Oh it’s a loaded topic, isn’t it. Because we all know already that all popstars are perverts. Rihanna’s the latest to pitch in with new single S&M. But how well do our favourite acts put their fetishes into song? And how far would they really go?
Soft Cell – Sex Dwarf
What perversion is this? Midget is paraded in a long black leash on the high street. Disco dollies are lured into a life of vice. Pornos are filmed. ‘They all love your miniature ways! You know what they say about small boys!’ It’s quite specialised.
What does it sound like? Being aurally raped by a succession of oversized synthesisers while off-their-tits clubbers laugh at you (v good).
How far would they go though? If you believed even one story out of ten that the press ran about Marc Almond in the early 80s, you don’t need me to tell you the answer to that. For everyone else — the song’s pretty mild in comparison.
Depeche Mode – Master and Servant
What perversion is this? A nice bit of submission. Dave Gahan gets down on his knees like a dog, and regrets that getting shafted in real life isn’t nearly as much fun.
What does it sound like? Like a nursery rhyme. A nursery rhyme with a lot of people banging on pipes and whipping each other while gas explosions go off (excellent).
How far would they go though? From this point on, half of all Depeche Mode’s singles were about chains or the sweetness of suffering or somebody having a wank while you strip off and choke on exhaust fumes. I like to imagine the boys had a special room in their Basildon mansion where they ‘tried out ideas for lyrics’.
Madonna – Hanky Panky
What perversion is this? A few years ago I spent a spring and a summer moonlighting as a karaoke DJ in a King’s Cross pub on Saturday nights. Happy times. My presentation style was best summed up by the time I introduced a punter doing Hanky Panky by saying “…and she’s going to sing us a cheery little number about consensual sexual violence!” (Oh she got her revenge. By coming back and singing the same bloody song, week after week after week.)
What does it sound like? Awful.
How far would she go though? Madonna spends a lot of time and energy convincing us that she’s as highly-sexed and adventurous as possible. So to be honest I think she’s exhausted by it all by the time she gets home. I expect she makes do with a sleepy poking in front of Newsnight once a week like everybody else.
Aqua – Barbie Girl
What perversion is this? It’s fantasy dress-up role-play of course, although it’s more to the point that once Lene is Barbie, René gets to undress her, control her actions completely, and touch her anywhere he likes. Lyrically, this stuff isn’t even buried, it’s completely explicit, which I think makes Barbie Girl the most deliciously perverted song ever to become a massive mainstream hit.
Mattel did sue Aqua over the song, claiming they’d tarnished their doll’s reputation, and Aqua countersued, claiming hilariously that Mattel were injecting meanings into the song that simply weren’t there. After a long running series of legal disputes that eventually reached the US Supreme court, a judge dismissed the whole thing and told everyone “to chill”. Pop gold.
What does it sound like? They call it bubblegum pop, technically. I can’t come up with anything better than that. Barbie Girl‘s true genius is that you only have to hear it once and you’ll never ever forget it.
How far would they go though? Lene and René did date eventually, but only after she’d split up with Brian McFadden, of all people (a man who at the time had temporarily changed the spelling of his name to Bryan, “to make it easier to sign autographs”). Lene’s debut solo album was called Play With Me, and included the tracks Virgin Superstar, Bite You and Pants Up. René also went solo, releasing the tracks Let It All Out (Push It) and The Uhh Uhh Song. From these few facts alone I’m happy to believe that anything’s possible.
Rihanna – S&M
What perversion is this? The problem is that it’s all a bit broad-brush, trying to cover too many bases without ever settling on one of them. According to the video, Ri-Ri is into clingfilm wrap, domination (Perez Hilton’s her sex dwarf), a little light bondage, and ‘food play’ — with strong hints in the closing moments that a bukkake session’s about to take place. Meanwhile in the lyrics, she’s into masochism — chains and whips in particular. Then there’s the alarming line “Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it!”, inviting us to picture Rihanna as a small red spaniel leaping to catch some flying ejaculate on her muzzle.
What does it sound like? A very generic I Can’t Believe It’s Not Guetta! production from Stargate is a big disappointment after the lovely What’s My Name?.
How far would she go though? A difficult question. Because on her last album Rated R, it was easy to believe that shell-shocked, defiant Rihanna was capable of anything, including vengeful suicide firebombing, shooting herself in the face for laffs, and dabbling with girls “underneath the candelabra”. This time around she’s playing up her fun, sexy side, from a ridiculous food fight dance routine on X Factor, through to “spilling the milk” with Drake, and finally the well-publicised “banana gobble” in this video. I don’t know who the real Rihanna is. But I’d like to.