The Music and Art of Tease: Top Burlesque Styles Today and Songs to Go With Them
The Music and Art of Tease: Top Burlesque Styles Today and Songs to Go With Them
When it comes to masterful performances, burlesque shows absolutely take the cake in terms of creativity and uniqueness. Combining different seductive dances with themed music and the iconic art of the striptease, burlesque has become a staple of the underground performance scene, and the scope of the styles of burlesque performances has grown immensely since its inception.
From mainstream styles like classic burlesque to more avant-garde, niche performances like nerdlesque or gothic burlesque, there is definitely a style to suit everyone in all taste backgrounds, guaranteed. Best of all? We’ve included music to fit the burlesque artistry.
What Is Classic Burlesque?
Classic burlesque is just how it sounds — timeless and elegant. Taking a sexy spin on traditional vaudeville shows by adding tassels, fringe, feathers, and corsets to the performance creates a sultry and intriguing show. The so-called Golden Age of Burlesque, ranging from the early 1900s to the 1930s, showcased the elegance and opulence of classic burlesque performances, cementing their legendary impact for years to come.
Representing the midcentury classic style of burlesque here, Tempest Storm (born Annie Blanche Banks), also dubbed “The Queen Of Exotic Dancers, started dancing in the 1950’s and performed well into her 80’s simply for the love of her craft. She passed away last year in 2021 at the age of 93 years old.
Tempest Storm was famous the world over for her flame-red tresses and vaunted 40-inch bust. As a burlesque performer she played stages in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, the Bay Area, London and elsewhere, she was reported to earn $100,000 a year in the mid-1950s—which is about the equivalent of $950,000 today!
Songs for Classic Burlesque Tease
Some songs that perfectly outline this style and help set the scene include the following.
“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” by Marilyn Monroe
This Marilyn Monroe hit is an almost essential staple of the classic burlesque performance, incorporating opulence and sex appeal into one diamond-studded package.
“Fever” by Peggy Lee
Nothing says hot more than having a Fever, and Peggy Lee’s 1958 hit single is sure to be a hot track for an even hotter performance.
“Love for Sale” by Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt is an iconic performer, known for her distinct performances and sultry demeanor, making her music perfect for a classic burlesque performance.
What Is Neo-Burlesque?
Neo burlesque has emerged as a newer, more updated form of burlesque performance that bases its styles on classic burlesque attributes, coupled with newer, more modern burlesque themes and music.
The beauty of neo-burlesque is its ability to incorporate more current events and modern themes into such a timeless performance art, especially when concerning the soundtrack for these shows.
Neo-burlesque performers strut their stuff in front of audiences that appreciate their playful brand of pro-sex feminism.
Below we are exploring just a few of the many types of neo-burlesque you might discover at a show today. Want to discover your own style? Be sure to take our burlesque personality quiz at the end to reveal your own signature strip tease persona!
Incorporating elements of classical burlesque performance with male-fronted performances create the ultimate fantasy. Ranging from fetish performances to cabaret dances, boylesque brings a macho energy to the burlesque scene, forging a new path for performers and viewers alike.
Song for Boylesque Tease
Choosing boylesque songs and music can be hard, but here are some tracks that are bound to get the crowd excited.
“Macho Man” by The Village People
An iconic classic, Macho Man helps transform any boylesque performance with the flair of The Village People, adding in a queer-fronted play on traditional masculinity.
“Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard
This sexy 80s ballad is sure to rile up the crowd, and using its sexy lyrics, paired with the right 80s hair metal outfit, you’re sure to embody a young Joe Elliot in his prime.
“The Way I Are” by Timbaland, Keri Hilson, D.O.E
This 2007 club hit may seem out of place, but with the upbeat rhythm and punchy lyrics, this song would be perfect for a boylesque performance.
Drag and burlesque are extremely similar, especially from a performance standpoint. Over-the-top costumes and campy lip sync performances are hallmarks of both styles, and when combined, create the masterpiece that is drag burlesque.
Songs for Drag Burlesque Tease
Music choice is key for these performances, helping convey certain sensual styles and embody the energy of certain artists.
“Mistress Violet” by Violet Chachki, Allie X, Lecomte De Bregeot
Not only does Violet Chachki herself perform burlesque dances, but her music is heavily geared toward the burlesque scene, so any track of hers is worthy of a burlesque performance.
“Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande
In 2018, drag artist Florida Man went viral lip syncing this song in a drag burlesque show while dressed as Voldemort, creating the perfect blend of camp and sexiness that is a central theme for drag burlesque.
“Streets” by Doja Cat
In all honesty, any song by Doja Cat could work for a drag burlesque performance, but out of her whole catalog, no other track has the same super dose of sensuality as Streets, making it a perfect choice for a drag burlesque performance.
Coy or Innocent Burlesque
As performer Ann Corio famously said, innocence is the only virtue that can truly “drive a man wild.” While many burlesque styles at least begin with an element of coy teasing, this burlesque genre takes innocence to a whole new level.
Songs for Coy or Innocent Burlesque
Music choices that toe the line between innocence and tease can help transform a bashful belle into a coy seductress in the span of a few bars.
“I Want to Be Loved By You” by Marilyn Monroe
This Marilyn Monroe hit seems made for coy/innocent burlesque–and that’s probably because Marilyn herself was the epitome of coquettish sex appeal.
“My Heart Belongs to Daddy” by Ella Fitzgerald
What’s more innocent than a Daddy’s girl? This song has the ideal blend of the big-band sound that really knocks the burlesque element out of the park and lyrics that speak to any coy/innocent performer.
“I Am a Good Girl” by Christina Aguilera
From the original motion picture “Burlesque,” Christina’s rendition of this song not only literally declares how “good” the performer really is, but it also doubles down on the fact that innocent burlesque is all about putting on a good show.
Country or Hillbilly Burlesque
Howdy partner! For those with a taste for country music and cabaret, country or hillbilly burlesque is sure to be the perfect combination! Combining cowboy hats with sequins and fringe, these performances add a little country twang to your traditional burlesque performance.
Songs for Country or Hillbilly Burlesque Tease
When it comes to burlesque songs and music, there’s no better option than classic country songs.
“Outlaw Women” by Hank Williams Jr.
In this slow, sultry ballad, Hank Williams Jr. combines cool instrumentals and smooth vocals to create the ultimate love song for the subtle femme fatale of the frontier — the outlaw woman. Embodying her energy is sure to create an amazing country burlesque show.
“Roses Are Falling” by Orville Peck
Although a newer country artist, Peck’s style channels the style of classic country with his seductive Western love songs. Nothing says country love affair more than “Roses are Falling,” making it perfect for a burlesque performance.
“Bad Things” by Jace Everett
This twangy, mysterious song is all about passion and following through with your desires with the person you’re after. What about that doesn’t scream “perfect for a striptease?”
The rockabilly style is a combination of 50s rock and roll with classic blues, and when mixed with burlesque, the resulting aesthetic is truly unique. Embodying more pinup styles, rockabilly burlesque relies on structured corsets, patterned dresses, and specific hairstyles used to emulate the styles of the 40s and 50s, with performers mimicking vintage pinup girl drawings as part of the act.
Songs for Rockabilly Burlesque Tease
Blending together blues and country with early rock and roll, rockabilly music plays the perfect background for burlesque, providing smash hits like these.
“I Can’t Hardly Stand It” by The Cramps
Coming out of the punk scene, the Cramps created a unique brand of rockabilly music that had a darker, slightly Halloween-y vibe to it. However, they became a staple rockabilly band in the genre. With their song “I Can’t Hardly Stand It,” they create a sexy, bluesy hit that’s perfect for a rockabilly burlesque playlist.
“Love Whip” by The Reverend Horton Heat
The Reverend Horton Heat is one of the biggest rockabilly groups to date, and any rockabilly burlesque performance would be incomplete without a mention of their music. This song, with its bluesy instrumentals and soulful lyrics, blend together to create a piece that’s perfect for a burlesque performance.
“In Dreams” by Roy Orbison
This song, made famous by its use in David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” is the perfect slow tempo rockabilly track for a burlesque performance, simultaneously embodying the best of the genre with the sultriness of burlesque.
On the less traditional side of burlesque, the “nerdlesque” movement blends together the traditional performance of classical burlesque with quirky, fun routines based around video games, comic books, and other major sources of nerd media. Blending these styles, routines can range from sexy cosplay lip syncs to full scene reenactments.
Songs for Nerdlesque Tease
Choosing a soundtrack for these performances can range based on the kind of performance you’re doing, but for some true nerdy tracks, be sure to check these out.
“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.
From the iconic theme song comes the opportunity for interesting characters to cosplay, and “Ghostbusters” is an excellent franchise to pull references from for a nerdlesque performance. From the Ghostbusters themselves to the Stay-Puft marshmallow man, the possibilities for this performance are endless!
“The Diva Dance” by Eric Serra
One of the most iconic characters that comes to mind from any geeky media is definitely the Diva from “The Fifth Element,” from her gorgeous voice to her stunning blue complexion. Pairing a performance of her signature song with a full-blown cosplay is sure to create a memorable nerdlesque performance.
“The Bridge of Khazad Dum” by Howard Shore
The possibilities for a nerdlesque performance centered around “The Lord of the Rings” series are seemingly endless, and this power-packed hit from the soundtrack to the first movie in the series is sure to inspire a truly nerd-filled performance.
Replete with glamorous costumes, decadent accessories, and enough showy elegance to fill any Vegas stage, many showgirl burlesque performances strike the pinnacle of both tease and luxury. However, burlesque legends like Dita Von Teese have managed to hit that same glamorous note with an intimate routine that focuses on the true star power of the solo performer. Whether the routine features a nightclub singer, a pop star, or a true Vegas showgirl, showgirl burlesque can bring out the diva in all of us.
Songs for Showgirl Tease
Songs for showgirl tease tend to focus on the star power of the performer. Check out these tracks for some showgirl tease ideas.
“Respect” by Aretha Franklin
This song from one of the original divas has both the energy and the element of tease needed to carry a showgirl-worthy burlesque performance.
“Poker Face” by Lady Gaga
Full of references to gambling and brimming with sex appeal, “Poker Face” can help take any Vegas-themed routine to the next level.
“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone
This sultry, soulful number just screams intimate nightclub performance–and that’s exactly where many burlesque performers choose to take this classic.
Flapper Style Burlesque
Flapper burlesque style is perhaps the ultimate vintage burlesque style. The era of speakeasies and flapper girls stretched from the 1920s well into the 40s. Today, performers keep the Roaring Twenties alive with costumes featuring feathers, garter belts, and a whole lot of fringe.
Songs for Flapper Tease
It’s important that song selections for flapper tease truly speak to the Golden Age of the flapper, and we think these options are a great start.
“Charleston” by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
The Charleston was the dance craze of the 1920s, and today, burlesque flapper performers can use it to effectively capture the essence of the flapper era.
“Fascinating Rhythm” by Ella Fitzgerald
This number, originally by George Gershwin, is beautifully performed by Ella Fitzgerald. She lends that flapper girl mystique to one of the premiere songs of the era.
“All That Jazz” by Catherine Zeta-Jones
“Chicago” the musical pays homage to the Jazz Age, and this seductive performance is a great fit for flapper burlesque.
Circus burlesque is a mix of flirty, funny, and freaky–sometimes over the top, but always sexy. Performers take costume cues from the greatest show on earth itself, and use the essence of the carnival to make each act unique. From aerobatics and clown performances to simple tease in a costume fit for the big top, circus burlesque offers performers the opportunity to truly go all-out.
Songs for Circus Tease
To truly exude circus-centric charm, look for songs that fit that big top vibe. We suggest:
“Circus” by Britney Spears
This modern circus hit is all sex appeal and no creepy clowns–unless you’re into that sort of thing! Crank up this Britney Spears number, choose a feathered boa, and tailor a routine around the infamous music video.
“Freakshow” by The Tiger Lilies
“Freakshow” truly hits that delicate balance between sexy and strange, with its zany accordion riffs and rhythmic beat. This number could be wonderful in a circus freak themed routine.
“Big Time Boogie” by Sounds of the Circus
Sometimes, a true circus entrance number is just the ticket. This number was featured in the Ringling Brothers shows for years, and has just enough bounce to make a great burlesque or tease performance really pop.
Dark and Gothic Burlesque
There’s something inherently sexy about sinfulness, and as a result, more dark or demonic striptease acts have become wildly popular in the burlesque scene. Elements of traditional goth clothing emulate burlesque styles, from black lace to corsets, the mix of goth styles and burlesque performances is a match made in heaven.
Songs for Dark or Demonic Tease
To achieve this overtly macabre performance style, look for music that embodies this dark, sometimes demonic, energy.
“Wicked Game” by HIM
This cover of Chris Isaak’s 1989 sultry love song is given a goth twist with harder guitars and HIM vocalist Ville Valo’s vampy vocals, perfect for a sultry striptease that would make any goth swoon.
“Hau Rock” by KMFDM
Between disorienting German lyrics to a heavily industrial instrumental backing, this song is sure to conjure up dark, demonic imagery that redefines the idea of “demon time.”
“Atrophy” by 3TEETH
This song’s heavy industrial backbeat and its sampled introduction by famous psychologist Christopher Hyatt create the perfect combination for a sexy, scary burlesque performance.
“Pain” by Boy Harsher
Synth masters Boy Harsher have made a track reminiscent of the post-punk era of the 1970s, but with an added industrial harshness that makes the listener somewhat disoriented, perfect for a demon-themed routine.
What Are Some Other New Burlesque Styles?
When it comes to modern day burlesque, it seems anything goes. Here are some additional burlesque themes you might see at a shows these days:
- Rock Burlesque
- Tiki Style
- Traditional Fan Dance
- Humorous or Controversial
- Jazz Age
- And so many more!
Simply find your favorite—or several—and immerse yourself in the art of tease.
With a wide array of styles to choose from, the possibilities regarding burlesque are limitless, and embracing your creativity is the first step toward finding a style that fits your aesthetic while finding something new that can help redefine your taste.
Whether you prefer classic burlesque styles or would absolutely love to see Han Solo lip sync to “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi, there is an infinite realm of possibilities for interesting burlesque songs and music performances.
Discover your burlesque style with our quiz and get ideas for your next show. Not a performer? Take the quiz anyway, it’s super fun and, who knows, you might be inspired to try a little strip tease, even if it’s just for yourself at home (or your fans only account, you do you boo!).