There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Possibly the two least subtle artists of all time, wild-haired hiphopper Wyclef Jean and bloomer-bombed crooner Tom Jones turn out to be a perfect pair. On the new Mr. Jones, the 32-year-old Haitian and 62-year-old Welshman push each other to the most ridiculous of musical extremes, creating a splendidly smarmy mix of street beats and chest hair that’ll sound right at home wherever neon drinks are named after sex acts. Wyclef foreshadowed this inspired union with last year’s Masquerade, by enlisting Jones’ help on a remake of the latter’s come-on classic “What’s New Pussycat?”—one of the few fun moments on a too-serious, too-somber effort. So it’s nice to see ‘Clef not only producing, singing, playing, and writing, but also having nothing but a goofy good time bringing Jones to a new audience (that is, one not intimately familiar with the early-bird buffet at Caesar’s Palace). As for Mr. “It’s Not Unusual,” well, he certainly can’t hit the high notes the way he did in the halcyon ’60s and ’70s. But as he proved on 1999’s must-have Reload—a cruelly overlooked blast, on which he funked up classic pop songs with such MTVers as Robbie Williams and Barenaked Ladies—Jones can swing no matter what the genre, and his what-the-hell approach to life, love, and overemoting is infectious. On Mr. Jones’ killer opening cut, “Tom Jones International,” Wyclef sets the head-nodder to an industrialized reggae beat, as Jones boasts/toasts, “Thirty years strong/Never went wrong/Still in the game/I’ll decide when I’m gone.” Later, the guys provide Viagric versions of make-out songs with both a waaay over-the-top take on Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” and a spacey update of Jones’ “I Who Have Nothing.” The most delirious cut, though, is a cover of “Black Betty,” with ‘Clef sifting samples of the Leadbelly original over myriad guitar lines and a thick, strutting beat, all while Jones provides at least three vocal tracks, each one in a seemingly more heated state of arousal. Yes, Mr. Jones is shamelessly silly and decidedly cheeky, but it’s no novelty album. In fact, it’s the best thing either of these randy ringmasters has had his way with in years. —Sean Daly