Sex in popular music

Erotica, an album that explores music and sexSongs about sex are nothing new. Prince may have seemed provocative singing about oral sex, but he was just following a centuries-old tradition. Ancient Greek and Roman poetry could be quite explicit. Bawdy songs have enjoyed great popularity from at least the Renaissance on. From the early days of wax cylinder phonograph recordings in the 1890s, one can find spoken word curios worthy of a parental advisory sticker. And for those who think that “freaking” is new, the 17th century sarabande — a popular dance considered “merry and lewd because it is performed with movements of the body which are indecent” — was just one among several erotically-tinged dances that were outlawed in some places. Continue reading →

Songs about music

Considering the great number of popular songs that have been written, there are surprisingly few about music or musicians. I’ve compiled a list below, omitting those in which the song is really about something else or music is not the main point of the song (an example would be Led Zeppellin’s “Rock and Roll”). Undoubtedly, I’ve left something off, so I’ll update the list periodically. Continue reading →

The rise of compassionate music

For centuries, people have been singing about romantic and erotic love. It is the subject of most popular songs, although there has certainly been enough room left over to sing about God or the seasons. (The world’s oldest song, inscribed on the wall of an Egyptian tomb 4,300 years ago, is a love song that basically says, “I love and admire your beauty, I am under it.”) But starting in the 1960s, a new subject matter began appearing in popular songs that represented a shift in consciousness: brotherhood and how we treat one another. The songs come from divergent sources, everyone from Dionne Warwick (“What the World Needs Now,” by Bacharach and David) to Madonna (“Why’s It So Hard”). MeShell Ndegeocello takes up the topic in a number of songs, as does Angelique Kidjo. Some of the songs have been outright hits (“He Ain’t Heavy” by the Hollies; “This House” by Tracie Spencer; “State of the World” by Janet Jackson). Continue reading →