Most records would be far less smug, patchy and lazy if everybody followed Kanye's no-sex rule, reckons columnist Mark Beaumont
The best part of pre-marital sex, of course, is that it’s sinful. No-one would bother if it wasn’t for that added frisson of impending hellfire, like theological S&M. Even the worst one-night stand is enlivened by the fact that Jesus is right there, cry-wanking in a corner.
Often, I could only reach climax by imagining the Almighty watching on, furious that by consigning me to eternal damnation the very first time I’d had sex outside of wedlock, I was basically on a free pass forever and might as well go at it like Boris Johnson with an unlimited budget of public funds from the Department Of Mistress Silencing. Nothing makes me hornier than angering God. It’s why I have that court order banning me from living next door to anyone who owns an ox.
When it comes to making records, however, promiscuity has become a talent-killer. That’s why Kanye was right to ban anyone working on his album from having pre-marital sex during the recording period of ‘Jesus Is King’ – not for ridiculously pious religious reasons but to stop the music being smug, bland and self-satisfied.
Think about it – the tediousness of any male-led rap, hair metal or R&B track, genres more prone than most to non-wedded lasciviousness, is directly proportionate to the number of naked models or entrants in the Miami Poolside Buttock Clapping Championships who appear in the video, right? Look at Outkast: great songs by the one promising his estranged partner he’ll see their daughter through college, average tracks by the one with the strip club in his basement.
It’s an age-old issue. Back at the dawn of rock’n’roll, the initial frenzy of teen-screaming hormonal lust gave us the shag-happy early works of The Beatles, The Stones, The Who and The Doors, and morphed into the emancipating, kaftan-lifting free-for-all that was flower power (millennials, just imagine a psychedelic Magaluf Weekender).
But values were still such that most of the era’s rampant swashbucklers got hitched sharpish, and as the free-love ethos descended into ‘70s rock pig debauchery, all the casual sex that Led Zeppelin and their hard rock ilk were having made them think that, even onstage, people wanted their sloppy, semi-flaccid, self-serving solos to bang on repetitively for as long as the debilitating drugs of the day would allow them. The ones really getting it on in style in the early ‘70s were Marc Bolan and David Bowie, both married in 1970, just as their real pan-sexual intergalactic inspiration hit.
By the ‘80s, mainstream pop and rock music were as deeply engrained with limitless sexual adventure as YouTube is with Grammarly. And, similarly, all the shitter for it. While the new romantics were off systematically bedding the world’s fashion weeks and the hair rockers were laying the foundations for guitar music’s chronic gender imbalance, it was the long-attached likes of Elvis Costello and Robert Smith that were making the most exciting music, while Morrissey single-handedly launched several generations of indie rock based almost entirely around having a sex life that made choirboy Aled Jones look like a priapic Prince.
From that point on, copious unproblematic strings-free sex became a signifier of musical cliché (right, Jet?), while the best music read like an Inbetweeners script. Histories of the scene suggest that Britpop was essentially Gomorrah in sportswear, but from the sound of it, ‘90s indie sex was either mildly dangerous (Suede), tediously suburban (Sleeper), painfully unlubricated (Elastica) or conducted largely on one’s own in wardrobes (Pulp).
Ever since, the cockier, laddier bands have released albums stained with damp patches while most of the finest, most eloquent and impactful music has come from acts whose underwear sounds stapled on: Sufjan Stevens, Bright Eyes, Beirut, Vampire Weekend, The National.
This millennium, in the wake of Peaches and Khia, alt-pop women have been busy grabbing the battery-powered baton of sexual candidness in the hope of countering the ‘Blurred Lines’ chauvinism of a male-dominated industry, and more power to Nicki Minaj’s glutes in their ceaseless work to that end.
But if you’re a bloke making music, consider taking a leaf from Kanye’s book, as opposed to a sheath from Gene Simmons’. Imagine how much more fired-up, driven, passionate and hungry you’ll be on record, how much less disposed to slipping into a listless puddle of bluesy noodling or doing a ‘Shiny Happy People’ if you’re contractually obliged to stay celibate until it’s finished.
Don’t do it for some voyeuristic pervert God, do it for the vitality of music. And if you’re struggling with motivation for having zero sex for two months solid, just imagine you’re Christian Bale preparing to star in a biopic of your bassist.