Ranking the Filthy 15

Back in the 80s, Tipper Gore and other cultural conservatives went on a crusade against sex and violence in popular music. They put together a list of fifteen representative songs to use as a political football, known as the filthy 15.

Apropos of nothing, I’ll rank each song. Each will score between 1 and 4 filths, gaining one point for each of the following objective scientific criteria.

  1. 😳 Flushed: Would I be embarrassed if my grandmother heard me listening to this song?
  2. 🧠 Memorable: Does this filth get stuck in my head?
  3. 🪶 Poetic: Does it paint a vivid picture?
  4. 🍑 Fuckable: Would I have sex while listening to it?

Note: because of the content, you’ll have to click through to YouTube to listen to the songs.

“Darling Nikki” by Prince

Why Tipper hated it: Sex/masturbation

The song that set off the anti-music craze, it’s an undeniable classic off Purple Rain, an album with an embarrassment of classics. A strong contender for the best song on this list. It’s pretty dirty, too.

Speaking of embarrassment, how would I feel if my grandma heard me listening to this? The words “sex” and “masturbating” really pop out of the mix, and I think we’d both throw ourselves out the window at that point.

This absolutely gets stuck in my head, it paints a very frank, vivid picture, and this thing is so sexy, I’d bang a sand dune to this shit.

😳 🧠 🪶 🍑

“Sugar Walls” by Sheena Easton

Why Tipper hated it: Sex

Barely a metaphor, I hadn’t really listened to Sheena’s personal vagina explainer before. Pretty standard 80s pop. While it’s frankly insulting to metaphors to call the lyrics one, it’s just enough for my grandmother to not understand. The “blood races to your private spots” line is risky, but her hearing isn’t great. The lyrics are high level and vague, just thin innuendos, so no picture. But sure, it wouldn’t kill the mood.

🧠 🍑

“Eat Me Alive” by Judas Priest

Why Tipper hated it: Sex/violence

Not my favorite Priest song, off maybe my least favorite Priest album, this song is fine. Nothing concrete in the lyrics here, just vague innuendo. Tipper said this song advocated for oral sex at gun point, which is pretty intense, but in context the lyrics feel more “metal metaphors for a beej” instead of anything more sinister. Or interesting.

I’d be embarrassed if my grandmother heard me listening to it, not because of the lyrics, but because of the genre. She’d be so disappointed.

“Out of all the Judas Priest albums, you’re listening to Defenders of the Faith?” She’d say, pulling my ear.


“Strap On ‘Robbie Baby’” by Vanity

Why Tipper hated it: Sex

Pretty sure this was the first time I’ve heard this song when researching this piece. Pretty nasty riff, the guitars and synth combined sound like an 808 fucked a car. I might have to get into Vanity. Anyway, I couldn’t understand the lyrics at all, so there’s no chance my grandma could. As killer as the music is, I’ve already forgotten it now that YouTube is auto playing another Vanity tune called “Sex Shooter”. I do remember that I would absolute fuck to it, though.

Bonus points for the whip sound effect.

🍑 💥

“Bastard” by Mötley Crüe

Why Tipper hated it: Violence/language

The quintessential of-its-time hair metal band, they do have some catchy songs. While this might be the first time I’m hearing it, I think this is one of them. I couldn’t really understand the mumble-ass lyrics, but man would my grandma be upset if she heard me listening to this.

“Chris, you’re listening to Mötley Crüe? What year is it? Madone.”

😳 🧠

“Let Me Put My Love Into You” by AC/DC

Why Tipper hated it: Sex

This song was five years old by the time Tipper said it was rotting kid’s brains, so I guess it was pretty potent to still be doing the devil’s work out in the streets.

Off AC/DC’s commercial peak Back in Black, that album was the start of the clumsy-if-not-appalling Brian Johnson sex innuendo era, instead of the clever-if-not-appalling Bon Scott sex innuendo era. Despite all that, it’s a great song, it gets stuck in my head unprovoked, my grandma wouldn’t know what was happening but wouldn’t like it, so I wouldn’t like it, and honestly this has too much of a virgin dorm vibe for me to have sex to.

😳 🧠

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister

Why Tipper hated it: Violence

I don’t know why this song ended up on this list. Violence? The closest the lyrics get is Dee Snyder saying he’ll fight the powers that be. Sure, the whole song is anti-authority, and he says the word “fight” a few times. I don’t know, saying this is violent is a real stretch. Catchy tune though. My grandma would ignore this. We’re not gonna take it anymore is hardly a sex sentiment. We all prefer I Wanna Rock.


“Dress You Up” by Madonna

Why Tipper hated it: Sex

Pretty tame silk sheet boudoir lyrics. The most explicit they get is during the chorus, when Madonna lets you know that she’ll dress you up in her love, all over your body. So, sex. Pretty fun song, but nothing special, especially given Madonna’s catalog. The lyrics paint the vaguest picture, to the point where I feel like I’m in a blank room more than anything. My grandmother would find this unobjectionable. I guess I’d fuck to this in a pinch, and I use that term advisedly.


“Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” by W.A.S.P.

Why Tipper hated it: Sex/language/violence

Whoa, kick it up, it’s W.A.S.P.! Straight out of the gate, Blackie Lawless is bragging about his nudie pictures next to his bed, then starts talking about smells. Holy shit, that’s a picture! I never listened to W.A.S.P. before this, and while the lyrics descend into standard hair metal sex talk, verging into pretty gross misogyny, Blackie’s voice has a real compelling power amidst the slick buzz-saw guitars on this tune. I would rather die than let my grandma catch me listening to it. This song also has the power to evaporate genitals.

😳 🧠 🪶

“High ’n’ Dry (Saturday Night)” by Def Leppard

Why Tipper hated it: Drug and alcohol use

Another one I don’t think I’ve ever heard before researching this piece. Pretty forgettable stadium rock. I don’t understand why this song in particular gets on the filthy list for alcohol use; there’s so many popular booze tunes, and this one isn’t any more explicit on the topic than any other. Also, why the hell is everyone wearing Def Leppard shirts now? Fucking Def Leppard? My grandmother would fall asleep to this song. I don’t have sex at frat parties, so this song is out on that count as well.


“Into the Coven” by Mercyful Fate

Why Tipper hated it: Occult

Finally, mixing up the theme! Forget sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, “Into the Coven” gets on the naughty list for the occult! This is definitely the first time I heard this song. Starting off with a medieval mandolin-ish intro, then going into bog standard head bang riff with a Rob Halford-ish high note vocal, it’s totally ish. I couldn’t understand the vocal, so I had to look up the lyrics to get that sweet, sweet devil text.

Howl like a wolf
And a witch will open the door
Follow me
And meet our high priestess
Come, come into my coven
And become Lucifer’s child

Yep, that’s occult, and it’s painting a pretty vivid picture. Fun stuff! It repels sex. I thought my grandmother would be offended, but when I performed the ritual to contact her from beyond the grave, she was fine with it.


“Trashed” by Black Sabbath

Why Tipper hated it: Drug and alcohol use

Certainly not the first Sabbath song anyone thinks of—or the thirty-first, really—it’s more of a cautionary drunk driving tale from the one-off Ian Gillan era than anything scandalous. The story is specific and clear, and the riff is solid if unmemorable. I don’t think any of Black Sabbath’s music get within the same post code as an aphrodisiac. My grandma would appreciate how the nice boys are educating people about the dangers of alcohol.


“In My House” by Mary Jane Girls

Why Tipper hated it: Sex

What a fun bop. Great hook. Lyrics are pretty tame, and vague, even by 1980s standards! But yeah, they’re about sex. It does make me dance, so maybe that adds extra scandal to it. It’s so catchy, and in an uncomfortable couplet, I would both have sex to this song and dance with my grandmother to it.

🧠 🍑

“Possessed” by Venom

Why Tipper hated it: Occult

One more occult tune! It starts with the lyric, “Look at me, Satan’s child” amidst foreboding guitars, so already more thematically occult feeling than Into The Coven. Darker, more alienated, and far less commercial than anything else on this list. This feels actually worthy of a moral panic, which makes it feel a lot more fun than it actually is. Pretty neat double bass drum breakdown section, though. This one is way too antisocial for sex. It’s so antisocial, that it would be a humiliating social experience for my grandma to catch me listening to it.

😳 🪶

“She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper

Why Tipper hated it: Sex/masturbation

Ah, the perennial classic. Great song, so catchy, with specific lyrics that really do paint a picture despite their heavy euphemisms. Of course I’d have sex to this tune, and, thank God, my grandmother would absolutely not understand the lyrics.

🧠 🪶 🍑

Final thoughts

To no one’s surprise, the best song on this list, according to science, is Prince’s Darling Nikki, with She Bop a close second. The hidden gem is Vanity’s Strap On ‘Robbie Baby’. The worst is whatever that Def Leppard song was.

Thanks Tipper!