A big thank you to all the supporters, subscribers, and canoodlers who made the last list such a hit. We’re revisiting the art of the Make-Out Mix with a new list of Top Ten Sexy Songs to have on rotation as you venture into the warm months to come.
These aren’t love songs, these are make love songs. These are top-shelf selections from my own personal Make-Out Mix, codenamed M.O.M. (which should serve as a conscious reminder in the heat of the moment to treat every girl in a way that’d make your mama proud). This is the short-list that gets your shirt lost, and your pants, and everything else. Handle these songs with care. With great power comes great responsibility.
There’s a rule with sexual tension that’s as true musically as it is physically—if you build it they will come. I’ve included the BPM of every song for this reason. The resting heart rate of the average adult is 60–80 beats per minute, and it’s the songs that are divisibly within this ballpark that should begin and end an evening. Whether or not things accelerate as you round the bases is up to you.
Friendly Fires – “Pala” (57 bpm x2)
Friendly Fires’ latest album Pala borrows its name from the sexually liberated tropical paradise of Aldous Huxley’s utopian counterpart to that staple of dystopian fiction, Brave New World. The title track off the album, and the one song in their rotation that swims away from the shore of their dependably upbeat world-pop M.O., it could be described as a daytime slow-jam. In fact, “Pala” sounds every bit as much like sunshine as the rest of the album—with half the speed and twice the inertia. If Sex on the Beach had a theme song, this would be it.
Jamie Woon – “Spirals” (65 bpm x2)
Jamie Woon’s nocturnal, vocal-led album Mirrorwriting showcases so many attracted opposites. “Spirals” is electronic without sounding too synthetic, acoustic without sacrificing novelty, and contemporary without foregoing what is classic. Its pace is masterfully withholding and plays with the tensions between anticipation and satisfaction, all led by a lyricism that delivers like beat poetry, “Bathed in the living room lamplight, casting shadows on the walls that have heard these sighs before.” This one is a classic interplay of love and lust in the purest sense.
Zero 7 – ”Ghost sYMbOL” (75 bpm)
Zero7 were doing the studio-engineers-turned-performers thing before it was a thing. The technical eclecticism and sheer diversity of their sound vocabulary is as spooky as the spectral voices in dialogue on “Ghost sYMbOL.” It’s what the brain waves of two people in coitus would probably sound like—the synaptic sampling firing in unconventional but functional rhythms. The whole song comes to simultaneous orgasm right at the 3:00 mark.
The Weeknd – Montreal (92 bpm)
Two years ago, Abel Tesfaye was self-releasing singles on YouTube. A model example for self-distribution, he was guest appearing on the album of a certain former Degrassi star before ever formally releasing an album of his own. By the end of last year he was able to release three completed albums simultaneously and successfully managed to turn one of the most unsexy days of the week into one of the sexiest albums of the year, Thursday. He came up amidst comparisons to artists like Frank Ocean and Drake, but The Weeknd is peerless in the impure magic of celebrity ennui, tainted love, and substance abuse. Having a little French with his Canadian in “Montreal.” he reimagines France Gall’s “Laisse Tomber Les Filles,” made popular as April March’s “Chick Habit.”
Holy Other – ”Know Where” (85 bpm)
The blogs-as-labels and Majestic Casuals of the world have enfranchised a new niche of music to satisfy a long-tail of listener specialization. Flirting with new music is like flirting of any other kind, in that there’s always a question of whether or not the person you’re listening to has sex on their mind. However, given examples like Holy Other, who’s album art has consistently been close-ups of indistinguishable shapes submerged in the sheets of an unmade bed, I will err to the affirmative—that sex is in fact on everyone’s mind. A steadily complexifying beat is accompanied by breathy genderless hums and gentle electric droplets; it’s because of artists like this that there are entire channels of YouTube filled with selections from the chillwave surplus over You Fall In Love, You Lose photography or an influx of genre-puns like fuckstep and screwgaze.
JJ – ”Ecstasy” (74 bpm x2)
Since nobody really knows anything about JJ, I can just make things up. The majority of the album sounds like a pair of Swedish feral children having a water balloon fight in the jungle. Like, they shipwrecked there when they were infants and the only language they speak is friendship and then smack in the middle of the album they fall into a cave full of empathogenic drugs and hip-hop CDs from the last decade—and then this track “Ecstasy” starts. It’s a dripping-wet paludal recreation of the melodies of Lil Wayne and Static Major’s “Lollipop” with some “[Bienvenido a] Miami,” circa Big Willie Style. Also, the smoke monster from Lost is there making weird noises.
How To Dress Well – ”Ready For The World” (Star Slinger Mix) (72 bpm)
This nascent project from Tom Krell may well have been called How To Undress Well. Drawing from an adroit knowledge of R&B cultivated on the way to a late puberty that let him sing along with the melismatic divas of the ’90s, Krell is the poster child for what’s been branded with the puny portmanteau, PBR&B, a delineation that is essentially music journalism’s way of saying it’s refreshing when someone can channel R&B into a contemporary product without saying the word “shawty.” He trades in the confidence of classic R&B for an endearing vulnerability and samples from the likes of Aliyah, R. Kelly, and Michael Jackson. “Ready For The World,” a glossolalic homage to the swan song of a sleepy mid-’80s funk band of the same name, is here remixed by Star Slinger, who has refined remixing and brings an added functionality to HTDW’s more visceral, albeit unpolished expression.
Massive Attack – ”Angel” (54 bpm x2)
It’s important to remember where we come from, which is why Massive Attack—undeniable progenitors of the trip hop genre—must be recognized on a list that celebrates musical sexuality. Demonstrating the recessive sensual potential in genes of both hip-hop and electronic music, the pastiche musical product defined by this Bristol duo expressed something in repetitive rhythms and a maniacal and exacting sprechgesang that spoke to the frustrated sexuality of the ’90s. The repetition of Massive Attack’s low end is methodically offset by uncanny and cinematic instances of sampled strings or electric guitar that epitomize why trip-hop did for the sex scene what its genre-contemporaries big beat or breakbeat did for action sequences throughout the ’90s. “Angel” is an aching and reverent observation of one unnamed woman’s devastating sexuality.
Shy Girls – ”Under Attack” (53 bpm)
Of course, no evening is complete without cuddle-time. So, let’s slow things down with a track from Portland R&B contemporaries Shy Girls, who deliver with nostalgic late-’80s sunset synth and a vocal performance that, like any good slow jam, sounds like it’s hurting a little bit, yearning or lamenting the trappings of love. They don’t get more wet behind the ears than this, but Shy Girls boasts the sax talents of tUnE-yArDs’ Noah Bernstein, who at the song’s penultimate point, makes this another entry into modern music’s undeniable saxophone renaissance.
You can listen to the always-developing M.O.M. in its entirety on Spotify.