Sex and pop music go together like peanut butter and jelly—or whips and chains, depending on the world you live in. Pop stars from Madonna to Rihanna have shaped their careers around celebrations of sexuality, addressing taboos like virginity and BDSM atop a 4/4 beat and seedy synths. Some of the best Top 40 songs ever released have covered bold territory; think Cyndi Lauper’s masturbation anthem “She-Bop” and Prince’s seductive sex-fiend song about his “Darling Nikki.”
2016’s class of music starlets, both mainstays and breakouts, continued to sell sex on the airwaves, and seemingly more aggressively than ever. In the long tradition of pop, some songs sparked cheers while others provoked critiques and eye rolls. Some inspired both. But in a year when bleeding-red conservatives raged a war against sexuality and misogyny dominated the 2016 presidential election, there’s something to be said about how radio’s (and Spotify’s, and Apple Music’s) most popular plays consistently found ways to trumpet—and sneak in—sexy material between fluffy beats.
That’s something we can get down with, so we decided to toast the year’s most sensual anthems. We present Playboy’s picks for the best sexy pop songs of 2016. While you’re free to critique their merit, you can’t say you mind the overall message, right?
10. NICK JONAS FT. TY DOLLA $IGN - “BACON”
In “Bacon,” the youngest Jonas brother makes the bold claim that everyone’s favorite breakfast side is better than sex: “Feel like, aw shit, throw some bacon on it / One thing I love more than being with you.” Jonas’s smooth croon and Ty Dolla $ign’s spitfire verse actually make you believe them for a second. Our take? Both are pretty essential to human happiness.
09. LADY GAGA - “DANCIN’ IN CIRCLES”
If you’re a musician in a committed relationship, traveling the world without your companion yields many a lonely nights. Lady Gaga channeled that agony into her reggae-tinged, Ace of Base throwback from her latest album, Joanne. In the end, all that traveling forced Gaga to take pleasure in pleasuring herself: “I fool myself / Swirl around as if I’m someone else / Your hands are mine / I do a trick / Pretend that I am you until it clicks.” Who knew being lonely could feel so good?
08. DNCE - “CAKE BY THE OCEAN”
Another Jonas brother, Joe, aimed to make us sweat this summer while satisfying our sweet tooth. On first listen, many thought DNCE’s “Cake By The Ocean” was simply about eating dessert by open waters: “See you licking frosting from your own hands / Want another taste, I’m begging, yes ma'am.” As great as that sounds, the song becomes much filthier when you realize grandma’s famous German chocolate cake isn’t what’s being eaten in this raveready song of summer.
07. ZAYN - “PILLOWTALK”
The first member of One Direction to fly solo made sure his lead single pulled everyone into their beds. On “Pillowtalk,” Zayn Malik wrestles with a volatile, intense relationship between two lovers: “A place that is so pure, so dirty and raw / In the bed all day, bed all day, bed all day / Fucking in and fighting on / It’s our paradise and it’s our war zone.” He captures the naked emotions of imperfect love with a pleading, soulful sound that has immediately distanced himself from his boyband—though the teeny boppers have stuck around.
06. ARIANA GRANDE FT. NICKI MINAJ - “SIDE TO SIDE”
It doesn’t get much more explicit than singing about a man making you walk from “side to side,” the title of a trop-pop powerhouse single from Ariana Grande’s third album, Dangerous Woman. If there was any question of why the song’s subject is swaggering, Nicki Minaj makes it explicitly explicit with her lick. Riding a “dick bicycle” may be one of the most memorable lines of the year.
05. JOJO - “EDIBLES”
With more and more states legalizing marijuana, it was only a matter of time before more artists started singing about the joys of having sex while under the influence of edible cannabis: “I feel higher up than Fenway Park / Is it your fingers giving tingles or this Hydroponic daily spark?” JoJo’s slinky, thick R&B beat captured high vibes, and it was hazy, sweaty and a little bit freaky.
04. RIHANNA - “KISS IT BETTER”
After a series of false starts, it seemed Rihanna’s much-anticipated eighth album would never drop. Thankfully, ANTI emerged at the start of the year and pushed Rihanna’s sound to darker, sexier places. “Kiss It Better” is a no-nonsense, slinky jam featuring Rihanna wanting her man to prove his worth through submissive sex: “Who cares when it feels like crack? Boy you know that you always do it right / Man, fuck your pride / Just take it on back, boy take it on back boy.” The lyrics beg the question of what exactly is being taken back, and where it’s being put, but c’mon. What do you think she means? Here’s our guess.
03. BRITNEY SPEARS FT. TINASHE - “SLUMBER PARTY”
Britney Spears is no stranger to songs about sex. Since begging for another hit while dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl to slaving away for her lover and dancing with a python, Spears knows how to mix raw sexuality with infectious hooks. In the latest single from her new album, Glory, she tackles a new troupe: bisexuality. “Cause we got them candles hanging / Hanging from the ceiling low / We use our bodies to make our own videos / Put on our music that makes us go fucking crazy, oh / Like a slumber party.” While the lyrics are notably unisex, it’s Tinashe’s assist in the radio remix that allows the song to confront sexuality more pointedly. With Tinashe, “Slumber Party” became a delightful, suggestively same-sex romp about the lost art of spending a night in with a friend—or two or three. We don’t judge here.
02. BEYONCÉ FT. JACK WHITE - “DON’T HURT YOURSELF”
Lemonade will go down in history as one of, if not the year’s most ambitious and arresting artistic statements. Beyoncé defies genre throughout the album, but “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” produced by Jack White, employs aggressive rage rock. “You can watch my fat ass twist, boy / as I bounce to the next dick, boy” she sings on this guitar-heavy, vengeful sex battle cry.
01. FIFTH HARMONY FT. TY DOLLA $IGN - “WORK FROM HOME”
In addition to not wearing pants and playing with your dog, working from home is even more appealing when you’re doing it with someone else. The women of Fifth Harmony captured relaxation vibes and turned up the thermostat with their infectious megahit that wormed its way into the ears of moms, dads, single ladies, MILFs, DILFs, unicorns, tweens and Bernie bros everywhere. “You ain’t gotta go to work / let my body do the work,” the group instructed. The video also charted the most views for a music vid this year on YouTube, with more than a billion. In related news, reports of workplace productivity hit new lows this year.