Over 12 million viewers tuned in to see Betty White host “Saturday Night Live” two months ago — and in doing somany were introduced to a slightly, well, younger star — Kanye West’s protégé, Mr Hudson..
The 30-year-old British pop singer contributed the vocals to Jay-Z’s rap on “Young Forever,” a new take on the 1984 hit “Forever Young” (which Jay-Z dedicated to “the most incredible Betty White”). The timing couldn’t have been better for Mr Hudson, whose latest album, “Straight No Chaser,” dropped on iTunes USA last Tuesday. .
So what does Mr Hudson think of Betty White, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and his growing superstardom? We caught up with him to ask him a few questions..
Your birth name is Benjamin Hudson Mclldowie. Why do you go by Mr Hudson?.
Mr Hudson: I guess a few years ago, when I decided to take my music seriously, there were lots of boys next door with guitars forming an orderly queue. I was like, “I’ve gotta jump this queue.” I was also listening to a lot of hip-hop and I thought, “I should be allowed to have a silly name like Missy Elliott.”.
You collaborated with Kanye on his “808s & Heartbreak” album, and now he’s your executive producer. How did you two meet?.
Kanye West got a hold of a copy of my album — he keeps his ear to the ground, listens to different kinds of music. I was pretty obscure at this stage, and he was like, “Let me give this guy a hand.” Our first official meeting was in London — I jumped into the back of a car with him on the way to a show. The first thing he said was “I’m gonna get you on a track with Jay-Z.” I was just like “Yeah, right — Obama’s coming to my birthday party, it’s gonna be on the moon.”.
Watch Mr Hudson “Supernova” ft. Kanye West
Does anyone compare you to any other artists?.
A lot of people compare me to Sting, and I’m flattered — I’ve always a big fan of The Police. I get David Bowie and that is really a massive compliment. I don’t think anyone out there is really doing that style of singing high. Americans sing in that New Jersey, exhaust pipe, back-of-a-Chevy gravelly voice. The English sing high, like Paul McCartney. When we sing high, we keep the note quite pure..
So what were your musical influences growing up?.
When I was a kid it was Michael Jackson. My mom had a big mirror for dressing up and I would dance in front of the mirror to “Bad” or “Dangerous” or whatever. I was really into R & B, and a little bit of New Kids on the Block (I have no shame). I really got into grunge, Brit pop, the Lemonheads, Blur. Then I went back in time to David Bowie and Roxy Music. Then I went further back, to the Beatles, Beach Boys, Neil Young, back to Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole..
What can fans expect from your new album?.
They certainly won’t be bored. I aim for it to be quite a lot variety, a lot of styles and tones, not one where you hear the same track 10 times over. There’s classical guitar, banjo, synthesizer. It’s like a buffet: There are Twinkies, fish tacos and steak — a wonderful mess..
Is it true the album was largely inspired by your breakup with your ex-girlfriend?.
Yes, but that wasn’t the plan. It just happened that when I was making the record, that was the backdrop..
You recently said you think it’s a “great time in pop music.” But so many people say pop music has never been worse..
I’ll let the pessimists be pessimists. If you don’t like what you hear, you gotta offer people better. There’s a lot of crap out there, but there always has been. The ’60s is considered the golden age, but there was probably lot of crap then too. People want beats but they want melodies and rhymes as well, they want a chorus they can sing along to, urban influences as well — everything in one go..
Kanye West recently said, “I believe Mr. Hudson has the potential to be bigger than me, to be one of the most important artists of his generation.” Your response?.
It’s massively flattering. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.” It’s kind of like meeting a superhero who says, “You’re a superhero.” Am I?