Actually inspired originally by seeing the godawful Akon’s Smack That a while back, this week’s Ten has been on the backburner for a few years, and a recent flash of inspiration – and the subsequent avalanche of additional suggestions as a result – has got me finishing it at last. So, we are this week looking at fetishes, the definition of which that appears on Google: “a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc.”. Also, just to be clear, this list will include BDSM themes.
It’s weird, though. After years of songs on this subject being, to put it mildly, castigated, censored and left on the sidelines, in the past few years songs with a taste for various sexual practices away from the “norm” have suddenly been big hits. The huge success of Fifty Shades of Grey has undoubtedly helped, I suppose – making BDSM-lite “acceptable”, perhaps – and maybe has assisted in ushering in a wave of more sexually explicit pop music. But, as always, a look a little deeper reveals that there is nothing new under the sun.
I should also note that some of the imagery included within – particularly the videos, but also the language I guess – may not be suitable for work, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
A final note: Mudd’s Tiger Feet has connotations here, perhaps, for anyone who played ‘Fiddypee’ on LJ ten years ago, but didn’t make the final cut…
So let’s start with the mainstream, shall we? I’m not sure I needed to know too much about Timberlake’s bedroom preferences, but in this down-and-dirty electro filth-fest (something of a theme in this list, I can tell you), he’s fairly damned clear: “You see these shackles / Baby I’m your slave / I’ll let you whip me if I misbehave“. Listeners weren’t prudish about it, mind – either despite or because of the themes, this was a monster of a hit eight summers ago.
Master and Servant
Some Great Reward
Let’s go back quite a few years more, to the 1984 release of this – perhaps the point where Depeche Mode’s darker side was truly unleashed, and was explored in much greater depth in the albums that followed. Remarkably this song avoided a BBC ban – maybe robbing it of being an even bigger hit as a result – despite its barely-disguised look at submission and domination in a sexual sense. But maybe it avoided a ban by clever use of metaphor to compare these sexual politics with economic (and gender) politics in the wider world – the broad idea, excuse me for being crude, is that we all get fucked in the end.
Venus In Furs
The Velvet Underground & Nico
A further two decades back, to New York in the mid-60s, and we join the decadent darkness of the world of The Velvet Underground. The gloriously sultry crawl of this song matches perfectly with the lyrics inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s book of the same title, as Reed worships at/and of the boots of his lover, and takes the hit from her whip time and again. Remarkably the song stands alone in its subject matter on album that seems to drip with sin – of course elsewhere they take on drug use, prostitution and more drug use – but where it is one of a piece is in the unflinching way tales unfold. Nothing is held back or hidden from view, and the lyrics in particular here make vivid imagery.
Happiness In Slavery
Partly here for the song and partly here for the infamous video, really. Trent Reznor flirted with fetish themes in his music and videos for many years, but nothing ever quite topped this. Another one to merge the ideas of sexual and political domination, unlike the raging at God in Terrible Lie last time around, here Reznor takes on the Slave who complains bitterly but really is happy with their lot – be that being dominated sexually or physically, with broadly the same outcome as Master and Servant. The video, however, is rather more graphic – late performance artist Bob Flanaghan allows a machine to do a lot of things to him. The whole thing isn’t available on Youtube, unsurprisingly, but is on Vimeo – and if you’ve not seen it, I really can’t warn you enough about how brutally graphic it is.
It is perhaps no real surprise that there is a whole subset of songs about domination/submission, and frankly at least two thirds of the songs featured here have it as a base, at least. Which brings me onto Goldfrapp. Their lush, laid-back debut album was followed by the lascivious Black Cherry, an album absolutely dripping with lust and sex – and it was a big hit. There were songs absolutely not about Britain’s railways (Train), dancing (Twist), horticulture (Hairy Trees, Black Cherry)…oh, and this, a dancefloor filling stomp that was, frankly, something of an ode to a dominating partner.
It’s not perhaps something I’d hear from Tenek – their themes as Geoff picked up from his time in The Nine don’t generally stray here – but this takes things further, perhaps, than many might with the idea of domination in the bedroom. So in amongst the punchy electro-synthpop, he details the subject of his domination “crawling on her hands and her knees“, but she appears to be trying to get away, from both this and the control over her life. Too far, I’d say…
The Masochism Tango
An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer
Less danger, more comedy, now – and onto Tom Lehrer’s quite marvellous take on a tango with very different words to that which you might expect. Rather than a tale of torrid desire and love, we have…a tale of torrid desire and love that just happens to also include more than a hint of BDSM, some perhaps unexpected violence, and some damned funny, cartoonish elements to finish. Video exists of it’s quite marvellous usage at a friend’s wedding (as their first dance!) a few months back, too…
Even sillier now, onto Praga Khan’s electro-industrial project that has always had a tongue deep in it’s cheek (and a few other places besides). Most of their songs are deeply sexual in nature, full of double entrendre but crucially huge fun to dance to. There is nothing too outrÃ©, it’s more end-of-the-pier stuff, so even a song about spanking such as this is anything but serious – and perhaps is a reminder that sex can be fun – Lords of Acid do little but celebrate it.
Rather less fun is the subject of one of Rammstein’s most notorious songs (and spectacular videos, never mind live performance!). Inspired by the true-life case of Armin Meiwes and Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes, where sexual preferences go to the very extremes. This was the case in Germany that the tabloids loved – two people meet through a shared “interest” of sado-masochism that ends with one cutting off his penis and them eating it…and then Meiwes was reportedly given permission to kill his partner and eat him. Not surprisingly, Miewes is now in jail, and perhaps even less surprising is that he is apparently a vegetarian nowadays…
Finally, by no means as extreme as Rammstein, but still somewhere I’d suspect most people I know would go nowhere near, let’s have Gen from the Genitorturers – probably the best-known dominatrix in industrial music – scare the living shit out of most people with her exortations to join her in some cutting for sexual kicks. Perhaps by the by, but this was the track that got me listening to the band in the first place, although I don’t recall ever getting beyond Sin City.
I said I had a lot of choice for this week. I don’t normally do this, but here were the ones that didn’t make the final cut:
Dominatrix – The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight
The Normal – Warm Leatherette
Soft Cell – Sex Dwarf
Garbage – When I Grow Up
kidneythieves – S&M (a love song) / Spank
Van Halen – Spanked
The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog
Devo – Whip It
Elastica – Car Song
Rihanna – S&M
Sonic Youth – Bull in the Heather
Seabound – Domination
LeÃ¦ther Strip – Strap Me Down