You should keep an eye on this new singer-songwriter James Blunt. In the first place, you should keep an eye on him because he’s doing some good work. I only just heard of him when he played Saturday Night Live three days ago, so I’m still digesting his debut album Back to Bedlam.
In the meantime, I was really struck by the two songs he played on SNL, and feel some urgency of comment for a couple of reasons. The first featured song was a beautiful sad pop song “You’re Beautiful.” That puppy’s hot enough that I feel a strong urge to share.
The second song, however, was rather disturbing. “Goodbye My Lover” is, if anything, an even more stunning melody and construction than the first song. However, this simply presented piano ballad comes from some really dark corner.
This gets to the other half of what I meant by “keeping an eye” on young Master Blunt. Basically, “Goodbye My Lover” is a suicide note- unless you have another explanation for
I cannot live without you.
Goodbye my lover.
Goodbye my friend.
You have been the one.
You have been the one for me
A quick search of Bit Torrents turned up the album at 192 kpbs with the video for “You’re Beautiful” conveniently attached.
The “You’re Beautiful” video is a suicide. He spends the whole song singing about the perfect girl that he’ll never be with, as he’s taking off his shoes and methodically emptying his pockets. Then in the final seconds, he takes a flying leap off a thousand foot cliff into the drink.
All in all, Mr Blunt seems to have a strong interest in some freaky narcisstic faux-romantic suicide schtick. It’s like the famous Joy Division “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” The difference is that Blunt’s songs are actually really good songwriting.
Indeed, these songs seem a bit TOO good at the moment, drawing me into freaky emotional territory not part of my usual haunts. I generally don’t take a lot of interest in suicidal schoolboy stuff. It’s a lot of foolishness, and life’s way too short to spend it trying to talk idiots out of checking themselves out.
The Pursuit of Happiness put it memorably in “I’m an Adult Now,” taking the view that he should avoid a dumb death cause “I’d sure look like a fool, dead in a ditch somewhere with a brain full of chemicals like some cheese-eatin’ high school boy.”
For one thing, I would generally take it as a religious point of mine not to interfere with someone working out their own karma. I try to offer words of encouragement and all, but if somebody’s determined to kill themselves, who am I to stop them? Hey, knock yourself out. Literally.
But this Blunt guy’s songs are so good that I almost want to grab him and say “Hey, don’t do it!” Just this first record is already a considerably more impressive artistic accomplishment than anything Kurt Cobain ever wrote.
These songs are far more articulate emotionally and lyrically than any Nirvana, such that I found myself feeling sympathetic to dumb stuff that I’d usually scoff at. I empathize readily enough with sick people who just can’t stand the physical suffering, but I laugh at healthy young free Americans who would think about offing themselves over losing a girlfriend. Frank Zappa satirized this mindset very well long before this guy was even born with “Stuff Up the Cracks.”
My patience with suicide dramas runs thin pretty quick. They tend to look to me like boring narcisstic self-absorption. I note that a song called “You’re Beautiful” starts out with “My life is brilliant.” Twice. Look, look at my incredible, exquisite. unique agony like no one else has ever known.
But this Blunt fellow is messing with my head, drawing me into grudging empathy with stuff I do not believe in. There’s something encoded deep down in those melodies that makes me feel some part of his anguish a little deeper than I like to. I want to pull back from it, but I can’t stop listening to the damned record.
All in all then, James Blunt has a lot of promise as an exceptionally sharp young songwriter, but I’m reluctant to get all invested in him just to have him kill himself. Then I’d have to mourn the poor dumb bastard.
Still, it’d be a damned shame to lose out on digging someone who writes melodies this good. Somebody needs to keep an eye on him.