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The alternative Fifty Shades soundtrack, by BDSM enthusiasts

FKA twigs, D’Angelo, Peaches: If the actual film sounded half this sexy, we might be tempted to go see it

Could there be a less sexy way to spend Valentine’s weekend than watching Fifty Shades of Grey? Putting aside the fact that it’s based on an “erotica” novel that consistently refers to female genitalia as “down there,” Fifty Shades has been criticised by many for the warped power dynamics it promotes; with stalking, possessiveness and shady boundaries of consent, the relationship between the two protagonists is borderline abusive.

Andrea Zanin, a writer, academic and BDSM educator based in Toronto, puts it best: “(Fifty Shades of Grey) is just kinky enough to make people feel titillated, but it also keeps them comfortable with the classically unhealthy fairytale tropes they already know,” she tells Dazed. “The relationship between Christian and Ana is horrifically screwed up. Just because Christian has decent BDSM technique doesn’t negate that he’s an abusive, controlling stalker. Just because Ana enjoys the sex and (sometimes) the BDSM play doesn’t make her any less manipulative, jealous and judgemental. These two characters are a huge pile of toxic.”

The fact that this mess is being wrapped up in a bow and served up as a romantic ideal on Valentine’s is nothing but depressing; and even more depressing is the fact that so many brilliant musicians – Sia, The Weeknd, Beyoncé – have endorsed this ideal by contributing original music to the film. Not only have they endorsed it, but they’ve reflected it: Bey picked one of her most messed-up early songs to re-record for the soundtrack (think about the lyrics to “Crazy In Love”: “when I talk to my friends so quietly,/’who’d he think he is?’/looking what you did to me”) and The Weeknd is as skeevy as ever on “Earned It”.

This film is far from sexy, and so is the music that comes with it; so Dazed spoke to Andrea, Elise Peterson (writer for Adult Magazine and former dominatrix), and two professional dommes – Lady Grace Marie and Lady Lila Stern – to find out what would be on their ideal 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack. From the riot grrrl of rebellious youth to slinky, classic R&B, you can never predict exactly what might get you off: as well as the songs listed here, others mentioned included a range from Janet Jackson’s “Rope Burn” to the Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?” Here’s a cross-section of the music that these women find more exciting and more liberating than anything prescribed by Hollywood, both inside the dungeon and out.

ADINA HOWARD – "FREAK LIKE ME"

Elise Peterson: I vividly remember being seven and silently singing every word of this song riding in the back of my mom’s white Ford Fox. Adina Howard was ahead of her time. The world wasn’t ready to see a liberated black woman being so fluid about sex in her lyrics. I get my entire life singing her songs aloud as an adult now.

NICKI MINAJ FEAT. ARIANA GRANDE – "GET ON YOUR KNEES"

Lady Grace Marie: I'm currently all about the new Nicki Minaj album – particularly the song “Get On Your Knees”. It's a very popular song with a face-sitting shout out, and FemDomme power dynamics as the main theme. The popularity of this song reminds me that it's just such an amazing time to be a woman in the US.

ZEBRA KATZ FEAT. NJENA REDDD FOXXX – "IMA READ"

Lady Grace Marie: Are harsh scoldings and threats of violence sexy? I can’t speak for everyone, but I get excited when I hear this kind of posturing in a song. I mean, doesn’t everyone want to fuck the power? The art of talking shit is very powerful. 

NINE INCH NAILS – "CLOSER"

Lady Lila Stern: My dungeon playlist is a mix of songs that provoke me: sexually, sensually, erotically. Sometimes I use Pandora..it depends what type of session I'm doing. I recently started listening to the Frank Sinatra station during smoking fetish sessions. I love it! For more aggressive corporal sessions I listen to the Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson stations. I love “Closer.”

BIKINI KILL – "REBEL GIRL"

Lady Grace Marie: I started going to riot grrrl shows when I was 15 years old. Coming of age in the mid-90s was radical in that scene, because you could go to shows and there were definitely young men present, but there wasn't any pressure to flirt with them or pay them any attention at all. I was 15 and looking up at these bold women on stage talking about female supremacy and I really identified with their strength. My favorite song back in the day was “Rebel Girl”. That song is just so important. It's anti-slut shaming, anti-homophobia, pro-sisterhood (definitely not the crunchy hetero-normative kind). I’d say this music – the shows, the albums, the women making it and listening to it, and the aura around it – definitely shaped my worldview.

THE LUNACHICKS – "BUTT PLUG"

Lady Grace Marie: Honestly, It seems like everyone is playing with their butts nowadays, but in 1995? This song was radical at a time when butt stuff was still taboo. I remember sitting in seminar for Human Sexuality about three or four years after this song came out and my professor was saying that ass play/anal intercourse was the last taboo and I was thinking to myself “Really? Still?” I still love this jam 20 years later because it’s a very sweet song – it’s actually very romantic. It’s about two people who realize that they’re both kinky and falling in love, and it’s all because one of them couldn’t (or didn’t want to) hide their butt plug anymore. It’s also radical in a queer way, because it’s a love song for everyone. Butts: we all have them, you know? And the song is also pronoun-free – pretty rad for 95 if you ask me.

JESSE COOK – "FALL AT YOUR FEET"

Andrea Zanin: One of the songs I love, from a kink perspective, is totally not dungeon music. The song “Fall at Your Feet” by Jesse Cook is a beautiful expression of the desire to be of service, which is a key element of the dominant/submissive dynamics. The song reflects the purity of wanting to be of use to someone without presuming to decide what that looks like, and without expectation of outcome. It hits all the notes for me in terms of what I love about receiving service in a D/s dynamic. I’m sure Jesse Cook in no way intended for this to be a pervy song, but it taps into an essence I find very compelling.

PEACHES – "BOYS WANNA BE HER"

Lady Grace Marie: I used to listen to this track before every session because it's just so good! Other than being a really fucking great rock song, the lyrics paint a portrait of a self-taught sex goddess – the biggest, baddest bitch of them all.  We all have soundtracks for our different moods, and this is definitely the most important track from my "I'm-about-to-top-the-shit-out-of-you-and-you-will-remember-it-forever" soundtrack.

DIE ANTWOORD – "RICH BITCH"

Lady Grace Marie: This is one of my favorite songs of all time. On the surface it seems like it’s all about “fuck bitches, get money” but it’s so much deeper than that. It’s about pulling yourself out of a dysfunctional power dynamic and having the confidence to move beyond your own limiting circumstances in order to claim a throne that’s more true for you.

BJÖRK – "HUMAN BEHAVIOUR (UNDERWORLD REMIX)"

Andrea Zanin: I like how raw this track is, and how simply the lyrics speak to the mystery of human beings and the things we do. The deep bass and firm beat really work well for SM play, and the concept does too! It bugs me that people are endlessly curious about why folks are kinky. It places the focus on deviance as being the object that requires study, as opposed to placing the focus on the norm, on deconstructing and analysing why and how people fall into a kind of mainstream ordering of desires and behaviours rather than following their natures or exploring multiple possibilities. I like that Björk calls out how all humans are kind of unfathomable. I don’t know if that’s empowering, exactly, but it works for me.

DUET EMMO – "OR SO IT SEEMS"

Lady Grace Marie: I was listening to Duet Emmo the other day and I added the song “Or So it Seems” to one of my session playlists. This particular song feels like sex to me, but like sex meets the grotesque – like if a ghost came back to make love with it's still-living lover during the night.

FKA TWIGS – "PAPI PACIFY"

Elise Peterson: Play some FKA twigs and I feel an overwhelming urge to slow crawl on all fours or body roll. Specifically, "Papi Pacify" really does it for me. The first time I heard it, I was on a Youtube binge last year that started with “Water Me”, but it was “Papi Pacify” that really clenched me – similarly to how the sexy guy opposite twigs clenches her throat whilst simultaneously shoving his fingers down it. Ridiculously hot.

D’ANGELO – "UNTITLED (HOW DOES IT FEEL)"

Elise Peterson: Then there’s effortless sexy. When I need a jam that will forever win. These songs start in the soul and move through my pelvis. Cuts like D’Angelo’s  “How Does It Feel”, Al Green’s “I’m Still In Love With You,” or a newer classic like “Tone” by Quadron. I’d want to be in love with someone to share a moment over one of these.

ISLEY BROTHERS – "SENSUALITY"

Elise Peterson: Music is transformative. It has definitely played an integral role in creating a flow to my sessions (which is really important). The type of session I was conducting [as a former domme] would determine the genre I would go for. Isley Brothers’ Pandora station would always be great to help the sub(missive) relax. It’s an interesting paradox to be covered in sweat from flogging while Ron Isley croons softly in the background.

JEREMIH – "FUCK U ALL THE TIME"

Lady Grace Marie: The rhythm of my sessions in general is intimate and slow, careful. Jeremih is just about that same speed and he has this one track that really helps slow everything down called “Fuck You All The Time”. I’ve been told that I have this way of slowing down time with my voice and my movements, forcing people to ease into and out of session quietly. I can do all that and then some without music, but why would I when there are just so many great songs out there?