1. Black Sabbath, “A National Acrobat”
Ozzy Osbourne had yet to become the world’s most weirdly lovable dad when Black Sabbath released “A National Acrobat” in 1973. By that point, though, he was a newly minted father—which makes the song’s cosmically acid-damaged account of the life of a human spermatozoon that much weirder. Between Osbourne’s trippy lines about reincarnation (maybe) and how great love is (perhaps) is an account of how “little worlds collide” on the cellular level to make babies and stuff. Many musicians throughout history have sung about sperm—for some strange reason or another—but on “A National Acrobat,” Osbourne holds the distinction of being the most poetic. Or at least the most brain-damaged.
2. RZA, “See The Joy”
Where Ozzy Osbourne is abstract and symbolic when singing about sperm, RZA hits it on the nose. The Wu-Tang Clan member’s 2003 song “See The Joy” is an extended, vividly detailed saga about his own insemination, up to and including how the sperm cell that ultimately consummated the deed beat out millions of others—or as RZA puts it, “I watch other sperm cells get ripped in half.” After a mini-lecture on genetics, RZA winds down the song’s theme of fallopian strife with the titular joy that makes the struggle for impregnation all worthwhile. Somehow, it actually sounds poignant.
3. Captain Sky, “Super Sporm”
It’s possible that RZA absorbed the idea of rapping about sperm after Wu-Tang referenced—on its song “Method Man”—the bizarre “Super Sporm” by ’70s funk misfit Captain Sky. If so, he wouldn’t be the only one; everything from Kurtis Blow’s “Super Sperm” to Boogie Down Productions’ “Super Hoe” samples “Super Sporm.” It’s not hard to see the appeal: In his alter ego as a Funkadelic-esque superhero, Captain Sky rides a rubbery beat while moaning enticingly, “Sporm will enfold you / If you just let it / Come inside / I know you will get it.” The intentional misspelling of “sperm” is as subtle as the song itself—that is, not in the least.
4. Master Wel, “When I Was A Sperm”
The mixture of sperm and funk—“spunk,” if you will—reached its apex with Master Wel’s “When I Was A Sperm.” Released in 1995 by legendary musician and former Nina Simone songwriter-bandleader Weldon Irvine (under his hip-hop pseudonym), the song rewinds Irvine’s life story all the way back to his conception, much in the way RZA does on “See The Joy.” But there’s a slinkier, slyer, more organic feel to Wel’s delivery. And once he rhymes “fetus” with “Adidas,” there’s just no contesting who’s the true master of sperm-centric rap.
5. Monty Python, “Every Sperm Is Sacred”
The granddaddy of all sperm songs appears in 1983’s Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life, and in typical Pythonian fashion, it takes the topic to the brink of climax—and beyond. On “Every Sperm Is Sacred,” Michael Palin portrays a Catholic father of dozens who is teaching his children why they, too, must not piss off God by wasting sperm. The anti-masturbation, pro-procreation anthem is irreverent as well as indelible, and its satirical subversion goes deeper than mere blasphemy. It’s a searing broadside at some of the fundamental tenets (and contradictions) of Catholicism, up to and including the moment when life supposedly begins. Or, as Palin so cheerfully sings, “You’re a Catholic the moment Dad came.”
6. Garrison Keillor, “Human Sperm Song”
As far back as the song-skits “Fatherhood” and “The Night Of The Living Sperm,” Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion has flirted with that most precious (or at least viscous) bodily fluid. Keillor’s “Human Sperm Song,” though, is the apotheosis of the radio show’s fixation on semen. “Nothing could be finer / Than to swim up a vagina,” Keillor sing-speaks in his wink-nudge voice. It’s the kind of titillating humor that might have once flabbergasted the fictional residents of Lake Wobegon. Today, though, it sounds corny at best—and like the rambling of someone’s dirty uncle at worst.
7. Billy Bragg, “The Milkman Of Human Kindness”
English folkster Billy Bragg has been known to spin a witty double entendre or two. But there’s nothing explicitly illicit about his 1983 song “The Milkman Of Human Kindness,” which seems like a simply play on the old phrase “the milk of human kindness” and the fact that Bragg is willing to “leave an extra pint.” But Bragg—who definitely has not been prudish when it comes to singing about sexuality, to the point where he actually has a song called “Sexuality”—clarified the true meaning of “Milkman” onstage in 1984. “This song involves a concept,” he told an audience in 1984, “the concept being that if there is a milk of human kindness […] there must be a milkman to deliver it. So this song is based on that concept. And for those of you who possibly don’t quite grasp that, this is a song about sperm.”
8. Sparks, “Tryouts For The Human Race”
Cult legend Sparks has long been a master of slipping wry, ribald subject matter into its precise, impeccable art-pop. That’s no better in evidence than on “Tryouts For The Human Race.” Released in 1979 and produced by disco/new-wave mastermind Giorgio Moroder, the track’s slick, pulsing sheen shields the racy lyrical content. “One of us might make it through / All the rest will disappear like dew,” sings frontman Russell Mael in an icy, emotionless croon, in spite of the fact that he’s adopting a sperm’s-eye view of the act of lovemaking. “When that love explosion comes / My, oh my, we want to be someone.” Rarely has the personification of spermatozoa been so catchy.
9. Heavenly, “Sperm Meets Egg, So What?”
Not all bands that sing about sperm seek to plumb the mystique of reproductive biology. Indie-pop outfit Heavenly all but demystifies the so-called miracle of conception in its 1994 song “Sperm Meets Egg, So What?” Singer-guitarist Amelia Fletcher addresses a pregnancy scare by making it quite clear to her lover that she has no intention of having a child so young—regardless of how “groovy” the sperm donor may think parenthood would be. “Just don’t tell me what to think / If it turns pink,” she says of her imminent pregnancy test. “Kids are dandy, kids are fine / When they’re not mine.”
10. Liz Phair, “H.W.C.”
Alt-rock singer-songwriter Liz Phair has never been shy when writing about sex (to put it lightly), and that strength has served her well—even when it erupts into a full-on mess. Her 2003 song “H.W.C.” is as hooky and sweet as anything she’s ever written, and it’s also her most blatantly explicit. “Gimme your hot white cum,” she sings in the chorus, clearing up what the title’s initials stand for. But she has a very specific reason for her love of semen: its fabled cosmetic properties. “My skin’s getting clear, my hair’s so bright,” she testifies. “You’re my secret beauty routine.”
11. Margaret Cho, “Gimme Your Seed”
“Go to the sperm bank and make a deposit / Bet it flows out of you like a faucet.” So sings comic Margaret Cho on her faux-new-wave song, “Gimme Your Seed.” Released in 2010, it’s not a love letter to semen à la Liz Phair; instead, it’s a combination thank-you/kiss-off to a sperm donor from a lesbian couple who appreciate his contribution to their family—and would now like him to kindly look the other way. “We don’t need you / We just need your seed,” Cho sings before putting a finer point on it: “No, you dumb asshole / We won’t let you watch us.”
12. Yeastie Girlz, “Sperm Brain”
In the late ’80s, hip-hop briefly overlapped proto-riot grrrl in Yeastie Girlz. The group’s 1988 EP, Ovary Action, became an underground hit for its outspoken, irreverent take on hardcore feminism. The semen-shunning “Sperm Brain” is a prime example. An a cappella rap about hetero men with too much sex on their mind, the song skips past theorizing or sermonizing and goes straight for the groin with lines like “This kind of guy is lower than a worm / He’s got nothing inside his head but sperm” and “Seen plenty of meat, baby, yours ain’t the best / Yeah, you’re a loser in the wienie contest.” Sometimes the most effective form of emasculation is strictly lyrical.
13. Heavy Heavy Low Low, “We Incompetent Sperm”
The noisy post-hardcore band Heavy Heavy Low Low is adept at plowing through surreal songs with a minimum of playing time and a maximum of weirdness. But there’s something single-mindedly coherent about the group’s 2010 song “We Incompetent Sperm.” Or not. “Mayonnaise hair soaked in piss” and “eyes as sad as the punished infant” are just two of the unsettling, disjointed images thrown about throughout the song’s minute-and-a-half onslaught. The lyrics may or may not be about sperm (or anything, really), but they do hint at one thing: There’s a good chance the sperm that fertilized the members of Heavy Heavy Low Low might have been incompetent indeed.
14. Queens Of The Stone Age, “Go With The Flow”
Taken alone, the lyrics to Queens Of The Stone Age’s heavy, hooky “Go With The Flow” don’t seem to be necessarily about semen—although the line “I can’t wash you off my skin” could certainly be interpreted that way. But factor in these points: The album the track appears on, 2002’s Songs For The Deaf, original sported cover art that featured a giant Q with a sperm cell squiggling through it. And in the end of the video for “Go With The Flow,” a softcore-porn scene starring QOTSA frontman Josh Homme culminates with a shower of sperm flying out of the car in which he’s fucking. The math has all but been done.
15. The Ex, “Gonna Rob The Spermbank”
Songs about sperm banks tend to run toward the funny and/or offensive (case in point: Anal Cunt’s “I Snuck A Retard Into A Sperm Bank”), but there’s something simply off-kilter about The Ex’s 1983 song “Gonna Rob The Spermbank.” Then again, The Ex is an off-kilter band—and the long-running Dutch art-punk outfit scrambles punk’s DNA on “Sperm Bank” via angular guitars, industrial beats, and yelped lyrics about how “We’re gonna steal all the sperm we need” and “Tomorrow we’ll make a wonderful baby.” Is it about eugenics? The coldness of modern sexuality? Consumer culture? Knowing The Ex, two things are certain: The intent is sardonic and scathingly political.
16. KMFDM, “Spit Sperm”
Like The Ex, German industrial stalwart KMFDM has a dark, sick, yet socially conscious sense of the absurd. And also of twisted metaphor—which makes it tricky to decipher the group’s 1997 “Spit Sperm.” In coded language, frontman Sascha Konietzko appears to be likening semen to the lies politicians feed the populace. Or the numbing opiate provided by television. Or the bullet of a gun. Whatever the underlying meaning, the Teutonically accented chorus of “Spit! Sperm! Spit! Sperm!” says all it needs to.
17. Death In June, “God’s Golden Sperm”
Sperm songs can run the gamut from silly to symbolic, from political to pornographic. On Death In June’s 1995 song “God’s Golden Sperm,” the mood is devotional—if not downright occult. “Divine, godlike, gold-like, sperm-like / We gather, we sow, we scheme” intones mastermind Douglas Pearce over a track of eerie, acoustic goth-folk. When he sings of sodomy as some kind of ritualistic transmission of arcane power—Pearce is proudly gay—sperm gets a more positive portrayal than it does in any semen-fixated song in the popular music canon. Religious, even.