They say that William Butler Yeats was inspired to great poetic heights by his unrequited love for Maude Gonne. And since then, poets and songwriters have continued to explore the unattainable, that which (and those which) inspires a physical wanting. This has been particularly true in the world of pop music, and rock n roll which at the end of the day, is a euphemism for sex. Lust has therefore been an engine for songwriters for decades. Here are ten of them.
Lust As Undeniable Impulse
The thing about lust is that when it takes hold, nothing else matters. At a certain point, all of the accouterments expected out of a relationship become less than nothing in the face of pure, physicality (“I Just Want To Make Love To You”). And when one is in the moment, this becomes all too real, with the physical reaction to another person being a force that creates the feeling that one is intoxicated (“Let’s Spend the Night Together”). At other times, following those impulses can be highly empowering (“Dirrty”), and can help to lend meaning to one’s identity, as well as being a primal pursuit.
Lust As Obsession
There are times when the draw of lust is so powerful, it becomes all-encompassing. Waiting for reciprocation becomes the object of single-mindedness (“My Sharona”), to the point where all else falls by the wayside, even personal integrity. Sometimes the person feeling the pull of this obsessive behavior knows the position they’re in (“High School Confidential”). But, in this case, knowledge of this doesn’t stop the feeling.
Lust As Fantasy
Lust, especially when experienced by the young, fires up the body but also the imagination. In this context, the view of another person goes beyond the day-to-day, and become a whole scenario played out in the mind (“Teenage Kicks”). At other times, the fantasy is less a product of a healthy imagination. Sometimes, the fantasy becomes delusional, and with the hint of threat beneath (“867-5309 Jenny”). At other times, the fantasy is spun by one, to convince another that consummation of lust is a good idea (“Let’s Get It On”).
Lust As An Ideal Object
Sometimes, the object of lust is not a mere physical reaction so much as it is about the idealization of another person (“A Girl Like You”, “Evangeline”). The person being admired is unobtainable, but the feeling doesn’t inspire frustration so much as a kind of awe. The imbalance of affection, and of attention, creates a unique tension that in turn creates a portrait of near-divinity, even if the impulse comes from a source which is quite the opposite.
Sigmund Freud wrote about how civilization and the restraint it demands of individuals has grown up alongside the selfish impulses. And lust is certainly one of those. As such, the tensions between the two forces – cultural and physical – creates opportunities for great art, or attempts to capture that tension, and all within three and a half minutes.