Too little scholarly attention has been paid to Tom Jones lyrics. Jones has sold over 100 million records in his career, and has been given an OBE and knighted. His knighthood, granted to him in 2006, was awarded for “services to music”, although the specific services rendered were not detailed. Despite these accomplishments, it is apparent that Tom Jones’ cultural contributions have not undergone rigorous explication. For example, a search for “Tom Jones Singer” on Google Scholar returns 44,100 results, none of which are actually about Tom Jones (the first result is a 2002 Nature paper, “Initial sequencing and comparative analysis of the mouse genome”).
It is the opinion of this author, if not the larger critical community, that Jones’ greatest contribution to world music is his 2000 semi-hit ‘Sex Bomb’. Despite the obvious value of this contribution, the song’s message remains mysterious. The most pressing question raised by ‘Sex Bomb’ is: what, or who, is the Sex Bomb, exactly. A cursory listen would suggest that the Sex Bomb is the second person object of the song, perhaps Jones’ girlfriend or wife:
(You know what you are, you are)
Sex Bomb, Sex Bomb,
You’re a Sex Bomb.
You can give it to me when I need to come along.
Sex Bomb, Sex Bomb,
You’re my Sex Bomb,
And, Baby, you can turn me on.
This possibility is alarming. Is there some woman wandering around who is an undetonated sexual explosive? And, if so, what sort of bomb is she? Does she have a timed fuse? Is she remote detonated? Perhaps the most likely, and certainly the most troubling, possibility is that she is an impact-detonated explosive – this would seem to be the type of explosive with the most utility in a sexual situation. However, the potential for accidents seems high: what if she is jostled in a non-sexual situation? For example, what is she is involved in a minor fender-bender, and the airbag deploys? Will there be a sexual detonation? What if she accidentally bumps into someone on the street? What if she bumps into a child?
However, this interpretation is complicated by the next lines:
Now, don’t get me wrong,
Ain’t gonna do you no harm.
This bomb’s for loving.
You can shoot it far.
It seems unlikely that Tom Jones plans to shoot his girlfriend “far”, which argues against his girlfriend herself being the Sex Bomb. It also begs the question, why would anyone want a Sex Bomb that you would shoot a significant distance away from yourself? Besides the minor socially terroristic appeal of lobbing a sex bomb into a group of unsuspecting people, there really is very little strategic benefit to making the enemy feel sexier.
However, there is some suggestion that the Sex Bomb is not only a sex weapon. The song opens with the lines:
Spy on me baby,
You’re a satellite,
Infrared to see me
Through the night.
Perhaps the Sex Bomb has infrared surveillance capabilities. Perhaps Tom Jones has developed a tool of sexual reconnaissance, capable of searching out targets and then detonating on (at? with?) them. One can only imagine what such a detonation might look like, but some rough measure of its force can be extrapolated from Jones’ background vocals, in which he can be heard saying, “Ow” and “No no!” Apparently, the topic deserves further scrutiny, for Tom Jones’ sake, if nothing else.