"I want to remind people of a different kind of glamour, a different look, and breaking the rules of fashion. I wanna break the rules." - Dita Von Teese, Burlesque icon and musician
Are you a budding burlesque dancer? Are you putting on a show soon? Or are you curious about the raw and raunchy world of burlesque and thinking of dipping your toes in the water?
Whatever your burlesque-based intentions, you can't enjoy the artform to its full capacity without the right music.
Sound and vision are two of the essential elements of burlesque - second to you and your costume, of course - and if you want to get started the right way, here are five brilliant songs to burlesque to - enjoy.
Suzy Q - Dale Hawkins
Recorded in 1957 during the riper stages of the rockabilly era, Suzie Q captures the true spirit of Louisiana with an irresistible hook, hip shaking melody and downright dirty groove.
This sexy arrangement has proved popular throughout the decades, spawning exceptional cover versions from The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Suzi Quatro (a 'Suzie Q' in her own right) - but if you want to really put on a burlesque show, the original is still the best.
Fun fact: Back in the day, as it were, Suzie Q (or Suzy Q) was the name of a popular dance step in the Big Apple, Lindy Hop, and other dance forms. In line dances, this particular step is also termed as Heel Twist or Grind Walk.
Harlem Nocturne - Earl Bostic
As one of the true pioneers of post-war rhythm & blues, Earl Bostic knew a thing or two about making a tune that has the power to move even the most statuesque of dancers.
In 'Harlem Nocturne', Mr Bostic's irresistible saxophone work and quintessentially cool vibes make the ingredients of one of the world's most iconic burlesque songs - and whether you're a veteran or you're starting out in your bedroom, dancing to this is a must.
Fun Fact: Earl's musical talent and unique style had a significant influence on John Coltrane, one of the kings of cool jazz.
Howlin’ Wolf - Back Door Man
Written by Willie Dixon and performed by the unmistakable Howlin' Wolf, ‘Back Door Man’ is one of the planet's most raw, groovy, seedy and mesmerising songs - and if you're looking to add a big fat dose of deep down, no-messin' blues to your burlesque performance, you simply have to put this on your list.
Even Howlin' Wolf's husky spoken intro could be used as an effective part of your burlesque performance and if you're looking for a slightly different flavour of the song, The Door's' cover is an excellent alternative.
Fun Fact: In Southern culture, the term 'back-door man' refers to a man having an affair with a married woman, using the back door as an exit before the husband returns home. A true indication of the song’s sleazy tongue and cheek nature.
Joy Division - She’s Lost Control
Not a song you'd usually associate with burlesque dance, this mile-a-minute piece from Manchester's very own Joy Division is perfect if you're looking to add an alternative, gothic and intense edge to your performance.
The driving rhythm section, harsh ambient sounds and driving hook will have your burlesque dancing stepping up a notch or three, stopping your audience in their tracks (prepare for jaws to drop).
Not your regular burlesque song - as we said - but if you’re going for that sexy shock factor, this you really should give this tune a try.
Fun Fact: On 20 July 1976, childhood friends Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook (the band's bassist and guitarist, respectively) attended a Sex Pistols show at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall (separately). Inspired, the next day Hook borrowed £35 from his mother to buy his first bass guitar.
Lady Marmalade - Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, Pink
Okay, this may be a little skewed towards the mainstream pop end of the musical spectrum, but, due to its heavy burlesque leanings, we feel it's a sensational, almost classic (in a contemporary sense), song to burlesque to.
Sexy, eclectic and lathered in sensual rhythms, you can really let loose and express yourself with this one - perhaps even more so than the original by Labelle (although this is still incredible) - so don't discount it as an option, embrace it - you won't look back.
The rap in the middle will also add a bouncy edge to your burlesque performance.
Fun Fact: This song was originally inspired the prostitutes of New Orleans; the French Quarter is near the city's red-light district.
"Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don't understand the language that you're singing in, they still know good music when they hear it." - Lou Rawls
We hope our five brilliant songs to burlesque to have given you the inspiration to get up, put on your most stunning costume and move as you've never done before. If you're looking to really spice up your outfit, check out our glamorous range of burlesque clothing & accessories.
Which would you pick for your opening act? Let us know in the comments section!
cover image : Billboard