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James Blunt

Long before singer-songwriters JAMES MORRISON and TOM ODELL took some flak from the media, soft-rock balladeer JAMES BLUNT was the whipping boy for the pungent press elite. Whether it was his heartstring-pulling, lemming-style promo video for his Grammy-nominated global chart-topper, `You’re Beautiful’, that was never in doubt, but his sceptics were hardly likely to spray it to the ex-military man’s egg-and-spoon race.
Born James Hillier Blount, 22nd February 1974, Tidworth in Wiltshire, the unassuming English gent was hardly your average rock’n’roller, having taken the military route to pop stardom: rather than burning his draft card, he graduated from Sandhurst and became a British Army captain. Serving time in post-conflict Kosovo, among other places, he’d later make quips about his career having been more dangerous than a certain leading rapper. Subsequently posting himself to Texas, the civvy street ex-soldier commandeered the attention of songwriter/producer Linda Perry (ex-4 NON BLONDES) at the 2003 South By Southwest Festival.
BLUNT almost immediately inked a deal with her Custard imprint (through Atlantic Records), co-writing a debut single, `High’ with DEACON BLUE’s Ricky Ross. Hot on its heels came parent album, BACK TO BEDLAM (2004) {*6}, a record which initially went unnoticed as much as the follow-up single, `Wisemen’. However, the blue-eyed boy wonder (he was actually 30 years-old!) finally harnessed the nation’s heart-strings in summer 2005 with the aforementioned, `You’re Beautiful’. A falsetto fable on lost love, the song was accompanied by an equally morbid video. Its success was the cue for “…Bedlam” to finally take off, scaling the charts across the board as BLUNT became a household/housewives’ choice; the husbands’ choice – at least in East London – was the newly-coined cockney rhyming slang “a right James”. While old guard stars have sung his praises, youth culture mouthpiece the NME chose to virtually ignore him and his volley of hit singles, including re-issues of his earlier songs and `Goodbye My Lover’.
While one could almost predict bedsit-bard BLUNT would be no captain of industry on the recording front, the long-awaited No.1 sophomore set, ALL THE LOST SOULS (2007) {*6}, was wisely kept from any baying back-biters from the music rags. Now described as the 00s equivalent to 70s pop stars GILBERT O’SULLIVAN, LEO SAYER and even ELTON JOHN, it was certainly no coincidence when BLUNT released his `1973’ track as the lead single. And while `Same Mistake’ and `Carry You Home’ couldn’t pursue the record into the Top 5, James was safe for now.
Struggling to write in his formulaic prowess without falling into the melancholy retro/introspective trap, SOME KIND OF TROUBLE (2010) {*6}, was a little lighter, at least in its jaunty backing-band approach. Bolstered by a Top 30 breaker, `Stay The Night’, the Top 5 record (Top 20 in the States), basically took off where DAVID GRAY left off.
Produced by Tom Rothrock, MOON LANDING (2013) {*6} was another safe bet to sell to sad-sack ballad-lovers from around the globe. Dedicating one song in particular, `Miss America’, to the late, great diva chanter, WHITNEY HOUSTON, and all the more richer for his MAROON 5 and DIDO-styled ditties, the bittersweet BLUNT was in sing-a-long-a mood on big hitter `Bonfire Heart’. Over several years now, BLUNT has been quite effective on B-side covers, namely `Fall At Your Feet’ (CROWDED HOUSE), `In A Little While’ (U2), `Breakfast In America’ (SUPERTRAMP) and `Cuz I Love You’ (SLADE).
Almost re-inventing himself as a sentimental R&B/pop balladeer after three and a half years in the proverbial wilderness, BLUNT launched his fifth album, THE AFTERLOVE (2017) {*6}; another Top 10 gain. For this record the self-aware/self-deprecating artist enlisted the co-production/co-writing services of former OneRepublic singer Ryan Tedder, a lad he could thank for the opening three tracks, `Love Me Better’ (a minor hit with some mawkish lyrics), `Bartender’ and `Lose My Number’. Add to that the pair’s collaboration with buddy ED SHEERAN on `Make Me Better’ and `Time Of Our Lives’, James B now came across like PASSENGER’s long-distance cousin.
Polarising public opinion like a nation-dividing Brexit, introspective soft-rock singer-songwriter JAMES BLUNT baffled doubters, or indeed bolstered his base by way of his 6th set, ONCE UPON A MIND (2019) {*6}; even the title was a misnomer to some. The Top 3 record hooked him up with writers Nate Cyphert and Steve Robson, and one could almost imagine up and coming network TV premieres for best tracks, `Champions’ (sport), `Cold’ (nature) and `5 Miles’ (Top Gear). Putting frivolity to one side, James was as good as any when it came to sentiment, and with the death of his father he dedicated `I Told You’ and `Monsters’, and to his new-born son there was `The Greatest’.
© MC Strong/MCS 2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Nov2013-Nov2019

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