free to add any suggestions. A Tribe Called Quest - Electric Relaxation
One of the best qualities of this song is how utterly blatant they are about trying to get into girls' pants... and yet it still sounds so classy and poetic. A lot of this is that slow, jazzy beat, which is about as smooth as I've ever heard hip-hop sound. Then there's Q-Tip and Phife's flawless trade-off throughout, flirting away with the objects of their affection while making their intentions perfectly clear.
Elysian Fields - Black Acres
Like most Elysian Fields songs, Jennifer Charles truly makes this hers with those ungodly gorgeous vocals. On Black Acres, she gives such a lurid description of temptation gone awry that the imagery of lines like "Pressing close, I can't behave" or "I'm up against his downy chest" practically jump out at you, all while the spare instrumentation carries on its dark tune behind her. Behind her... sheesh.
Massive Attack - Inertia Creeps
While this song's lyrics apply more to lust as something to trap somebody in a destructive relationship, the dark, dull throb of the music along with Robert Del Naja's sinister, whispered vocals feel more like embracing it and recollecting an impassioned night with a lover in every sweat drenched detail than anything else. Fuck knows how many people have had sex with this song playing, but I can assure you that none of them are complaining.
Queens of the Stone Age - Make It Wit Chu
While the Queens have always been great with rockers, they're a lot more adept with the slow jam style than one might think. They show quite a seductive groove here, with slow, bluesy hard rock backing Josh Homme's low croon, detailing the rather few things he's interested in at the moment. With how direct the lyrics are, regardless of how calm and cool Homme's singing is, you can't help but imagine that he's moments away from tossing his guitar aside and assaulting the next woman he sees.
A Perfect Circle - Thinking of You
With all the popular songs about female masturbation, it's always nice to stumble upon a male equivalent (a well-written one, at least). The lyrics feel as if they could be vague if it wasn't for Maynard James Keenan's breathy delivery, which makes the words feel far more graphic than they really are. Then there's the music; that sharp bass, aggressive percussion, and pumping break that can't help but make one envision-..um... pumping gas.
Janet Jackson - If
Speaking of female masturbation... while it's a popular enough topic in song, Janet Jackson tackled it quite well here. This whole album, really, was the peak of her artistic embracing of sexuality before it got to be a bit over the top (and of course this is long before the infamous wardrobe malfunction with which she's become sadly synonymous); I remember the video for Any Time, Any Place being a distinct hallmark in my sexual awakening as a pre-teen. In any case, If is so blunt with its raw lust, and that chorus leaves no doubt as to what she was on about.
Pulp - This Is Hardcore
This is probably one of the most appropriately titled songs ever written. While the fantasy Jarvis Cocker describes in the song is quite vivid unto itself, the music provides perfect accompaniment - the crawling, throbbing build-up, the pounding, crashing climax, and how everything slowly and almost tragically fades away in the end.
Soft Cell - Sex Dwarf
Probably the earliest song to give such an unabashed portrayal of S&M debauchery (not to mention that it beats Depeche Mode's Master and Servant by a country mile with how well it captures this). Everything is so over the top, with the dark brooding music, the whips and moans, and of course the lyrics, which are lewd to such excess that they can be hysterically funny just as easily as alluring. It's aged remarkably well too; nearly thirty years on it remains a staple in industrial and goth clubs.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Hard On for Love
Nick Cave has never been a stranger to writing about lust, but this song positively drips with a lust so foul that it borders on frightening. There aren't many lyricists who could use religious imagery this abundant for this kind of subject matter, especially the kind of violent sexual aching expressed here, but it's all-too-familiar for Cave. He brings such intensity to these vocals (just listen to him shout "Just when I'm about to get my hands on her" near the end!), as do the Bad Seeds with their respective instruments; in their early days, they were spectacular at descending into chaos, and Hard On for Love is no exception.
Burial - Archangel
Lust's more subdued, tortured side - Burial brilliantly takes samples from Ray J's One Wish to turn a cheesy R&B break-up song's vocal pattern into this agonizing articulation of longing. Playing against this is a Metal Gear Solid 2 sample (!) that sounds downright ghostly, and makes the track sound even more harrowing, and with all the manipulation the vocal sample receives, it's easy to picture the singer drowning in his own desire. The whole of Untrue is infamous for its looming atmosphere, and this is one of its best moments.