When Miley sang her way to the Billboard Top 100 atop a wrecking ball this past fall, it was sort of an uncomfortable moment. It seemed like the wrecking ball was just a metaphor for the costs of emotional vulnerability. And yet pop lovers everywhere couldn't help but think it was something much raunchier.
That's because for years, pop music lovers have been inundated by some of the craziest sexual metaphors and euphemisms ever created.
1. Peter Gabriel’s "Sledgehammer"
This '80s smash brings machismo to a whole new level. This song actually has many sexual euphemisms, but Gabriel's "sledgehammer" beat out his "bumper car" for the title slot.
The whole thing is pretty graphic. Apparently, his sledgehammer will "open up your fruit cage where the fruit is as sweet as can be." One might also refer to Peter Gabriel's sledgehammer as his "big dipper."
And many did: The song charted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, won a record of nine MTV Awards at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards, and, as of 2011, was the most played music video in the history of MTV.
2. 50 Cent’s "Candy Shop"
If you ever see 50 Cent in a candy shop, you should probably call the police. By the time he sings that the highlight of his candy shop is "Dripping wet with sweat man it's on and poppin / I'll let you lick in my lollipop," it's clear that no child should ever buy candy from Fiddy.
3. Prince's "Little Red Corvette"
When Prince sings about his "Little Red Corvette," he's definitely talking about a joyride, just of a different sort.
In this case, the car is some combination of the woman in question, her desires for Prince on a Saturday night, and his less-than-chivalrous response:
"A body like yours oughta be in jail / 'Cause it's on the verge of bein' obscene / Move over, baby, gimme the keys / I'm gonna try to tame your little red love machine." He's sort of entering "Blurred Lines" territory there.
4. R. Kelly’s "Ignition"
It's common knowledge that this song isn't about a car, but it needed to be included because — when it comes to extended sexual metaphors go — nobody can beat R. Kelly.
In this case, the specific euphemism is R. Kelly's "key" and his partner's "ignition," and it revives Prince's car imagery to the delight of women everywhere.
5. Starland Vocal Band’s "Afternoon Delight"
Starland Vocal Band seems, at first, to be hungry on this song. "Thinkin' of you's workin' up my appetite / Looking forward to a little afternoon delight."
Eventually, though, the vague "afternoon delight" they speak of becomes pretty explicit: "We could make a lot of lovin' 'fore the sun goes down / The thought of rubbin' you is getting so exciting." So much for subtlety.
6. Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell"
Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" isn't exactly a feminist anthem. This disco hit dominated dance floors across the nation after its 1979 release, but the lyrics are hardly carefree or vague: "Well lay back and relax while I put away the dishes/ Then you and me can rock-a-bye/ You can ring my be-e-ell," Ward sings.
7. Fergie's “London Bridge”
Although she's singing about a beloved British monument, Fergie isn't in quite the tourist attraction she imagines. Rather, she's in a club with drinks pouring, getting "up on the dude" and admittedly "feeling loose."
We're still not precisely sure what her London Bridge refers to (her pants? Her face?), but we certainly hope it stays upright.
8. Kelis' “Milkshake”
This one has a weird history. At first, we all wryly thought we were in on Kelis's joke. But then she became an actual Food Network star, the chef of a SXSW food truck and the creator of a new album called FOOD.
We don't really know what to think anymore.
9. Robert Plant's lemon in "The Lemon Song"
Robert Plant seems pretty upset about the girl involved in this song: She does, after all, give all of the singer's hard-earned money to another man and speak openly about her lack of sexual satisfaction.
Yet, Plant is happy to ask this special lady to "Squeeze my lemon, till the juice runs down my leg" which is maybe the most graphic moment in all music ever.
10. Presidents of the USA’s “Peaches”
Nobody relishes the goodness of a succulent peach on a summer's day more than the Presidents of the USA. But, once again, we aren't talking about peaches at all.
In their hit, "Peaches," they sing about the glory of napping under a peach tree. However, when they get to "pok[ing] [a] finger down inside" it's clear that the peaches play host to a whole variety of meanings.
11. Flo Rida’s “Whistle”
What at first seems like a helpful instructional song winds up being, once again, pretty sexual.
"You just put your lips together / And you come real close," Rida coaches, "I'mma lay it back, don't stop it / 'Cause I love it how you drop it." Now we can't help imagining him dressed like a gym coach while some girl tries to learn how to blow a whistle.
12. ZZ Top’s “Pearl Necklace”
It's confusing that ZZ Top converts "Pearl Necklace" into a verb. It's even more confusing when it becomes clear that they aren't talking about giving a woman a necklace for, you know, some special occasion or something.
Then it's not so confusing and is simply disgusting:
"She want to pearl necklace / She is so tough, as pure as the driven slush."
13. Tori Amos’s “Raspberry Swirl”
At first, Tori Amos' "Raspberry Swirl" sounds like another classic use of fruit as a sexual metaphor. Note the line: "If you want inside her / Well, Boy you better make her raspberry swirl."
But it isn’t clear what exactly the sweet treat is meant to represent. Still, Amos pleads that "Things are getting desperate." This man better find out what the heck Tori is talking about, and deliver it fast.
We're all rooting for you, mystery man.