Fred and Richard Fairbass from Right Said Fred.
Photo: Tim Roney/Getty Images
It’s those eternal, evergreen words that are passed down from song to song as if sent from heaven: “I’m too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts.” This old adage comes from the English duo Right, of course Said Fred and her 1991 anthem “I’m Too Sexy”.
A delightfully narcissistic track devoted to self-empowerment (at least this is one of them), the band’s novel ode to shaking small asses, dominated culture on release, peaking at number one in several countries and catapulting brothers Richard and Fred Fairbrass to the forefront of public consciousness. In 2022, its impact on the cultural zeitgeist is surprisingly profound: last year we heard this refrain on Drake’s chart-topping Way 2 Sexy, and again on Beyoncé’s latest record, Alien Superstar. Renaissance.
Bey’s take is followed here (mostly) by any interpolation of “I’m too sexy for [INSERT THING HERE]” riff ranked by how sexy it really is.
“Alien Superstar”, Beyoncé
Beyoncé’s role as an ethereal maiden goddess is fully realized in this outstanding album. Almost all of Renaissance is an ode to the self, so it’s only fitting that a song that includes instantly quotable lines like “Category: bad bitch, I’m the bar” is the most quotable tribute to the self there is. “I’m too classy for this world,” she sings over rousing synthesizers and Honey Dijon production. It’s Beyoncé, so we believe her, but the lines are flipped so well that they would land no matter who managed to sing them.
“Look what you got me doing,” Taylor Swift
One of the most creative uses of the original, and perhaps a favorite. On “Look What You Made Me Do,” Taylor gives the Fairbrass brothers credit for the chorus on their monster hit. Unlike the others on this list, it doesn’t highlight any of the lyrics; It’s the simple cadence Swift uses that might have slipped under the radar if she and perennial good guy Jack Antonoff hadn’t thrown a bone at the duo. It’s also a favorite of Right Said Fred: In their Rolling Stone Interview Fred Fairbass said: “I like the cynical aspect of the lyrics [in “Look What You Made Me Do”]because ‘I’m Too Sexy’ is a cynical song and I think she channeled that pretty well.”
“Too cocky”, YG
Hip-hop’s usage of Right Said Fred tends to extremes that are either incredibly appropriate or terribly out of place (as seen later in the list). Luckily YG’s take is from his third studio album, stay dangerous, belongs to the former. The pride inherent in the original is part of the charm; YG takes advantage of the duo’s hubris with ease. “I’m too cocky for my shirt…too cocky, I know my worth.” Exactly, king!
“Liver Portal”, Nmesh
Unlike most other entries on the list, electronic producer Nmesh uses a sample of “I’m Too Sexy” for 2017’s track “Hepatic Portal”. Without the help of whosampled.com, the clips might not catch the eye of an untrained ear, but an engaged Fred head would appreciate the deep, resonant voice alongside Katy Perry and an obscure Dr. Recognize Seuss film. If you’ve ever listened to an Against All Logic record and clocked the samples in real time, this is for you.
“More Than Money,” Kooley High
Kooley High’s “More Than Money” only came out four years ago, but it was a perfect fit for the breezy, Wiz Khalifa-edging blog-rap of the late 2000s and early 2010s. There’s a lightness to it, an impeccably produced track with a strolling bassline; when the insertion of Right Said Fred comes into the track nearly three minutes into the track, it’s so playful you can hear rapper Charlie Smarts smiling on the other side. It’s goofy and reflects the ethos of the original.
“Get sexy,” Sugababes
That one kind straddles the range of categories here – I’m not nearly as familiar with the Sugababes as I should be (sorry Brits), and most of the song gives C-tier Danity Kane. But regardless of what Right Said Fred intended the song to be – tongue-in-cheek, self-serious or otherwise – they always put their heart into the song. This track is followed by the Sugababes, assisted by writing and producing by the Smeezingtons.
“Neva Faded” – Lords of the Underground feat. Supreme C
The only reason Neva Faded isn’t higher is because the interpolation is only found on one line. At the end of the first verse, Herr Funke passes it on to the chorus with “I’m out (Why?) ‘Cause I’m too sexy for this song.” For the sake of discussion, it counts.
“Alive”, Kato & Electric Lady Lab
Right Said Fred has become the epitome of a certain kind of danceable Eurotrash over the years. On “Alive”, Danish DJ Kato integrates the Fairbrass brothers’ genuine vocals into a song that is just that: hollow but danceable European club music. In a way it represents a facet of the song that is always glossed over: its kitschyness!
“Keenon Jackson”, YG
Six years before the release of Too Cocky, YG tackled the same lyrics on Keenon Jackson. The Mustard-produced track doesn’t make much of an impact and features some unsavory lines about Asian women.
“Too cocky”, Guapdad 4000
Despite the title suggesting otherwise, Guapdad 4000’s song is neither a remix nor a homage to the excellent YG version. It even came out eight days earlier stay dangerous. Both tracks share a common chorus – “I’m too cocky” – but the similarities end there. It’s a perfect shot; but if it is next to YG, it cannot be compared. Apologies to Guapdad 4000; Maybe he heard “Keenon Jackson” and decided to do things his own way?
“Way 2 Sexy”, Drake, Future, Young Thug
Extreme, undoubtedly unsexy. Right Said Fred’s song is Camp; Removing all of that in favor of a sleepy, meandering algorithm decoy removes the entire character embodied in the original I’m Too Sexy. It doesn’t deserve the direct example at the top and almost certainly doesn’t deserve lines like “I’m way too sexy to be unprotected”. The video doesn’t do her any favors either. The OVO team is consistently excellent at getting rehearsals up and running; it’s even worse that Way 2 Sexy is so flat.
“Batschiss”, Sofi Tukker
So we spent a lot of time discussing sexiness, but part of the beauty of the original song is that it’s not sexy. Fred and Richard Fairbrass spend so much time talking about how attractive they are in their day-to-day lives that it has the opposite desired effect: horseshoes to becoming incredibly unsexy. They even say that in theirs Rolling Stone Interview: “‘Sexy’ didn’t actually make fun of these people, it made fun of people who thought they were these people.” Sofi Tukker doesn’t seem to get that. On “Batshit,” the duo anchors the track around an interpolation, effectively trying to make the song sexy to honor the material. It doesn’t work
“Too sexy”, Inna
Something about it bothers me so much. “Too Sexy” fits somewhere between Ibiza party anthem and old navy commercial core. The last minute and a half keeps repeating, “I’m too sexy for your love.” As this list shows, there are so many good ways to spin that line, so why does the one Inna lands on have to be so boring ?
“Les Anticipators”, Paradis
If someone can explain Québec rap to me, I’d be grateful.
“My testicles”, Ariel and Efrim
Okay, this fits into the not sexy category with one caveat: that’s the way it’s supposed to be. In this digital short film from Season 31 of Saturday night live, Andy Samberg and Tom Hanks are the duo Ariel and Efrim, a homage in both looks and spirit to the members and vibes of Right Said Fred. “Please don’t cut off their testicles,” they beg – unbelievably, wonderfully unsexy.