Friday, 9 November 2012

Tom Jones and Mousse T 'Sex Bomb'

Chart Peak: 3

With a career spanning over 4 decades, Tom Jones continued to snare a new generation of fans in 2000, winning the Brit Award for Best British Male and enjoying the continuing popularity of No1 album Reload... New Tom Jones "disciples" might like to know that he's been an icon of cool for some time - in 1992 he appeared in cult cartoon The Simpsons, serenading Marge and Homer with a belting rendition of 'It's Not Unusual'.
If you thought Kylie was an industry veteran, Jones The Voice is on an different level entirely, having turned 60 the month before Now 46 was released. He too was enjoying a significant comeback: of course he'd never fallen into real obscurity and was always respected for his talents, and could sell out a decent run in Vegas. I doubt he was ever short of a bob or two either but he had seemingly reached a point where he was way out of touch with the pop market. In the 25 years from 1974 onwards he had only seven Top 40 singles, including a re-release of 'It's Not Unusual' and a charity single. So the Reload collaborations album was a master-stroke (it coincided with Santana reinvigorating his career by similar means in the US, although I don't know whether there was any connection - either way, soon everyone was trying it).

'Sex Bomb' was the highest-charting of the five hit singles from the album but something of an odd one out, as the only one of the five not to feature a prominent vocalist other than Jones: his collaborator here is dance producer Mousse T, best known for 1998's (and Now 40's) 'Horny'. I believe the track was originally planned for a Mousse T project, which would explain it. As you'd have guessed from the title and the people involved, it's not a subtle piece of music, which manages to combine a tired warfare/sex metaphor with lyrics that sound like they've been through several levels of machine translation, including the impressively garbled "Yes I must react to claims of those who say that you are not all there, ha ha ha." He also compliments his paramour on knowing "the way to go to sex me slow", although when the word "sex" is used as a transitive verb it usually means "determine the sex of", and I can't imagine it ever taking anyone that long to do so with him. The music (at least on the remixed version that features here and was the actual hit) replicates the brassy style of Mousse T's previous hit, and the result is something a bit uncomfortable, although certainly not the worst song ever in that regard thanks to a lack of serious intent. It's awful but one of those awful records that you have to have a grudging respect for because it's so thorough about it.

Like Kylie, Jones obviously benefited from timing and trends supporting his comeback; pretty much anyone who sticks around long enough eventually becomes cool, and the revival of the crooner and easy-listening styles helped to pave the way for a revival too - not that he necessarily fits into those categories himself, and still less would he see himself as such, but I think it revived interest in strong singers which he certainly is. Still it was no guaranteed success; indeed he proved this a couple of years later with the ill-advised hip-hop album Mr. Jones. A decade or so later, he's rebooted his image again, this time as a serious, grey-haired, often religious blues singer to some success. He's made some of the best records of his career in that style but is that the real Tom Jones/Thomas Woodward? Is this? We'll probably never really know.

Tom Jones also appears on: Now 13 [with Art Of Noise]; 44 [with The Cardigans]; 45 [with Stereophonics]; 47 [with Heather Small]; 64 [with Chicane]; 72 (with Vanessa Jenkins, Bryn West and Robin Gibb)
Mousse T also appears on: No 40 [with Hot N Juicy]; 59 [with Emma Langford]; [64 with Dandy Warhols]
Available on:Now That's What I Call A Wedding

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