Sex and Song: Blonde Redhead, “23”
So much music creates a path to enjoy, complicate, and understand sex. As someone who makes music and has also struggled in love, it occurred to me that musicians might have a unique perspective on sex and love, especially as viewed through the filter of music. But you don’t need to be a musician to feel the intimate link between music and sex. I created the “Sex and Song” series for anyone who loves both. (And that’s a lot of us, right?) Each week a different musician will write about a song that has moved them in some way relating to sex, love, or a combination of the two. And it seems only fair to start with me.
I’ve loved Blonde Redhead since I first heard them. And I’ve always thought of them in terms of sex—one listen and it is hard not to. Blonde Redhead has seen me through so many experiences, both positive and painful. They occupy a very specific, very special place for me. I was often reluctant to talk about them with partners because they were simply mine. Privately.
When 23 came out, I didn’t think I could possibly relate to it as much as I had their earlier records, In Expression of the Inexpressible, La Mia Vita Violenta, and Fake Can Be Just as Good. Nevertheless, I listened to this record alone in my room—and, when the title track came on, something inside me shifted.
Your tainted heart, my tainted love… He was a friend of mine. He was a son of god. He was a son of a gun.
I cried. I’ve experienced a lot of loss romantically. I’ve survived intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Sexuality has not always been a source of joy for me. But—thankfully—sex and love have also been sources of great restoration. Of forgiveness. Of rebirth. Even now—in a happy, loving, stable, and healthy relationship—as I listen to “23,” I carry with me so much that came before. Memories surge.
How many times?
This song consistently provides me with immense peace—even with parts of my history that don’t afford much of that. I want solace. I want to be reminded of that which is sacred. Blonde Redhead offers me this. And I’m immeasurably glad they do.
Katy Otto is an activist, writer, record label owner, and drummer for Trophy Wife. She grew up in the DC area, lives in Philadelphia, and works in social justice and arts communications.