Last Wednesday, the masochists among you may have caught the American Idol grand finale, during which babyface baritone Scotty McCreery was crowned champion. The buildup to the announcement was nothing short of epic, featuring, as it did, performances from Lady Gaga (who is on the show so much at this point, we fear she'll take over from Ryan Seacrest soon), Beyoncé, TLC (we miss Lisa Lopes so much right now), Marc Anthony (who was upstaged by his half-naked, shimmying wife), Bono and The Edge, Steven Tyler, and -- buried among all the excitement and fanfare, hanging out in the middle -- was Sir Tom Jones.
He slipped on and slipped off, as low-key as a bright orange man can be, after having to stomach listening to the male contestants do a medley of his best-known hits. It was a little odd to see him jammed in the middle of it all, but lordy, we wish he'd been given a bit more fanfare. Because -- just take our word for it -- Tom Jones is awesome.
We're not even being ironic. Though if saying you're being ironic gets you to admit that you like Tom Jones publicly, then we'll encourage it. For he is a god among men, a champion of the people and, hell, he's sold 100 million records and that should count for something, right?
Across America, Jones' image isn't what it should be. He's just that Vegas guy who likes gold necklaces and swiveling his hips and women who throw their underwear at him. Elvis Presley was a big fan of his, and the two were great friends. The truth is though, he's a blue-collar Welshman who grew up in dire poverty and fought his way out of his tiny hometown of Pontypridd in the South Wales valleys, using only the power of his voice, his hips, and a lot of tenacity.
To put it in perspective for you, he is to Wales what Bruce Springsteen is to New Jersey: a man of the people who did incredibly well but who never lost touch with his roots. "The Green Green Grass of Home", in fact, is the unofficial second national anthem in his home country. He's a British national treasure (hence the knighthood), a grand example of how far you can go in life (and the world) if you push hard enough and a one-man tale of working-class triumph.
Aside from anything else, Jones' songs are amazing. That's why "It's Not Unusual" is always playing at AT&T Park, and that's why it's impossible to hear "Delilah," "What's New Pussycat?," or any of his other biggest hits after a few cocktails and not feel an overwhelming sense of joy and frivolity.
Tom celebrated turning 70 last year and released an album of critically acclaimed gospel music, titled Praise And Blame. Critics drew comparisons to Johnny Cash's American series, since Jones too, is clearly feeling and exploring his own mortality.
So let's hear it for Tom Jones. Yes, his skin is the same color as that of an Oompa Loompa; yes, he still thrusts a lot for a man of his age; but the world would be a duller place without him. Next time he's on our television screens, we want fireworks and dancing girls, dammit.