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The 30 Sexiest Music Videos of All Time

From the risque to the raunchy to the banned, we count down the hottest, kinkiest, most talked-about clips from Beyonce, Prince, Madonna and more

Sex and pop music have walked hand in hand since the days of Elvis’ swiveling hips. But the 1981 launch of MTV made the relationship even more explicit – eye-popping videos like Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” got the controversy started early, while the likes of Madonna and Prince built their pop empires on their willingness to break through boundaries. These 30 videos, which range from the earliest days of MTV through the era of YouTube-enabled smartphones, turned up the heat, as well as the chatter.

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6

D’Angelo, “Untitled (How Does it Feel)”

Any video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” the simmering come-on from funk auteur D’Angelo’s 2000 masterpiece Voodoo, would have been sexy – the song’s a slow-burn seduction that draws inspiration from Marvin and Al, filtered through the musical genius’s thoughtful style. But the single-shot clip, in which D wears nothing but a crucifix, gives the full-body treatment to the track, leaving little to the imagination while daring it to run wild. “D’Angelo is singing about being intimate with a woman that he loves,” Star Jones told The New York Times in 2000. “And it’s just basic voice and body, and when you’re in an intimate situation with a man, that’s really all that’s there – the voice and the body and the light hitting the body in a way that makes you know that this is your man.”

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5

Janet Jackson, “Any Time, Any Place”

Janet Jackson’s fantasy life gets top billing in 1994’s video for “Any Time, Any Place,” although the lyrics’ ideas of getting it on in public are brought indoors, where the R&B superstar and her across-the-hall neighbor engage in erotic play that includes strawberries and steam on their terms. The clip also doubled as an ad for the ways that safe sex could be fun – “any time, any place ……be responsible,” the screen admonishes after the final lingering image of Jackson fades out.

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4

Britney Spears, “I’m a Slave 4 U”

“I think if you keep challenging yourself to do something different,” Britney Spears told the UK’s Observer in 2001, “people will see that and like that. But it’s up to me to change.” The video for “I’m A Slave 4 U” – the first single from that year’s Britney, a laser-gun pop-funk track produced by then-on-the-rise duo The Neptunes – showed how far Spears was willing to go, at least in terms of potential dehydration. It’s a sweaty romp in a dance club that looks fashioned out of a sauna, where Spears and her backup dancers fall under the spell of the song’s skeletal beat.

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3

Madonna, “Justify My Love”

A four-minute homage to French cinema that snuck its way into the pop charts, the black-and-white clip for Madonna’s woozy devotional “Justify My Love” featured bondage play and group sex amidst its dreamy tableau. “I didn’t have any concept at all, except the idea that [Madonna] was arriving in the hotel tired, broken; and when she was going to leave the hotel, she was full of life, she was full of energy, full of everything,” director Jean-Baptiste Mondino told Rolling Stone. Madonna’s “energy source” proved to be so outré for 1990 that MTV refused to show it, leaving ABC’s Nightline – and the revived concept of the “video single” – to pick up the slack. “Why is it,” Madonna told The New York Times as the controversy blew up, “that people are willing to go to a movie and watch someone get blown to bits for no reason and nobody wants to see two girls kissing or two men snuggling? I think the video is romantic and loving and has humor in it.”

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2

Prince, “Kiss”

The polymorphously perverse Prince probably deserves his own “sexiest videos” list. Like Madonna, his boundary-testing clips helped push MTV’s standards and practices departments into new directions. But the video for 1986’s jittery funk come-on “Kiss” stands out, as it shows off Prince’s moves – and his midriff – alongside guitarist Wendy Melvoin and dancer Monique Manning, whose playful rapport with the singer gives the clip an extra erotic charge.

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1

Chris Isaak, “Wicked Game”

The ingredients that make up Chris Isaak’s 1990 video for his soul-plumbing ballad are pretty simple: a man, a woman, a beach. But under the guidance of director Herb Ritts, that equation added up to the steamiest video of all time, a black-and-white clip in which Isaak and supermodel Helena Christensen seductively (yet strategically – Christensen was topless, although her nudity was well-hidden by camera angles and edits) lolled about in the sand while waves lapped and Isaak sighed over a sparse guitar line inspired by the most wounded pop of the Sixties. The smoldering passion exhibited by Isaak and Christensen had a vulnerability about it that still makes the video’s simple concept eye-popping decades later.

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