Sensual Songs
March 25, 2015 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about some songs that are sensual in the way that "Take Me to Church" is, but aren't overtly, explicitly sexual the way that "Do Me!" or "Let's Get It On" are.

Preferences: English, Spanish, or French lyrics, appealing vocals, slower rhythms. Male and female vocalists are equally good. The artists do not need to be well-known.

The lyrics emphatically do not have to describe a heterosexual relationship or even an exclusive, monogamous relationship, although it's okay if they do. It's much more about the emotions and state of mind that the song is trying to evoke than the particulars of the relationship it might describe. The lyrics can be coy or susceptible to more than one interpretation. Implied sexiness is generally better than overt sex-talk.

I'm aware of lists like this one, and I either dislike most of the music or find the lyrics too explicitly about sex to actually be sexy.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (59 answers total) 101 users marked this as a favorite

"Bucket of Girls" by David Mead is one of the most sweetly erotic songs ever:

Diving for pearls, I ran out of air
Swam through the world of bosoms and hair
Pristine she was, but weren't they all
Mercy, what god gave a girl

What's there to fear in the curl of a lip
The lamp lights the shoulder
And spills down the hip
South of Virginia the toes painted red
The glory of flowers in bloom

I suppose "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak is the classic of the genre, though.
posted by jbickers at 9:31 AM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Sensual World - Kate Bush.
posted by misteraitch at 9:33 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Aw yeah I get to recommend one of my favorite songs ever on MeFi! Matthew Good Band - Carmelina is a great example of this and a great goddamn rock song.
posted by capricorn at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2015

Leonard Cohen's Light as the Breeze (performed here by Billy Joel), though it may be too blatant by your criteria.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:42 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, most of Trip-Hop probably fits the bill as well.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:42 AM on March 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

Leonard Cohen! Smooth sensual and occasionally outright sexual but in a classy way.

And wander through the eras, I like his voice (smokey rich velvet) now more than when he was younger. If you like the lyrics but aren't sure of his voice, you can find a lot of his songs rerecorded in different decades.
posted by platypus of the universe at 9:45 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Willard Grant Conspiracy's Soft Hand is nice sexy song thats not really that explicit.
posted by elendil71 at 9:45 AM on March 25, 2015

Deftones - Passenger is my favourite song in this genre, with lyrics that are ostensibly about driving, but are just. So. Sexy.
posted by euphoria066 at 9:49 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegans Come On Over (Turn Me On) is maybe the greatest booty-call song ever written. Nothing explicit other than the title.
posted by elendil71 at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I like this sort of song. I'm not sure if the songs have to be positive but these are some that I liked. They can be a bit ... spare.

- Weightless Again - Handsome Family.
- Naked as We Came - Iron & Wine
- Pocketful of Money - Jens Lekman
- Bicycle Song - Orbital
- Roll Em Easy - Little Feat
- Sleeping in the Devil's Bed - Daniel Lanlois (this may not fit)
- Fear of Falling (cover by gnfti) - I am Kloot
posted by jessamyn at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think all of The Xx's Xx album is sensual, but especially Night Time
posted by Flamingo at 9:54 AM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Seconding Sensual World like WHOA.

Also, pick your favorite between these two (very different) versions of a song by Sting:

I Burn For You (as done by The Police)
I Burn For You (as done by Sting solo)

You can also find a fantastic cover of Tom Waits' song "Temptation" in an unlikely source: the soundtrack to the show NCIS.

You may also want to check out some of the recs I got here. Some were blunt, yeah, but some were deliciously subtle.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 AM on March 25, 2015

Portishead - Glory Box
Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic
Björk - Hyperballad

All of which are sexy as hell to me, at least, and none of which are explicit.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:56 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

The title straddles the explicit line and it's a little more uptempo, but I think the Dandy Warhols' Get Off is a good 'un.
posted by psoas at 9:57 AM on March 25, 2015

And of course, Nine Simone - Feeling Good
posted by Navelgazer at 10:02 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nina Simone - Feeling Good. Damn too slow.
posted by wwax at 10:02 AM on March 25, 2015

Check out Warpaint's eponymous album - it's what they were going for when they recorded it.
posted by Fig at 10:02 AM on March 25, 2015

I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl - more Nina Simone
posted by sapere aude at 10:03 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Chabuca Granda's "Cardo o ceniza." I like Eva Ayllón's version best.
posted by dr. boludo at 10:13 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Slow Like Honey - Fiona Apple
posted by Safiya at 10:14 AM on March 25, 2015

Caress Me Baby -- Jimmy Reed
posted by fuse theorem at 10:19 AM on March 25, 2015

Lucinda Williams, Right In Time

Pretty much anything by Diana Krall, especially Bésame Mucho (disclaimer: I would find her voice sensual if she were reading the phone book)

on preview: great minds, yoink
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:28 AM on March 25, 2015

Damien Rice, Volcano
Jeff Buckley, Lover, You Should Have Come Over
Ben Harper, Amen Omen
Nick Cave, The Ship Song
Okkervil River, A Girl in Port
Neil Finn, Fall at Your Feet
Damien Jurado, Sheets
Paolo Nutini, Better Man
Ryan Adams, Come Pick Me Up
Cowboy Junkies, Misguided Angel

[better versions of lots of these songs on Spotify]

N'thing Lucinda Williams' Right in Time

You might also find some good ones that came in answer to my question about songs like "Take Me To Church" here
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:23 AM on March 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

It's in Portugese, but Bubuia by Céu is super sensual without being explicit (even in Portugese).
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:57 AM on March 25, 2015

FKA Twigs- Two Weeks
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:58 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

"World in my Eyes" by Depeche Mode is about both how the mind takes a backseat during sexytimes AND how the mind is the most important sex organ to stimulate. A little fast, but it's still dreamy.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:10 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

PJ Harvey - Is this Desire?
posted by dinty_moore at 1:18 PM on March 25, 2015

I'm a bit hesitant about linking this, 'cause I feel the lyrics are not quite kosher, but I've always loved Springsteen's Fire.

Also really love ABBA Andante, Andante.

Susanne Vega Caramel, My favourite plum.

Katie Melua Call off the search and the rest of the album.
posted by miorita at 1:26 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have no idea how the fuck this got repackaged into a children's bedtime song via Shrek, but Hallelujah has always read to me as a song that is explicitly about PG-13 "sexual themes":

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah


But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

posted by blue suede stockings at 1:37 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Heather Nova- Maybe an Angel (also Walk this World)
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 1:40 PM on March 25, 2015

"Cargo Culte" by Serge Gainsbourg (La Ballade De Melodie Nelson is a quite explicit album, but this song is a little bit less so.)
posted by Going To Maine at 1:42 PM on March 25, 2015

I'm a bit hesitant about linking this, 'cause I feel the lyrics are not quite kosher, but I've always loved Springsteen's Fire.
And - Heather Nova's version too perhaps?
posted by rongorongo at 2:00 PM on March 25, 2015

This may be too classical for your list, but Vive amour qui rêve, embrasse, et fuit from Massenet's Chérubin always felt very sensuous to me.

Carla Bruni Raphael.

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin Je t'aime (moi non plus).

Vanessa Paradis Divine Idylle, Love Song.
posted by miorita at 2:37 PM on March 25, 2015

I'm a bit hesitant about linking this, 'cause I feel the lyrics are not quite kosher, but I've always loved Springsteen's Fire.
And - Heather Nova's version too perhaps yt ?

That's actually a (terrific) cover of "I'm on Fire"--also a great addition to the list. Here is an awesome female cover of Fire from the Pointer Sisters.
posted by blue suede stockings at 2:40 PM on March 25, 2015

Rhye - Open
Washed Out - Feel It All Around
Flying Lotus - Fall in Love
Al Green - Strong as Death (Sweet as Love)
posted by sevenofspades at 3:19 PM on March 25, 2015

You might also look at this previous question.
posted by kagredon at 3:37 PM on March 25, 2015

I thought "Born Again" by Diana was a better take on the "Take Me to Church" idea than "Take Me to Church," but only the chorus really fits your requirements; their "Perpetual Surrender" fits much better. Both songs sound like insanely cheesy '80s ballads, though.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:53 PM on March 25, 2015

Chris Bathgate - Feather Jaw
Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me (I know they've become something of a punchline and this song was way overplayed in its heyday, but it's kind of come back around to being one of my favorite sexy songs now.)
Rachael Yamagata and Ray LaMontagne - Duet (maybe more intimate than sensual)
The xx - Reunion (all their stuff sounds pretty intimate and sensual to me, something about the sparse instrumentation and the way their voices sound together. Reunion is just my favorite.)

And yeah, Hallelujah, though it depends on the cover. I've never been able to un-hear the song's sexiness after Jeff Buckley called his own version the "Hallelujah of the orgasm."
posted by yasaman at 4:16 PM on March 25, 2015

I find Bem Que Se Quis by the Brazilian singer Marisa Monte quite sensual. Here's the English translation of the lyrics.
posted by peacheater at 5:24 PM on March 25, 2015

Bob Marley - Stir It Up.
Many of his songs are double (or triple) entendres.
posted by gnutron at 5:56 PM on March 25, 2015

Cohen's Blue Alert- you might try the Madelyn Peyroux version.

As far as Besame Mucho, I'd say Cesaria Evora.

kd lang- Sexuality. Might be too explicit, but worth a listen.
posted by bunderful at 6:17 PM on March 25, 2015

All in your hands sounds like pure sex to me.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:22 PM on March 25, 2015

I think "Bam Bam" by Sean Hayes (not the Will & Grace one) is one of the sexiest songs I've ever heard.
posted by Lexica at 6:49 PM on March 25, 2015

For me, sensual doesn't necessarily equal sexy. So some of these may well not work for you, but that's pretty normal!

Carla Bruni - Le Ciel dans une Chambre
The Church - Loveblind
Clare Bowditch - You Look So Good and Lips Like Oranges
Crash Test Dummies - Swimming in Your Ocean
Crosby, Stills & Nash - Guinnevere
The Cure - One More Time
Elbow - Mirrorball (and Peter Gabriel version)
Frou Frou - Shh
Imogen Heap - Between Sheets
Iron & Wine - Fever Dream
Lamb - Gorecki, Heaven

And there are a few albums where the whole thing is just a sensual thing from start to finish. Again, YMMV.
Enigma's MCMXC a.D. (yes, I was a uni student in the 90s)
Cocteau Twins' Heaven or Las Vegas
Peter Gabriel's Passion
posted by Athanassiel at 7:10 PM on March 25, 2015

One of my all time erotic tunes is House of The Rising Sun, The Animals version. It makes me envision a bad boy.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 7:19 PM on March 25, 2015

Some people might think it's kind of schmaltzy, but I've always liked Rose Royce - I Wanna Get Next To You.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:35 PM on March 25, 2015

Blue Foundation - Eyes on Fire

Isis + Aereogramme - Low Tide
posted by nicodine at 7:53 PM on March 25, 2015

Caetano Veloso has recorded some great songs along these lines, including the Chico Buarque song Samba e Amor, which starts with the line "I make love and samba until very late in the evening. And in the morning, I am very sleepy..."
posted by umbú at 8:57 PM on March 25, 2015

Bjork - Venus as a Boy
Low - Laser Beam
MeShell Ndegeocello - Weather
Neko Case - Look for Me (I'll be Around)
This flirtation is with drugs/death rather than a lover but it's pretty smoldering:
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Nothing
The Sundays - Wild Horses
Veruca Salt - Aurora

This song might be the photographic negative of what you're looking for but I can't resist:
Guru & Erykah Badu - Plenty
posted by prewar lemonade at 8:59 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Smooth Operator by Sade
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:45 PM on March 25, 2015

The Touch of Your Lips - by Chet Baker (and many more of his songs if you like that one).
posted by rongorongo at 3:05 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tom Waits, Jersey Girl. The lyrics aren't all that sensual, but man. It gives me the chills.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:25 AM on March 26, 2015

Lots of k.d. lang's songs qualify, but the one that really stands out to me is "Pullin' Back the Reins". (This is an abbreviated version of the song, BTW.) I heard this for the first time when she performed it on SNL, and my jaw literally dropped open.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:03 PM on March 31, 2015

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