YouTube has given us the Keyboard Cat, Justin Bieber, and that crying fella who thought we should all leave Britney Spears alone. Now we have something far greater and more noble to thank the video portal for: the glorious, if slightly obscene, wonder that is Tonetta. Not much is known about this mysterious phenomenon, except for the fact that he's in his mid-to-late 50s, is called Tony and lives in Toronto. According to legend, he's been making his own music since the 80s and instead of playing shows he records homemade videos for each song in his living room. Two years ago he began posting them online.

Stick his name into a YouTube search and you will be rewarded with hundreds of videos. His funky jams accompany a singing style that's like Iggy Pop if he'd taken up a career as a lounge singer instead of a rock'n'roller; while the videos themselves are often accompanied by the kind of special effects last seen on the 1978 Christmas Top Of The Pops. But you won't stop to admire the distinct VHS quality of the recordings for long because what will grab your attention is the man himself.

Tonetta, you see, loves to dress up: sometimes in a full dinner suit and tie, occasionally in a nice little miniskirt and woolly leggings. More often than not he'll be in a severe state of undress. The number of looks this man can get out of a belt, a pair of black briefs and some tights is impressive. A strange combination of repulsion and intrigue attends Tonetta's style; although well-toned for a man of his vintage, the sight of a middle-aged man in a thong with tights over his face, gyrating slinkily and singing about rubbing his bone or the manifold qualities of a 41-inch bottom take some acclimatising to.

It is probably his lyrics that got him barred by the YouTube censors last year – not many modern protest songs begin with the line "She forgot to piss/He forgot to shit" – and helped him on his return to the site become a cause célèbre among US music bloggers. Yet there is something pure and heartbreakingly honest about his filthy songs: it's not done for show or to revolt, he writes from the heart, he just happens to be a bit of a perv. In among his catalogue there are thoughtful songs about racism, about Obama's election, and, in My Bro, a touching song about a friend's suicide. Meanwhile, with Drugs Drugs Drugs, he's written the most upbeat rock song about narcotic abuse imaginable.

For every YouTube comment that finds Tonetta hilarious or repellent there are dozens from people who have discovered that, beyond the shock value, is a genuine outsider pop artist. MIA, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry have all successfully courted controversy lately but Tonetta is the real deal: a pop revolutionary who doesn't give a damn about making money or what people think of him.

Punk lives, and it's wearing a thong on YouTube.

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Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on February 25, 2014 at 11:03pm
Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on December 7, 2013 at 9:38pm

2013 Version

Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on November 29, 2011 at 2:20am

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