Pop On The Pole: Frank Ocean’s ‘Pyramids’ Joins Long Tradition Of Songs About Stripping
Frank Ocean‘s Channel Orange is blowing our minds, and we’re still trying to piece our brains back together three days after its surprise midnight release. But the one thing we know immediately is that “Pyramids” is a song for the ages. Over the course of 10 minutes Ocean crafts an epic dreamscape of love and power that morphs into a hazy tale about a stripper. That got us thinking — there are A LOT of pop songs about stripping! Not surprisingly, they’re usually celebrating the profession. Surprisingly, they’re often big hits on the charts. So that means we’re not alone in loving these 11 songs about strip clubs and the women dancing in them.
Frank Ocean, “Pyramids” Channel Orange is primed for a strong sales debut, and much of that is due to the strength of this cut, which Ocean leaked in early June. The mythical first half of the song speaks of doomed love and Cleopatra and pyramids. The second half snaps back into the warped reality of a stripper named Cleopatra who dances at The Pyramid. See what he did there? With lyrics like “Put your panties on in the mirror / then your lipstick / then your six inch heels…She’s working at The Pyramid tonight,” it’s only fitting that John Mayer is allegedly responsible for the guitar cameo at the end.
T-Pain, “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper)” The gold standard in stripper odes hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2005 and went on to go three times Platinum. Think of how many moms had to listen to this in their minivans for that to happen. In case you thought the title was maybe referencing a girl in the strip-mining industry, T-Pain gets the point across with the lines “She comin’ down from the ceiling to the floor” and “She climbin’ that pole.”
Wyclef Jean, “Perfect Gentleman” Less carnal than T-Pain’s, here’s another song about a man who falls in love with a stripper. Wyclef sings about taking the exotic dancer of his dreams to Mexico and proudly telling his mom he’s in love with a stripper, yo. Anecdotally, we remember this song being huge in the summer of 2001, but it turns out it didn’t even crack the Hot 100.
Eminem feat. Nate Dogg, “Shake That” This 2006 cut from Eminem‘s greatest hits compilation Curtain Call was nominated for a Grammy and peaked at #6 on the charts. Key lyrics include: “Shakin’ that ass on the floor / bumpin’ and grindin’ that pole / the way she’s grindin’ that pole / I think I’m losin’ control.” And Em offers up an essential reminder: “Hit the strip club, don’t forget ones.”
Tina Turner, “Private Dancer” The other songs included on this list all glorify the idea of stripping. Perhaps it’s because they’re mostly performed by men? In comes Tina Turner with her inescapable 1984 hit, with lyrics that are depressing and robotically straight-forward: “I’m your private dancer / a dancer for money / I’ll do what you want me to do.” This song, from the album of the same name, topped out at #7.
Beyonce, “Dance For You” While Tina’s dancer does it for money, Beyonce‘s does it for love. Leave it to Bey to take the typically skeezy act of lap-dancing and turn it into a romantic (but still steamy) exhibition. “Tonight I’m gonna dance for you / Tonight I’m gonna put my body on your body / Boy I like it when you watch me.” No wonder it has over 20 million Youtube hits (and by extension, 20 million people saying “Jay-Z, you are one lucky dude.”)
N*E*R*D, “Lapdance” “Lapdance” was the first single released by superproducer Pharrell Williams‘ N*E*R*D project, and in 2001 the banger hit #29 on the rap charts (which is pretty paltry for Pharrell). But it was played in just about every movie and college party for the next two years. This song also has the singular distinction of comparing politicians to strippers who offer free lap dances.
Chris Rock, “No Sex (in the Champagne Room)” It may have been a spoken-word joke song, but Chris Rock‘s spoof of “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” blew up MTV in 1999 and introduced the masses to the concept of the champagne room. The title became an everlasting tenant of strip club culture, and Wyclef even referenced it later in “Perfect Gentleman.” Circle of life.
Christina Aguilera, “Show Me How You Burlesque” Behold the rare female anthem to stripping (“Up on the table she’ll be dancing all night…get your ass up and show me how you burlesque”), from the tepidly received movie Burlesque. The song peaked at #70, but got to #42 on the Digital chart. Interestingly, this outperformed the film’s similarly themed lead single, “Express.”
Britney Spears, “Gimme More” Alright, so this one isn’t about strip clubs, but the entire video takes place in one, with Britney getting her exotic dance on. We had to include it, duh, because it’s Britney, bitch!
Madonna, “Open Your Heart” Like “Gimme More,” this 1986 hit (#1 for 18 weeks) makes the list for visual content, not lyrical content. It starts off with Madonna as a performer in a peep show (how quaint!), but then the concept disintegrates. Was the little kid trying to get into the peep show because he was a horny kid, or just because he wanted to dance around with Madge in matching suits? The ’80s were weird.