The 20 Sexiest Songs of All Time

OK, D'Angelo might be on this list because of the video as much as the song
OK, D'Angelo might be on this list because of the video as much as the song
EMI/YouTube screen grab

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Sexy music is personal. What turns you on may be bedroom kryptonite to someone else. So compiling any list of the all-time sexiest songs is, inevitably, a highly subjective task. Are L.A. Weekly writers weird to include Jack White, but no Marvin Gaye? Probably, but everyone's a little freaky when the lights are out.

Even if not all our choices give you the warm 'n' tinglies, we hope you find some fodder here for your Valentine's Day playlist. Let the seduction begin.

20. Sananda Maitreya (Terence Trent D'Arby), "Wishing Well"

In 1987, Terence Trent D'Arby slid onto MTV with model cheekbones, a chic wardrobe and killer dance moves. If that wasn't enough to make teenagers drool over their remote controls, there was "Wishing Well." He had audiences hooked with the opening lines — "Kissing like a bandit/Stealing time/Underneath the sycamore tree." The man now known as Sananda Maitreya knew the ultimate sexy secret — that the art of wooing is as important as the act of sex — and used that to full effect in his breakthrough hit. — Liz Ohanesian

19. Telepopmusik, "Breathe"

Sexy downtempo electronica was all the rage in the early '00s, but rarely did it get sexier than French duo Telepopmusik's "Breathe." With Angela McCluskey's sultry vocals gliding like silk on skin over languid synths and a gently throbbing beat, the track feels both tension-filled and oddly weightless — like great foreplay, a promise of something steamier to come. Telepopmusik were never quite able to replicate the seductive magic of "Breathe," but then again, neither was anyone else. — Andy Hermann

18. Bryan Ferry, "Slave to Love"

As a solo artist and with Roxy Music, this dapper Brit dominates everybody’s “get-freaky” playlists for good reason. Ferry's suave image and yearning vocals are always a seductive combination, but with its sweeping samba-esque arrangement, languid bassline and the most sensuous use of cowbell maybe ever, “Slave to Love” is the most intoxicating song of the singer’s career. Lyrically, there’s nothing as titillating as the title might suggest (no S&M references), but the intensity makes it one of the best ballads ever written about the all-consuming nature of desire — which is why it was used to such unforgettable effect in the sexy classic, 9 ½ Weeks. — Lina Lecaro

17. Massive Attack, "Teardrop"

There are songs for sex and there are songs for sharing your body and soul with your beloved through the sacred act of lovemaking. File this song in the latter category. Pulsing with intensity, the enduring single from Massive Attack's 1998 album Mezzanine slinks along with the rhythm of a heartbeat, casting a hypnotic spell from the moment singer Elizabeth Fraser (of the Cocteau Twins) coos "Love, love is a verb/Love is a doing word." As Fraser was recording the song, she got news of the death of her friend Jeff Buckley, who drowned while Massive Attack was in the studio. "That song's kind of about him," she told The Guardian; "that's how it feels to me anyway." — Katie Bain

16. Herb Alpert, "Rise"

Herb Alpert knows sexy. After all, this is the famed trumpeter/bandleader who stuck a whipped cream-covered lady on an album cover in 1965. By the end of the '70s, though, the A&M co-founder's approach was less obvious. In "Rise," a 1979 Billboard chart-topper, the tune of the trumpet is more appropriate for a sundown gunfight in a Western flick. Yet, the track sounds really hot. Maybe it's the deep throb of the bass or the slow-motion handclaps. Years later, "Rise" remains a staple of late-night smooth jazz radio playlists, solidifying its baby-makin' status. — Liz Ohanesian

15. The xx, "Crystalised"

As you listen to that galloping drumbeat, you can't help but feel wrapped up in a sort of race. "Do I have to keep up the pace to keep you satisfied?" singer Romy Madley Croft raspily cries to an imagined lover. The lyrics, structured as a conversation between momentarily divided partners, details the race to keep up with one another as they navigate love and intimacy. The song musically climaxes as she sings "I've been down on my knees and you just keep on getting closer," and unwinds as the two sing in relaxed unison, "Go slow." From the chase to the afterglow, "Crystalised" is a sexual journey. — Artemis Thomas-Hansard

14. The Weeknd, "What You Need"

The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, is like a sexy wizard. He can magically make anything that should be totally unacceptable completely OK — including infidelity, which is the subject of his 2010 track, "What You Need." The song entices its listener to engage in a steamy affair with Mr. Tesfaye, who can “do everything [your man] does times three.” The invitation is only made more irresistible by The Weeknd’s velvety vocals, which slink over a looping Aaliyah sample. Alakazam! Seduction achieved. — Mary Grace Cerni

13. The Rolling Stones, "Beast of Burden"

The Stones get more ageist hate than any other still-rocking legends out there for one reason, and one reason only: SEX. It’s part of their essence. Mick’s lips and hips, Keef’s orgasmic riffing, and the way their bluesy melodies have always beckoned and teased. Now that they’re old men, some critics can’t deal. But "Beast of Burden” off Some Girls will never lose its potency. An orgy of guitar grooves, subdued drum rhythms and ravenous choruses make this one swell with soulful satisfaction. It might have been inspired by the Glimmer Twins’ tumultuous partnership, but it ended up being very much about a bedroom power struggle, with Mick playing the submissive for once (“Am hard enough? Am I rough enough?”). — Lina Lecaro

12. Beth Orton, "Central Reservation"

Sometimes the walk of shame is a walk of elation; not the end of a one-night stand, but the beginning of a new relationship. British singer-songwriter Beth Orton's shimmering electro-folk ballad perfectly captures the thrill of that moment, when a hot new romance makes everything feel possible. From its carnal opening verse ("I can still smell you on my fingers and taste you on my breath") to the blissed-out contentment of its chorus ("Today is whatever I want it to mean"), "Central Reservation" is next-day afterglow in song form. The uptempo original, with its Balearic house beat, pushes the song in a more celebratory direction — but Ben Watt's slinky "Then Again" version somehow manages to make the track even sexier. — Andy Hermann

11. D'Angelo, "Untitled (How Does It Feel)"

It took D’Angelo almost five years to release a sophomore album, but 2000’s stellar Voodoo was almost overshadowed by the sculpture who appeared in the video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” In less than five minutes, those pillowy lips, pleading eyes and molten milk chocolate abs secured his place as a sex god — a crown that oppressed the bashful, formerly cuddly-bodied D’Angelo for years. But strip away the superficial, and what remains is D’Angelo’s gentle, then insistent entreaties in your ear: He just wants to be your man, with everything that entails. He could weigh 300 pounds with that kinda talk. — Rebecca Haithcoat

10. The Doors, "Riders on the Storm"

Real sex appeal always carries with it an element of magic, and few musicians toed the line between the carnal and the occult like The Doors and their lizard king leader, Jim Morrison. "Girl, you gotta love your man," he advises on "Riders on the Storm," the acid trip of a closing track from the band's 1971 album L.A. Woman. This song is spooky, yes, with Morrison singing about a killer on the road (and his brain squirming like a toad). But those dark elements, delivered over spaced-out, shimmery effects and the sound of far off thunder, are also exactly what make the song so bewitching. — Katie Bain

9. Def Leppard, "Pour Some Sugar on Me"

Once ranked by AVN as the No. 1 song used by strippers, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” is a song reserved for only the raunchiest sexual escapades. The beat is as hard as a raging boner. The riffs come in rhythmic thrusts. The husky rasp in Joe Elliott’s voice is likely the result of smoking too many post-sex cigarettes. And what about those ripped-up jeans he’s wearing in the music video? It wouldn’t take much effort to tear those things right off. In the end, though, all you need is that big, swooping chorus to reach the point of no return. — Peter Holslin

8. Queens of the Stone Age, "Make It Wit Chu"

"Make It Wit Chu" doesn't over-complicate things with poetic metaphors about the beauty of lovemaking. It's a confession of instinctive, indiscriminate desire, with a message that's casual, clear and speaks to (let's face it) what's on most of our minds. With Josh Homme's breathless drawl and a strut-worthy tempo, the track is instrumentally doused with lust, with each chant of "I wanna make it, I wanna make it wit chu" adding an extra ounce of fuel to the song's sexual smolder. — Artemis Thomas-Hansard

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7. Mazzy Star, "Fade Into You"

Hope Sandoval wasn't the first singer to deliver heartstring-tugging lyrics through hushed, smoky tones. And although breathiness can be a cop-out for a lesser vocalist, here it holds everything together. With each waltzy measure, every slide across the guitar, the whole song threatens to dissolve into thin air — but stays grounded under the weight of Sandoval's impossibly sultry voice. Written by bandmate David Roback, "Fade Into You" is often referred to as a flukey 1990s hit. Maybe so, but if it came out today, every music supervisor in town would still be trying to license the hell out of it. — Patick James

6. Nine Inch Nails, "Closer"

Sometimes you’re not in the mood for pillow talk or cuddling, but you’re still in the mood. That reptilian brain lurking inside of you has no time for rationale when it wants what it wants — and what it wants is to fuck. And that is why NIN’s "Closer," with its pulsating rhythm and sexy, slithering synths, is the perfect soundtrack for your NC-17-rated sex. Trent Reznor’s raw and desperate lyrics, crying out that he wants to fuck you like an animal, may be as disturbed as they are primal but, hey, different naughty strokes for different folks, my steamy friends. — Pamela Chelin

5. INXS, "Need You Tonight"

In 1987, Prince sang a song about fucking, and INXS sang a song about foreplay. But whereas “It” left nothing to the imagination, “Need You Tonight” left absolutely everything to it. That was largely due to smoldering frontman Michael Hutchence. He recalled that hot, insouciant loner who skipped class to smoke and stared at your 16-year-old self in a way that made it hard to swallow — irresistible, yet ultimately unknowable. And when a force of such magnetism beckons and murmurs, “Slide over here and give me a moment” over a guitar riff so suggestive you blush if you hear it with your mom, you don’t think. You just do. — Rebecca Haithcoat

4. TLC, "Red Light Special"

TLC didn’t have patience for the soft-focus gentility of Boyz II Men. Their male R&B counterparts might have vowed to make a lady’s most romantic wishes come true on “I’ll Make Love to You.” But in this infinitely steamier mid-’90s sex jam — replete with butter-melting vocal phrasings, lubricious organ lines and aching, moaning guitar — T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye call that bet and raise the stakes, asserting that they’re only willing to go further if you’re willing to, ahem, “take the southern route.” Considering just how slowly and intensely this song moves, it seems the rewards for the bold can be explosive indeed. — Peter Holslin

3. The White Stripes, "Ball and Biscuit"

Some may argue that "Seven Nation Army" is the centerpiece of The White Stripes' 2003 LP Elephant. But really it's the slow-build, guitar-rock sex anthem "Ball and Biscuit." Beyond its euphemism of a title, the track is seven-plus minutes of wicked seduction, courtesy of a swaggering, dirty-ass blues riff and Jack White declaring his deliciously impolite intentions with one of rock’s greatest threat seductions, “Right now you could care less about me, but soon enough you will care, by the time I’m done.” (Promise?) The entire thing then builds into a climax of a guitar solo that still flusters us every time. — Katie Bain

2. Chris Isaak, "Wicked Game"

From the twangy guitar to Isaak’s intimately yearning vocals, you’re completely seduced by this passionate four-minute musical relationship. Add to the mix its black and white video, directed by legendary fashion photographer Herb Ritts and starring model Helena Christensen and Isaak frolicking around in their undergarments on a beach — who needs color when you have this sexy concoction? By the time the song ends with Isaak’s declaration that “Nobody loves no one,” you’re so turned on that you’re completely willing to trade romance for sheer lust. After all, the song's title tells you what kind of relationship this is going to be. — Pamela Chelin

1. Donna Summer, "Love to Love You Baby"

There is only one version of Donna Summer's sex jam that is amour appropriate, and that's the 16-plus-minute version that took up an entire side of vinyl when it was released on the album of the same name in 1975. Any abbreviated remix or radio edit is the disco equivalent of premature ejaculation.

Much has been said about the sexiness of this track, with the emphasis often placed on Summer's climactic moans. But, just like lovemaking itself, there's more to the song than the payoff. In its full-length form, Summer's passionate coos rise, fall and fade into long stretches of hip-grinding, instrumental interludes. In the song's quietest moments, there is a sense of intimacy that can penetrate even a crowded dance floor. Near the 11-minute mark, when the refrain rises as though it were the reprise of a musical, it's a more effectively orgasmic moment than the groans. And just when you think the song is over, Summer picks it up right where she started. Time for another round. — Liz Ohanesian


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