This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.
As this recent piece investigating The Courteeners and why people like them highlights, one of the greatest and most interesting things about music is its objectivity. The very fact that we all view artists differently (other than Beyonce, about whom it is illegal to have negative thoughts in 29 states) is what makes the world turn. The cavern of disparities between opinions has birthed some of the greatest divides of modern times: Tupac verses Biggie, Miley Cyrus verses the world, Kanye West fans verses Kanye West haters who would rather endure the embarassment of signing a Change.org petition than see him perform at Glastonbury. Here at Noisey, we write about music all day every day, and sometimes it’s good to take a step back and let someone else weigh in on the things that truly matter, like Drake songs. Who better to do this than actual real life musicians?
In the recent past, we made Idris Elba to listen to Skepta—which led to him doing a sick Skepta impression over the phone and, shortly after, releasing his own remix of "Shutdown;" we asked Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth what The Sound of Summer 2015 would be and he predicted "Ibiza" by The Prodigy ft. Sleaford Mods (can't win them all, I guess); and we accidentally converted Will Young into a massive Oneohtrix Point Never fan. To carry on the blaze of glory, we handed over to executive belter and professional Sex Bomb, Sir Tom Jones.
Tom Jones has a career that spans over five decades and counting. He’s sung basically every form of popular music apart from bashment, and sold over 100 million records in the process. It's an outstanding body of work, which he’s about to add to with Long Lost Suitcase—the third in a trilogy of albums following 2010’s Praise & Blame and 2012's Spirit In The Room. As a singer he’s pushing the boundaries of music, and - as evidenced by his time on The Voice UK—Tom Jones is a guy who knows a good set of pipes when he hears them honk out thirty seconds of “One Moment In Time.” So, we sent Tom some recent popular bangers from Drake, Lady Leshurr, The Weeknd, Section Boys, and SOPHIE to see if he’d turn his chair on them or not—and the verdict is in.
DRAKE - "HOTLINE BLING"
Tom: I don’t know if you know this, but there was a record out in the 70s called “Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas. It’s got an organ on it and I think Drake might have sampled it. Who knows. Drake will know. Anyway, I loved the whole thing, it’s got a good feel to it. “Groovy” is the wrong word now but it’s got a good grove and I can relate to that. I’ve always been into sounds and it’s got a great sound to it. Definitely look into that Timmy Thomas sample* though.
(*As it turns out, Spin just ran an interview with Timmy Thomas, who was thrilled about being sampled by Drake.)
LADY LESHURR - "QUEEN'S SPEECH 4"
Tom: This is a little Missy Eliot, I thought. I love it. I love the sentiment. She was on a talk show saying that when she gets on the tube people smell and they should clean their teeth more. Like, it’s the beginning of the day. People shouldn’t be smelling like that in the morning. So I remembered seeing that and this video is great. It’s a great message song. I love the sound of the record, but it’s even better when you realise that she’s talking about brushing your teeth, combing your hair and getting yourself together in the morning.
THE WEEKND - "CAN'T FEEL MY FACE"
Tom: Yeah! The Weeknd. I love The Weeknd and I wish I could get my hair to stand up like that. He’s got one hell of a voice. I can relate to this record more than any of the others because he’s a real singer, you know? It’s a little reminiscent of Michael Jackson but he’s got more weight to it than that. He reminds me of Jackie Wilson, who I loved. I knew Jackie Wilson and when I hear The Weeknd sing I think he might have been influenced by him. I certainly was. This record is my favorite.
SECTION BOYZ - "LOCK ARFF"
Tom: First of all, when he’s saying “lock arff” it’s like he’s saying “off”, right? I think it’s his accent. He doesn’t pair the “off” with anything nasty like “jerk off” or “fuck off” though—he doesn’t do any of that. I don’t know what he means by “lock arff.” Maybe it’s the polite version? Can you ask him and let me know the answer?
SOPHIE - “MSMSMSM”
Tom: This sounds like something that the Art of Noise might have done and I like it. Art of Noise made some great records and it’s in that vein, so I know what people are hearing, I can see the appeal. People might be debating whether it’s the death of music or the future or music but it sounds great to me. I’m digging it. I’ve liked all these records. They’re all cool in their own way and there’s nothing on any of them that makes me think “ugh, what is that” you know? I’m getting them. They’re definitely all relatable and something that I would play. They’re interesting and exciting records—there’s no drabness there. They’ve all got some edge to them.
TOM JONES - "WHY DON'T YOU LOVE ME LIKE YOU USED TO"
Tom: This is my tribute to The BBC [laughs]. I recorded it before they didn’t renew my contract on The Voice but now, when I listen to it, I think shit! I should have recorded it after the event. Why don’t you love me like you used to, The BBC? My hair is still curly and my eyes are still blue. What happened?
Noisey: Shall we just get rid of the BBC because of what they did to you?
We need The BBC because they make great programmes, and in America most of the stuff that’s show on PBS over there is BBC made stuff. You’ve got BBC America as well, but The BBC is worldwide and it’s an establishment. It’s just, they’ve let me down.
Did you like being on The Voice?
Yes, because I was helping. I want to help new talent and if I can pass on anything I’ve learned through my life, that’s what I like doing. It was a worthwhile thing, but the bullshit part of it they can forget. One of the reasons they didn’t renew my contract was because I was complaining about the fact that there were too many back stories and too much bullshit going on that I don’t agree with. They’re trying to compete with other shows. But The Voice is a unique show and it doesn’t have to compete with other talent shows because it’s not like them. Not to mention names, but The Voice is the most real of any talent show I’ve been involved in. I liked the American version you see. I live in Los Angeles, and when I saw it I thought, wow, if I was ever asked to be on any show like that, that would be the one. As it turns out, Alan Yentob at The BBC asked me if I’d do it in the UK. You can’t do The Voice without “the voice” he said. So, what happened to that? Will.i.am said “the only reason I’m on here is because of Tom Jones, I’m here to learn from Tom Jones”. He does the one in Australia as well and he said all the other shows, they don’t have a legend on there. It’s all much of a muchness. Maybe they thought they couldn’t control me as well as they can the others, because I speak my mind. I was very natural on that show and I said it like it is. You know, I was told to turn my chair more and I said well, I’m not going to turn my chair unless I hear something I like. Or, you can all turn your chairs and it’s up to the contestant to make the choice who they go with. But what if he or she chooses me and I don’t want them? Then I’m stuck. I’ve got to be real, I’ve got to be honest with the bloody thing and I think that’s something they couldn’t handle. That became more apparent as time went on. When any singers come up and ask me for advice, I give it. But I could give it on a large scale on The Voice, which I can’t do now. That’s the shame of it, for me. I love helping new singers. I’m genuinely interested in giving them advice the best I’ve can, because I’ve been in it a long time.
So did you have a favourite record?
The records that you’ve played for me are all individual. Out of them all, none were similar to one another, and that’s a good thing. That’s the advice that I have for singers: Be yourself. Be influenced by other singers, but don’t copy them. These records are proof that in modern music, you can still be different.
Tom Jones’ new album Long Lost Suitcase will be released October 9 through Virgin / EMI and is the companion soundtrack album to his autobiography, Over The Top And Back, to be released on October 8.
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