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50 sexiest songs ever made: From Marvin Gaye to Justin Timberlake

Our playlist of sex songs will take you by the hand, whisper sweet nothings in your ear and lead you straight to the bedroom.

Music may very well be the food of love, but it's also—more deliciously—the food of loving. Because we know our readers have an appetite like no other, we present to you the connoisseur's playlist. From the hottest turn-ons to the sweetest soundtracks, these are the 50 sexiest songs on the planet, according to us.

To be clear: These aren’t necessarily songs about the act of love (though many of them are pretty detailed); rather, they’re songs to do it to. Hence, W.A.S.P.’s “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)" does not qualify, but the White Stripes' metaphor-happy “Ball and Biscuit” does.

A note on our list’s running order: While the top ten songs are, in our opinion, the ten most outrageously sizzling songs ever recorded, the runners-up are ordered—sensitively—for your listening pleasure. We want you to be able to enjoy your Spotify playlist with as few awkward, fumbling moments as possible. Now let us begin!

Best sex songs: 50–41

"Let’s Get It On" by Marvin Gaye

Not many artists could have claimed as many potential positions on this list as Marvin Gaye, who made a steady sideline in ministering sexual healing. But arguably, this indelible 1973 track started the ball rolling, turning a page from the social consciousness of "What's Going On" to more carnal concerns. Fact: There is no sexier guitar lick in existence than the one that starts this tune.—Steve Smith

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"Thinkin Bout You" by Frank Ocean

There's little direct allusion to sex in this minimal Frank Ocean masterwork, perhaps the highlight of 2012's widely swooned-over Channel Orange. But that lighters-in-the-air falsetto in the chorus and the brief stunner of a bridge—"You know you were my first time / A new feel"—make this a boudoir ballad for the ages. What's a bigger turn-on, after all, than knowing you've been on your lover's mind?—Hank Shteamer

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"La Femme d’Argent" by Air

From Zero 7 to Massive Attack, electronic musicians are no strangers to the power of lush dreamscapes. But none have used them to as sensual effect as Air, especially on this eternal sex jam from the French duo’s 1998 space-pop debut, Moon Safari. Languorous, smooth and breathless, this is easy listening made precisely for staying in bed all day.—Marley Lynch

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"Justify My Love" by Madonna

Funny, isn’t it, how Madonna’s "Erotica" was everything but erotic, yet “Justify My Love” is so sexy, it could make you blush if it came on your iPod on the train. Such is the mystery of Madonna, and we won’t question it. Just take time to enjoy that insistent drum loop, the tentative string arrangements (the musical equivalent of a wandering hand) and whatever was really going on between Madonna and guest vocalist Lenny Kravitz at the time. Oh, and one more word: video.—Sophie Harris

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"Ooh La La" by Goldfrapp

Sometimes you just want to get it on without all the responsibilities and romance that come with a relationship. At least, that’s what Alison Goldfrapp wants in her sultry disco-dance number; all poetic lovemaking aside, the commanding songstress coos, “I don't want it Baudelaire, just glitter lust.” And that, ladies and gents, is what booty calls are for.—Marley Lynch

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"I Touch Myself" by Divinyls

Subtle as a flying hammer, this 1991 left-field hit made a one-hit wonder of Australian postpunk band Divinyls, assisted by Christina Amphlett's grainy, come-hither mewl. A kind of sex-positive feminist manifesto? Perhaps, but let's face it, the bountiful cleavage Amphlett shared with the world in the song's video surely inspired plenty of men to take her message in hand…er, to heart.—Steve Smith

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"Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Would the BBC in Britain never learn that banning a song would merely guarantee its success? When cheesy DJ Mike Read realized what “Relax” was about, midway through playing the song in 1984—it must’ve been all the squelching and thudding, or perhaps the chorus, “Relax, don’t do it, when you wanna come”—he took the needle right off the record. The Beeb banned the song, which then became the fourth-biggest-selling single in British history.—Sophie Harris

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"Wicked Games" by The Weekend

Whether or not your bedroom is actually a pot-clouded penthouse suite, Canadian R&B auteur the Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye, knows how to set the mood. He's at his drug-addled best on the 2012 track "Wicked Games," a twisted love song that matches supple vocals with a neon-lit menace and the sense that no one involved gets off easy. —Andrew Frisicano

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"Adorn" by Miguel

With an opening salvo like "these lips can't wait to taste your skin," things get steamy quick on Miguel's 2012 sex-soaked single. Armed with a deadly falsetto, the crooner melds the sweetness of a young Marvin Gaye with the swag of in-the-club-like-yeah Usher—it's damn near irresistible.—Andrew Frisicano

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"Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside)" by My Bloody Valentine

Indie kids need sexy songs, too, as proved by this track from shoegaze forefathers My Bloody Valentine on the band’s seminal (sorry) 1988 album, Isn’t Anything. “Soft as snow but warm inside, penetrate then we divide…” All in the name of art, naturally.—Sophie Harris

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Best sex songs: 40–31

"Ayo Technology" by 50 Cent featuring Justin Timberlake

The potent combination of JT and Fiddy breaking down doing the dirty could be nothing less than explosive. In this Timbaland-produced single, originally titled “Ayo Pornography,” the guys hit the strip club, where they discover a universal truth: Real-life pole dancers provide far more satisfaction than Internet porn. That’s right, folks. Live and learn.—Marley Lynch

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"S&M" by Rihanna

The naughty princess of pop croons admissions that would make Larry Flynt blush in her anthem to kinky sex; Riri’s pulsating dance track flirts with bondage and sub-dom play, and its candid appreciation of bad behavior saw the track banned in 11 countries.—Marley Lynch

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"Pull Up to the Bumper" by Grace Jones

In 2008, disco-era power androgyne Grace Jones claimed in an interview that "Pull Up to the Bumper" had nothing whatsoever to do with sex. Yeah, right: nothing to be read into her helpful suggestion that a bit of lubrication might be required to get that oversize stretch limo through the back door. Meanwhile, the song's possessive thump got everyone ready for some grease-monkeying around. —Steve Smith

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"Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" by the Beatles

Reportedly inspired by a seconds-long instance of monkey sex that Paul McCartney witnessed on the streets in India, "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" is one of the goofiest songs in the Beatles catalog. Still, Macca's increasingly unhinged performance—featuring that classic Little Richard–style yowl midway through—gets you thinking seriously about shedding those, shall we say, inhibitions, and encouraging your partner to do the same.—Hank Shteamer

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"Tender" by Blur

The boys in Blur always had a bit of an ironic art-school air about them, which is part of what makes their gospel-inflected 1999 song all the more affecting. It's also a great mood-setting bedroom tune: Let the easy tempo and light strum wash over you (and your partner) in a euphoric haze as you meditate on the refrain, "love's the greatest thing that we have."—Andrew Frisicano

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"Jeepster" by T. Rex

What seems at first like a squeaky-clean seduction gradually turns lascivious—okay, downright depraved—in the hands of glam-meister extraordinaire Marc Bolan, who hisses, "I'm gonna suck ya!" at his would-be conquest, after declaring himself "a vampire for your love." Grab your partner in kink and play along.—Hank Shteamer

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"Sunshine of Your Love" by Ella Fitzgerald

Let's face it, there's no logical reason why a jazz singer's spin on a hoary Cream anthem should work. So why does this unlikely cover get us hot and bothered? Partly it's the song's steamy descending chord progression and stop-start, stop-start rhythm; mostly it's the feral abandon Fitzgerald packs into her libidinous interpretation. "I'm ashamed of myself," she teases a 1969 Montreux audience in a famous live clip, making it clear that she's really, really not.—Steve Smith

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"Je t’Aime…Moi Non Plus" by Serge Gainsbourg

You may think you don’t know this song, but you do—oh, you do. The fiendishly rude-sounding bassline, the nearly cheesy-but-actually-genius organ riff and then the whispered, orgasmic crooning… “Je t’aime” is Sexy Song 101. French singer Serge Gainsbourg really was doing the nasty with English rose Jane Birkin in the studio. It so scandalized and titillated the prudish Brits that the BBC banned the song—which, of course, only added to its appeal.—Sophie Harris

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"Feel Like Makin’ Love" by Roberta Flack

In no way related to the slightly cheesy Bad Company song, this 1974 tune is quite simple: Flack describes moments that inspire an amorous mood, including after walking through a park and while sitting in a restaurant. But her soulful delivery sells it—she coos each line as one lover might to another just before heading to the bedroom.—Amy Plitt

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"When You're Smiling and Astride Me" by Father John Misty

Indie-rock shaman Father John Misty calls down an angelic choir and a slick, soulful backup band to help him with this existential ode to monogamy. And what's lovemaking without a little self-loathing? Dredging the bottom of his psyche with admissions like, "I can hardly believe I've found you, and I'm terrified of that," FJM manages to clear away enough clutter to find something real or, as he puts it, to "truly see and be seen."—Andrew Frisicano

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Best sex songs: 30–21

"Lay It Down" by Al Green

How could we run a list like this and not feature the Reverend Al? A man whose music has soundtracked nigh on four decades of baby-making, and who now marries lovestruck couples in his own chapel. We decided to skip the gorgeous but sad “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” and first-dance anthem “Let’s Stay Together” in favor of this straight-up invitation from the Rev’s 2008 album of the same name, produced by Questlove.—Sophie Harris

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"Friendly Skies" by Missy Elliott featuring Ginuwine

In the '90s, Ginuwine was the R&B king of getting freaky, and to our ears, his greatest moment is this duet with hip-hop’s queen of sauce, Missy Elliott. The song’s metaphor is pleasingly out-there—they’re on a plane, Missy’s the stewardess, Ginuwine’s the passenger. “Feel the turbulence, and maintain,” coos Missy, “Please refrain / Stay in your seat / Until we reach the peak.” The song flutters, grinds and swoons its way to R&B bliss.—Sophie Harris

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"Doin’ It" by LL Cool J

Perhaps the hip-hop king of sexy-time rhymes, LL Cool J created a New York tale of interborough romance that values stamina over subtlety in regards to getting busy. Sweating, screaming, spanking: LL and LeShaun are no doubt going to make it last—doin' it and doin' it and doin' it well…—Marley Lynch

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"Devil in a New Dress" by Kanye West

Rapping over a sped-up soul sample, Kanye sounds like his College Dropout self on this My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy standout. As is typical of Yeezy, subtlety takes a back seat (see the hook: “We ain't married, but tonight I need some consummation”). But a roomy backseat is where the lush production and syrupy strings sound best.—Andrew Frisicano

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"Ain’t No Nigga" by Jay-Z

Lyrically, it’s more about getting paid than laid, but Jigga never sounded smoother than over this Reasonable Doubt jam. Nevermind all the talk about shopping; the liquid groove—pulled from the Whole Darn Family’s "Seven Minutes of Funk"—is pure bedroom music.—Andrew Frisicano

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"I Want Your Sex" by George Michael

After George Michael quit squeaky clean ‘80s boyband Wham!, he went on a sexual rampage with “School’s out forever!”-style zeal and enthusiasm. The album Faith (1987) featured Michael sniffing his own armpit and opened with this funky gem—which finds Michael’s signature growl at its peak: “C – c – c- c’mon!” He also makes his request in the plainest possible terms, “Have sex with me!"—which we appreciate.—Sophie Harris

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"I Feel You" by Depeche Mode

For a band that often sang about the kinkier side of sex—both “Master and Servant” and “Strangelove” embrace S&M elements—this 1993 track is fairly tame. But the combination of front man Dave Gahan’s deep, sultry baritone and the propulsive backing track makes it sound far dirtier (and therefore hotter) than any of the band’s previous work.—Amy Plitt

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"Rocks Off" by the Rolling Stones

When your mom tells you how sexy Mick Jagger was—yeah, and Keith Richards, too—it’s this that she’s talking about. Exile on Main St. (1972) is the Stones’ loosest, jammiest, dirtiest record, and “Rocks Off” is its greatest expression of joy (and intent, come to think of it).—Sophie Harris

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"You Really Got Me" by the Kinks

The Kinks’ 1964 breakthrough hit is a visceral ode to lust: “Girl, you really got me goin’ / You got me so I don't know what I’m doin’ / Yeah, you really got me now / You got me so I can't sleep at night.” More than anything, this most primal track throbs with hot-blooded teenage urgency and will remind you of not being able to keep your hands off your high-school flame. And that’s a good thing.—Marley Lynch

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"Have Love, Will Travel" by the Sonics

The Seattle garage rockers were barely out of their teens when they recorded this loins-burning Richard Berry cover. The seething postadolescent hormones come through in Gerry Roslie’s unchained howl as well as the song’s honking sax solo (a sturdy backbeat also helps, for practical reasons).—Andrew Frisicano

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Best sex songs: 20–11

"Ball and Biscuit" by the White Stripes

Dear Jack: Sure, some of your style choices over the years have been questionable (that Zorro mustache). But we will never, ever question the fact that this cut, from 2003 breakthrough album Elephant, is one of the sexiest songs committed to vinyl. That slow, thumping beat, those tantalizing, scratchy guitar licks and of course, those lyrics, dripping with innuendo: “I’ll let you see it if you want to…” For this most masculine siren call, we offer our sincere thanks.—Sophie Harris

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"I Just Wanna Make Love to You" by Etta James

Issued on her 1961 debut album, At Last!, Etta James’s impossibly honest blues tune revealed a lot about her spirit: swinging, slinky and sassy. It also showed that she was a woman who knew what she wanted. Upon its release, the song immediately shot to the top of the charts; we can only imagine that the soul diva got exactly what she wanted in the bedroom, too.—Marley Lynch

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"Shut It Down" by Drake featuring The-Dream

"I feel like when she moves, the time doesn't," raps Drake in the middle of this seven-minute prog-soul opus, perfectly summing up the track's mind-warping slow burn. The song features a voyeur-style description of a woman suiting up for a night out, but it seems better suited to a snail-paced undressing.—Hank Shteamer

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"Climax" by Usher

One thing you can count on with Usher is consistency: Two decades into his career, the slick singer is still releasing songs as titillating as, say, “Bad Girl.” “Climax” dropped on Valentine’s Day 2012, and it's as surefire a soundtrack for horizontal listening as his previous hits; according to Diplo, Usher proposed the idea of "tak[ing] the strip club to the stadium" with its production. And with that dead-sexy falsetto and wax-melting grooves, you can hear it.—Marley Lynch

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"The Sweetest Taboo" by Sade

In her 1984 hit "The Sweetest Taboo," Sade innocently sings, "Sometimes I think you're just too good for me / Every day is Christmas, and every night is New Year's Eve." Sade, just give it up. We all know what "New Year's" in this scenario entails. Between the English songstress's sultry voice and the sexy, Spanish-influenced melody, "The Sweetest Taboo" is a serious no-brainer when it comes to having a heart-thumping, sizzling-hot time.—Rachel Sonis

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"Love to Love You Baby" by Donna Summer

When Eurodisco pioneer Giorgio Moroder famously asked Donna Summer to simulate throes of ecstasy for this trendsetting 1975 slab of taboo, the devoutly churchy singer initially demurred, then faked an estimated 22 orgasms for the track, inspiring millions to follow her lead. Time promptly dubbed her "the Queen of Love"; nowadays, we'd surely be less discreet.—Steve Smith

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"Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" by Aretha Franklin

Has the Queen of Soul ever sounded more desirable than when she opens this ballad with the eternal couplet, "Take me to heart / And I'll always love you." Over the kind of slow-burn groove that has inspired bedroom moves for decades, Aretha sings of intense desire…but don't you dare forget to respect her while you work your moves.—Steve Smith

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"Closer" by Nine Inch Nails

You might remember it as a vintage-industrial keepsake, but Trent Reznor's 1994 hit is actually an X-rated funk masterpiece in disguise. That infamous "I want to fuck you like an animal" chorus flies only because the beat underneath it—famously simulated by a pumping heart in the video—feels so stubbornly sensual.—Hank Shteamer

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"Lady Marmalade" by Labelle

Few songs have thrown a spotlight on streetwalking the way this chart-topping 1974 smash did…and none made you want to get down (or learn to speak French) more. Cover versions have proliferated, but only Patti, Sarah and Nona deliver the real goods. All together now: "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?"—Steve Smith

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"Video Phone" by Beyoncé

If you’ve ever dreamed of Lady B paying a visit to your chamber, switch on this I Am... Sasha Fierce single, in which the singer laces her firm come-ons with plentiful coital oohs and ahhs. Let them inspire your own chorus of moans.—Andrew Frisicano

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Best sex songs: 10–1

"Sexy MF" by Prince

Prince's credentials as the King of Hump were a thing of public record long before he uncorked this sultry scorcher of a track in 1992. The lyrics and delivery epitomize Prince's libidinous swagger, and the rapped vocals are among his least embarrassing hip-hop attempts; best of all is a killer groove that assures you Prince can keep it up all night long.—Steve Smith

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"French Kiss" by Lil Louis

Produced by Chicago house icon Lil Louis in 1989, “French Kiss” was hardly the first song to blend orgasmic female moaning and dance beats—but the track was probably the first to do so over stark, rat-a-tat drum-machine rhythms and acidic synths, resulting in something more akin to a backroom bang session than a romantic tryst in a four-poster bed. The payoff: About halfway through, the tempo slows to a lascivious crawl and stops dead in its tracks before slowly regaining its composure in a succinct aural imitation of la petite mort.—Bruce Tantum

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"Do You Mind" by the xx

Lifted from the xx's debut EP, Islands (2009), "Do You Mind" finds the chic Brit indie trio in stunningly sensual form. Originally a bubblegum dance track by Crazy Cousinz featuring Kyla, the tune gets the xx treatment—and then some. With Jamie Smith's slow, pounding beats and Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim's winding guitar riffs and smoky voices, part of the charm of "Do You Mind" is how polite its lyrics sound, given the fluid ease of the song. To answer that question, we don't mind…at all.—Rachel Sonis

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"Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star

From the opening bars, lazy Dylanesque strumming and slide-guitar moans suggest a warm, lazy summer afternoon. Then Hope Sandoval starts singing, her breathy insinuation suggestive and vulnerable at once. The music curls and stretches, and all you can think about is merging with your object of desire.—Steve Smith

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"Lay Lady Lay" by Bob Dylan

By the mid-aughts, ol' Bobby Zimmerman was calling out his crushes (including future "Empire State of Mind" songbird Alicia Keys) by name; back in ’69, though, he still favored cozy anonymity. "Lay Lady Lay" ranks as one of the most languid come-ons of all time—"Stay, lady, stay / Stay with your man a while"—but it works, thanks to Dylan's uncharacteristically supple croon, Kenny Buttrey's clip-clop percussion and Pete Drake's pedal-steel work, which drips over the arrangement like sinful honey.—Hank Shteamer

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"I'm on Fire" by Bruce Springsteen

For this 1985 slow-burner, the Boss stops working on his hot rod long enough to pine after a married lady (or, as the video suggests, maybe it's her car he's really into). Here we have Bruce at the peak of his blue-collar pre-middle-age sex appeal, all grease-covered hands and sweaty brow trying to get a look under the hood. Cougars of New Jersey, look alive.—Andrew Frisicano

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"Need You Tonight" by INXS

Crowds screamed for INXS front man Michael Hutchence, who was associated with a bevvy of famous beauties in his 1980s heyday. Hutchence’s allure is in the way he sings—100 percent—like he means it. On the Aussie rocker’s finest moment, “Need You Tonight,” he begins the song sighing, “All we’ve got is this moment,” as if the world really is about to end. And then: “There’s something about you girl, that makes me sweat.“ Ladies, take a deep breath.—Sophie Harris

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"No Diggity" by Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre

A song so powerful it inspired a new come-on in the R&B world, this smooth Bill Withers–sampling ‘90s classic kicks off with Dr. Dre's self-assured “It’s going down” over a throaty “mmhmm” hook. Story goes, the veteran West Coast rapper is obsessed with his New York shortie—he can’t stop fantasizing about her, until he has to hop on a plane back to her “to bag it up.” Mmhmm.—Marley Lynch

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"Untitled (How Does It Feel?)" by D’Angelo

Coupled with soul man D’Angelo’s extraordinary songwriting chops and an exquisitely chiseled body, the video for “Untitled” is almost too much to watch; the singer is naked as far as the eye can see, and he licks his lips as he sings the song’s refrain (he was thinking of his grandma’s home cooking, he maintains). Besides winning sexiest video on this list, the song also is a contender for most delicious, unbearable musical climax. Press play, and you’ll see what we mean.—Sophie Harris

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"Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak

Ear porn. Actually, the video for "Wicked Game" is visually titillating too, featuring Isaak romping on the beach with topless supermodel Helena Christensen—but sonically, this 1990 hit exudes lust from hypnotic start to finish. With its velvety guitar melody, silky coolness and sensual, oh-so-soft vocals, no other song about doomed love has fueled more steamy sexxions. And that dreamy last line? Congratulations, Mr. Isaak: "Wicked Game" is a winner.—Marley Lynch

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Listen to Time Out’s 50 sexiest songs playlist on Spotify