Sex is a familiar topic well fleshed out in the music industry, and it’s been applied to various scenarios—fantasies, relationships, and experimentation—depending on the kind of message that the artist wants to convey. But how often is it that you come across a song that tries to create a relatable narrative, or even just a nuanced atmosphere by using sex as a theme?
Storytelling is valuable in all media, especially when it addresses personal life experiences and aims to raise awareness of an issue. An example of the former is the song “All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You” by Heart. It depicts a married woman reflecting upon her decision to have a one-night stand with a stranger for the sole purpose of bearing a child, since her husband is infertile.
She later tells her husband that the newborn child is his. After some time, the woman, with her child, encounters her one-time lover by chance. Due to the facial similarities between him and her child, he realizes that he’s the father.
Given the tone and choice of words, it is assumed that she feels remorse, particularly when taking into account the fact that he was unaware of her intentions that night. A song like this shows that there are people who do consider their actions and express emotions as a result of their judgment—or lack thereof.
“A-Team” by Ed Sheeran is a song inspired by stories of people living in the homeless shelter Sheeran once visited. It brings attention to the fact that there are people who suffer from misfortune, and because they might not have the means to alleviate their situation, they turn to options that they would likely be opposed to in hopes that they are doing what’s best for their wellbeing later on. This sort of premise is used in the song, which tells the story of a female prostitute with an addiction to cocaine. As a teenager, she was carried away with dreams of living the “good life.”
Unfortunately, she intended on living those dreams in her mind by overdosing on crack so that the feeling of satisfaction, though false, would never go away. The lyrics suggest that this could be due to her not working towards a reasonable goal and instead spending her time wishing for a life that is difficult to attain. She began living an irregular lifestyle, never seeing daylight and only going out at night to sell her body to clients, thus using her earnings to purchase more drugs.
The sad reality is that this is nothing out of the ordinary; often times people who go down a path like this end up trapped in a continuous cycle, isolating themselves from opportunities and assistance. It is comforting to know that while heavy subject matter is being presented explicitly, the artists still recognize its sensitivity, even in the case of pure romantic songs.
These songs in question are atmospheric, because while it’s clear what the topic is, they rely less on descriptions of the actual act and more on strong, passionate vocal performances as well as elements of funk, soul, jazz and even rock that produce sensual tunes to give that magical feel. The sensations heard in the music reinforce the idea of exploring spirituality and sexuality simuteanously.
Songs that come to mind are “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye, “Love To Love You Baby” by Donna Summer and “Pretty Young Thing” by Michael Jackson. What makes these types of songs enjoyable is that the intensity and desperation in the artists’ voices are believable, since they cater to true lovers who find comfort and confidence solely in each other.
For the most part, the lyrics are written in good taste, or simplistically, though they are still worth just listening or dancing to as is the case with jams like “Whole Lotta love” by Led Zeppelin, even if you don’t plan on “getting down.”
This is all a far cry from the daily churning of contemporary club music that mainly consists of dirty talk promoting gratification, usually under the influence of substances. To name a few, instances include “Rude Boy” by Rihanna, “Dancing in the Dark” by Dev, and “Sweat” by Snoop Dogg. Having said that, it is nice to find hidden gems in music that don’t feel forced, and can still ignite pleasure without too many of the metaphorical details.