The 50 Greatest Seduction Songs of All Time
If this list were any sexier, you’d be pregnant.
What makes a song sexy? Does it have to have on-the-nose eroticism, or a more implied, subtle sensuality? Is it the lyrics, or the music itself? These were the lofty questions we asked ourselves as we took to compiling this list. Ultimately, we decided that if a song expressed some kind of romantic or sexual pleading — regardless of how explicit — it qualified. And, of course, it had to be a good song. There’s a point of diminishing returns with sexiness: The Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself” might be sexy, but that doesn’t mean it’s good, and that’s the spirit with which we took to this list. Seduce your lovers, friends, and enemies with this Spotify playlist and be sure to let us know what we missed in the comments. — The Nerve Editors
50. Madonna, “Justify My Love” (1991)
Madonna might move through different sexual identities as easily as the rest of us change shoes, but this is one of her most forthright. The dissonance of the hook bumps up with some pretty straightforward demands (“I wanna… make love in a train, cross-country”) and creates a truly memorable laundry list of lust. — Dustin Bird
49. George Michael, “I Want Your Sex” (1987)
Sometimes the best subtext isn’t “sub” at all. When George Michael tells you he wants your sex, you give it to him, damnit. — Alisa Mackay
48. Jay-Z, “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” (2000)
Over an indestructible Neptunes beat and Pharrell’s best Curtis Mayfield impression, Jay lays down a litany of come-ons, the best of which might be, “What do you say me, you, and your Clovey glasses go somewhere private where we can discuss fashion?” Why doesn’t that ever work for me? — Alex Heigl
47. Bruce Springsteen, “I’m on Fire” (1985)
This slow-burner is so desperate, so haunting, so thick with tossing-in-your-sheets-on-a-sweltering-July-night frustration, that the Boss actually makes rhyming “fire” and “desire” sound original. God, he’s good. — Peter Smith
46. Blondie, “Call Me” (1980)
“Call Me” trades the bubbly disco bop of “Heart of Glass” for something more driving and intense; it could almost pass for metal if Debbie Harry weren’t singing. I tend to read that title with an implied “or else.” — P.S.
45. INXS, “Need You Tonight” (1987)
When this song came out, I was a child, but I knew it was about something… adult. Michael Hutchence’s seductive whisper is almost all you need to go a little weak in the knees, but that repetitive guitar and the pleading to “come over here” are just about the most direct a person can be. I thought maybe he wasn’t sleeping because it was summer and he was warm and his parents were out of town or something. Until I grew up and realized that “lonely” was grown-up code for “I need to get laid right now.” — A.M.
44. The Isley Brothers, “Between the Sheets” (1983)
This song’s incredibly smooth production has been ransacked by hip-hop beatmakers everywhere, and it’s hard not to see why: deep, velvety bass, and synthesized handclaps lay down a bed for Ron Isley’s beautiful vocal. This song is practically the blueprint for baby-makin’ music. — A.H.
43. The Smiths, “Handsome Devil” (1984)
The young Morrissey’s public disavowal of sexuality meant that, of course, his actual songs were positively steaming with thwarted desire. “Hand In Glove” or the still exquisite “This Charming Man” would work just as well, but for sheer head-in-the-library directness, why fight “Handsome Devil?” It’s as lively a description as ever written of stepping out into the street and wanting to fuck everything on legs. — P.S.
42. Ginuwine, “Pony” (1996)
Hey DJ: want to make a dance floor full of women absolutely lose their shit? Put on “Pony.” Then sit back and watch. There’s no better way to find someone who knows how to ride. — D.B.
41. Serge Gainsbourg, “Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus”
Yeah, it’s kind of a punch line by this point, but a sexy one nonetheless. The romantic, wistful organ and chamber-group strings almost make you forget you’re listening to a song whose lyrics translate to “You are the wave, I the naked island.” — A.H.
40. MGMT “Electric Feel” (2008)
Beyond the fist-pumping 6/4 stomp (try not to dance to this), has there ever been a more irresistible come-on than “Shock me like an electric eel?” I feel like that would work on a nun. — P.S.
39. The Ramones, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (1976)
The Ramones wanted to do many things: sniff glue, be sedated, get shock treatment. But they found time between those cartoonishly punk activities for a sweetly yearning ode to puppy-dog love. If you’re not at least a little moved by Joey Ramone’s request, you must have a heart (and loins) of stone. — A.H.
38. Aaliyah, “Are You That Somebody” (1998)
Aaliyah’s smooth-as-silk breathy whisper-singing and Timbaland’s sexy beats keep this song firmly in the sexy pantheon. It’s sexy because it reminds us of our secret adolescent sexual feelings; of the smell of Old Spice and hairspray, and not quite understanding how sex works, but knowing that it was sort of like slow dancing but nakeder and that we wanted it. Immediately. — A.M.
37. The Strokes, “12:51″ (2003)
From a band big on snottiness and regret, here’s a veritable anthem of easygoing availability. Julian Casablancas’ schedule is wide open, as long as you’re the one who’s asking. And as far as louche pickup lines go, there’s no better verse than “We could go and get 40s / Fuck going to that party / Oh really, your folks are away now? / All right, let’s go, you convinced me.” — P.S.
36. The Cars, “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” (1979)
Like most Cars songs, what appears to be a promise of devotion is actually a lot nastier and more sadomasochistic. I mean, “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” — uh, thanks? “I don’t care if you hurt me some more?” Okay, fine, but sex can be nasty, right? And the drum and guitar sound in this track makes nastiness sound pretty good. — P.S.
35. Heart, “Crazy on You” (1976)
Propulsive acoustic strumming, that titanic chorus riff, and — most of all — Ann Wilson’s monster vocals combine to one hell of an ode to a night of passion. — D.B.
34. Beck, “Sexx Laws” (1999)
Beck’s come-ons get almost dadaist here; formally, phonetically, the lyrics to “Sexx Laws” suggest a raunchier “I Am The Walrus.” That’s a good thing, and the chorus brings it home: “I want to defy the logic of all sex laws / Let the handcuffs slip off your wrists.” Well, okay. — P.S.
33. Roxy Music, “Love is the Drug” (1975)
“Love is the Drug” is a slice of some of the finest white-boy funk from across the pond. Add Bryan Ferry’s martini-dry vocal (“I say ‘go,’ she say ‘yes’ / dim the lights, you can guess the rest”), and by the time that cascading chorus hits, it’s hard to not feel a bit… bothered. — A.H.
32. Teddy Pendergrass, “Close the Door” (1978)
An earlier draft of this list was composed entirely of Teddy Pendergrass songs. This song makes it easy to understand why. — D.B.
31. The Cure, “Let’s Go to Bed” (1982)
The Cure isn’t most people’s idea of a “sexy” band, but this song is a nearly pitch-perfect imitation of sexy, creeping disco. And though Robert Smith’s yowl is hardly an instrument of seduction, the line “You think you’re tired now / but wait until three” has enough manliness to it to make me quiver girlishly. — A.H.
30. Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse, “Valerie” (2007)
Mark who? This is an old song, and technically this is Ronson’s version, but Winehouse just struts away with it. Her catalog has a lot of “done me wrong” songs, but this one is just so pleading, so pure, that it stands out like a beehive hairdo in a sea of crewcuts. Amy, you were one of a kind. — A.H.
29. The Doors, “Light My Fire” (1967)
This song hardly needs an explanation. Jim Morrison is ablaze with sexual desire and, presumably, drugs, which was confirmed when Ed Sullivan wouldn’t allow him to sing the suggestive and inflammatory line “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.” But Morrison did it anyway, solidifying himself as a bad boy just looking for a light. Given the opportunity, I would be more than happy to oblige. — Carrie Dennis
28. Rolling Stones, “Let’s Spend the Night Together” (1967)
He claims he’s in no hurry, and not to worry about what’s on my mind, but then in the same breath he tells me about all these physical discomforts I’m causing; his mouth is getting dry, he’s getting tongue tied, and you know what? He wants me. So I’m feeling pretty powerful. And then he drops the bomb: let’s spend the night together. Done and done. — C.D.
27. T. Rex, “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” (1971)
Marc Bolan might have looked something like a little glam rock elf, but the monstrous swagger of this song, combined with come-ons like “You dance when you walk” make me think he was probably as good between the sheets as he was with a guitar. — D.B.
26. Fiona Apple, “Criminal” (1998)
It’s practically impossible to separate the audio of this track from that uber-sexy video. All Apple wants is to be redeemed for whatever sins she may have committed against her last guy, but the road to redemption is apparently paved with a lot of dirty, sexy stones. After all, she’s been a bad, bad girl. — C.D.
25. Wilson Pickett, “In the Midnight Hour” (1965)
Most seduction songs are concerned with the here and now, but Pickett’s all about building a mood, and to great effect: nothing’s as good as anticipation. Well, maybe the thing you’re anticipating, but you get my drift. — A.H.
24. Derek and the Dominos (Eric Clapton),”Layla” (1970)
“Layla” is a perfect tone poem and the pinnacle of longing. Clapton’s desire for this unattainable woman (Patti Boyd in real life, who was at the time George Harrison’s wife) is palpable as the song builds into one of the most unforgettable guitar riffs before seamlessly transitioning to that beautiful second movement. Martin Scorsese got it wrong in Goodfellas — the first half of this song is the dark, kind of scary part, and the second is all soft focus and satin sheets. — C.D.
23. Peter Gabriel, “Sledgehammer” (1986)
The litany of sexual innuendos dropped in “Sledgehammer” is about as subtle as a… well, you get the idea. Gabriel turns everything from roller coasters to fruit cakes into a metaphor for “feeding the rhythm,” and punches them all up with the sultry rhythms of a synthesized flute. Come on, let me be your honey bee. — Jeremy Popkin
22. Sly & the Family Stone, “Just Like a Baby” (1971)
This is what late nights and wrinkled sheets sound like. — A.H.
21. Bob Dylan, “I Want You” (1966)
Who doesn’t want to be wanted? Who hasn’t felt so crushed-out and excitable that they’d like to tell the object of their affection repeatedly how much they want them? The rest of the song is one of Dylan’s surrealistic jaunts through a world entirely of his creation, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, because all he wants out of it is you. — A.M.
20. Nine Inch Nails, “Closer” (1994)
“Closer” is the perfect soundtrack for any lovers looking to spend a steamy evening in an abandoned industrial yard. Guttural electro throbbing and uncomfortably frank come-ons like “I want to feel you from the inside” get the pancake makeup & mesh crowd in the mood, but you hardly need black fingernails to fall prey to Trent Reznor’s barely contained animalistic lust. Sometimes, you just want things to be a little more primal. — J.P.
19. The Four Tops, “Baby I Need Your Loving” (1964)
One of those perfectly engineered Motown hits, “Baby I Need Your Loving” is, simply put, an incredible pop song that expresses a very old feeling. Levi Stubbs makes you feel the “need” part of the title, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra swoons along with the listener. — A.H.
18. Duran Duran, “Hungry Like The Wolf” (1982)
A deservedly colossal hit, “Hungry Like The Wolf” captures everything fun about early-’80s aesthetics. The next wedding you go to, when this comes on (and it will), we suggest you grab that bridesmaid/groomsman you’ve been eyeing and make a break for the dance floor, followed in short order by the hotel. — P.S.
17. Beach Boys, “Help Me Rhonda” (1965)
The Beach Boys always infused their boyish songs with adult themes — at its heart, “Help Me Rhonda” is a guy begging for some rebound sex. Not exactly squeaky-clean. But it’s hard to say no to those harmonies. — A.H.
16. Etta James, “I Just Want to Make Love to You” (1961)
Lots of people sing this song, but Ms. James’ version is our favorite because, well, that voice. Her untamed growl, full of naughtiness and shameless wanting, lets you know that she’s going to get exactly what she wants. And what she wants is you. — A.M.
15. Queen, “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy” (1976)
Freddie Mercury can talk me into a “tango just for two” any day of the week — I’d like to meet the person that that this vaudevillian appeal wouldn’t work on. Come on, sit on my hot seat of love. — D.B.
14. R. Kelly, “Ignition (Remix)” (2003)
“Take my key and stick it in the ignition” is quite possibly the least sexy thing you could say, but this song would totally get a person into bed because it’s fucking hilarious, and funny means smart, and smart means sexy. This song is clinically proven to make a roomful people roll their bodies at the drop of a beat, which, as we all know, is the first step towards the hotel room. And then, of course, the hotel lobby. — A. M.
13. Sam Cooke, “Wonderful World” (1960)
Lest we worry too much about his academic prowess, Sam assures that that he’s versed in the most important math of all, stating, “I do know one and one is two.” And at the end of the day, I’m not going to be too critical of his intellect because, ultimately, I don’t really care what he’s saying so long as he’s singing. — C.D.
12. Bob Marley, “Stir It Up” (1973)
Bob Marley wears a lot of hats, metaphorically and literally: rebel, weed advocate, frat-house pinup, just to name a few. But one that he doesn’t get enough credit for is Jamaican Marvin Gaye. Everything about this song is sexy — if you can’t get laid with this, you’re beyond everyone’s help. — A.H.
11. Roberta Flack, “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (1974)
A quietly smoldering song about the little moments when you get that feeling. You don’t know when they’re going to strike, but Roberta Flack knows just how powerful they can be, and she lets us feel it. — D.B.
10. Them (Van Morrison), “Gloria” (1964)
The thing that makes this garage-rock mainstay so perennially hot is its stupid, stupid simplicity. Morrison’s snarl just barely contains his youthful lust — all he can do to express anticipation is spell out his girl’s name. The savoring of even the tiniest details of this girl, the monosyllabic barking about exactly what is happening while it is happening; these are the things that happen to your brain when all you can think about is gettin’ down to it. — A.M.
9. Nina Simone, “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl” (1967)
This song existed in a slightly more ribald version by Bessie Smith for years, but the High Priestess of Soul took it and made it a little more subtle and a little more elegant without losing any of its slow-burn sensuality. — A.H.
8. Roy Orbison, “Oh, Pretty Woman” (1964)
“Oh, Pretty Woman”‘s pounding, insistent beat and instantly recognizable riff mask a simple sentiment: “You’re good-looking. Would you like to have sex with me?” Good thing Roy Orbison had the voice of an angel to sell it with. — A.H.
7. Michael Jackson, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” (1982)
Most of Michael Jackon’s songs had a boyish innocence to them, but on full-on club jams like “P.Y.T.,” his vocals have a desperation and an intensity to them that are just… heavy. The panting in the background doesn’t hurt, either. — D.B.
6. D’Angelo, “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” (2000)
This song’s iconic video (which actually hurt D’Angelo more than it helped) went a long way to establishing it as one of the sexiest songs of all time, but even the audio fairly sizzles with sensuality. D’Angelo multitracks his voice until it sounds like there’s a whole chorus of pleading sex-gods asking you that question, and the answer you’re likely to give is, “Good. Very good.”— A.H.
5. The Beatles, “Please Please Me” (1963)
A lot of times, when you read about Kennedy-era parents panicking about early teen culture, the things they were worried about seem totally ludicrous. With “Please Please Me,” I’m not so sure; I can’t really find any way to read the lyrics so they’re not about John Lennon requesting oral sex. I also kind of think that if you know how to write hooks like this, you should get whatever you want. — P.S.
4. The Ronettes, “Be My Baby” (1963)
Ronnie Spector (neè Veronica Bennett) knew how to plead. This song’s searing intensity is the sound of need laid bare. It’s been called one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time, and if rock is about that primal urge, then it’s earned that title. — D.B.
3. Led Zeppelin, “Whole Lotta Love” (1969)
Leering, swaggering, and absolutely incapable of giving a damn, Led Zeppelin were as invested in sex as they were in hobbits. It’s between this or “Black Dog” in terms of their sexiest song, but frankly, “Black Dog” can’t hold a candle to this song’s absurdly overwrought sexuality, or its sheer physicality and power. — A.H.
2. Prince, “Kiss” (1986)
Conviction is the key to seduction. Here’s a lesson in conviction: even though everything about his personal life before and since has contradicted it, when Prince sings “Women, not girls, rule my world,” you believe him. Be like Prince! — P.S.
1. Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On” (1973)
It’s a real shame that “Let’s Get It On” has been used in so many movies and television shows at this point. Those opening notes are almost a sonic punchline at this point, cueing the audience that some wacky sex, possibly between a fat guy and a skinny girl, or a fat girl and a skinny guy, is about to take place. “Let’s Get it On” deserves better — it rescued Gaye from a dark time in his life, and it’s as much an expression of spiritual yearning as physical, from a man who didn’t see much distinction between the two. — A.H.