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Keep an Eye on James Blunt

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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.

Let’s just cut to the chase, ok? As Tuco would say, when it’s time to shoot, shoot- don’t talk. Auf wiedershen, pal.

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.

MUSIC SUSTAINS THE SOUL

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  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    Al, much as this article was brilliant, much as i’m happy for your discovery, i cannot for a second believe you just compared Blunt to Kurt Cobain. this chancer represents a fradulent, cynical, deeply nauseating attempt to grab hold a that market share dominated by authentically fucked-up individuals. this is just horrible, cloying, incredibly sloppy pish. i rarely get worked up about any sorta musical tomfoolery, if i don’t like it the hell does it matter, but this is just too horrifically calculated to let pass without puking. he’s the acoustic My Chemical Romance. absoloutely terrible. again, great article though.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Duke my brother, do they have peanut butter in Ireland? You seem to have something clogging up your ears here.

    Your argument is extraneous to the music, that Mr Blunt is not an “authentically fucked-up individual.” So, you’re saying that he’s not really suicidal, so he’s illegitimate. Why, this is the biggest scandal since I found out that Gordon MacRae from Oklahoma! wasn’t really a singing cowboy.

    I hope you’re right that Blunt is a “fraud” in that sense. I’d like him to stick around and write some more of these hot tunes.

    I don’t know nor care his personal business, but there’s nothing fraudulent about those melodies. Them things are real.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    heh, Al, you got me chucklin again. you’re right, in fact, his intent should have nothin to do with the appreciation of the music in question. i just find it especially bland and uncompellin, i supose. but certainly there are melodies a man could trip over. i just prefer to stay far away from the fella’s over-produced cynical nonsense. but, then again, You’re Beautiful was all over the damn radio here in the UK for the best part a this year, so obviously i’m in the minority. an Q Magazine voted the album one of the top ten of the year. who am i to argue?

  • http://www.suddennothing.net Alisha Karabinus

    I think Al is in love with this guy. It’s all he’s talked about lately. Well, that and other crazy nonsense like hitting stuff with machinery.

    Duke, you’re objective-sorta, and you’ve been plagued by this guy all year on radio-across-the-sea. Despite the underlying is he/isn’t he argument, is this fellow worth a listen?

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    Alisha, the only thing i can offer by way of advice is maybe if you like David Grey (and i do, incidentally) an that sorta commercial, singer-songwriter type vibe, then you might find this at least moderately pleasing. folks are goin mad in the eyes for that “you’re beautiful” song, and “high” is all over the damn tv now. it’s more of a coldplay-type affair, far as i can be bothered to deduce. i find it deeply offensively lackin in soul, but the tunes ARE rather swell, no denying that.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net Alisha Karabinus

    Nah, can’t say as I really like David Grey all that much, but if Al keeps harping about this guy, I might give him a listen. Maybe. But from what you say, I’m thinking it’s not my kinda deal, really.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    heh, al’s gonna kill me for hijackin this thread! to make amends, i will say, if Al sends you, say, “you’re beautiful” via some method, give it a listen. if you don’t like it, stop there. if you do, well, maybe you’ll dig the record. who knows?

  • http://www.suddennothing.net Alisha Karabinus

    Oh, Al can get right over it and stop his whining, ’cause whining it will be. But, ah, I might well already have a copy of said song, through… well, let’s call them perfectly legitimate channels, because we’re talking about the copy I might have in an alternate universe, eh? :)

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    AL: I understand “You’re Beautiful” was written for some movie. That prolly explains something that annoys most every one I know: in the first verse he sees her with someone else but doesn’t worry cos “I got a plan”. By the end of the song he’s all “I know I’ll never be with you”.

    So what happened to the fucking plan, Al? What happened to the plan?

    Feeling better now; anybody know what movie it is?

    He was a soldier in Bosnia or somewhere and that experience has informed his songwriting but I’ve yet to hear any other songs. Yet…

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    The lyric of “You’re Beautiful” makes sense to me. The basic point was that he’s kidding himself to think that he had a chance, which is acknowledged in the chorus. That makes close enough to sense for rock and roll.

  • rob

    James Blunt sucks. That’s the long and the short of it. Kurt Cobain was 10,000 times the musician Blunt will ever be. He’s a terrible singer and an even worse songwriter. The only thing I’ll give him credit for is the ability to pass of his garbage music as “art” – and to sucker the world into buying it.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Rob, there’s always some room for disagreement, and it’s cool if Blunt doesn’t do it for you. However, you’re needing to clean your ears out when you say, “Kurt Cobain was 10,000 times the musician Blunt will ever be. He’s a terrible singer and an even worse songwriter.” On any reasonable basis of their work, that statement is simply ridiculous. Cobain was not a good singer, and Nirvana were notoriously lousy musicians.

    Plus, Cobain had stunted growth as a songwriter. That was his strong suite, but he was too obsessed with self-destruction and actually killing himself to apply himself to his craft- thus the disjointed nonsense that passed for lyrics in his songs. I know that Cobain’s supposed to be the King of Pain and “Teen Spirit” is considered a big classic, but it’s nowhere near as good a piece of songcraft as “You’re Beautiful.” It’s just not, no matter how authentic Cobain’s suffering. (Hey, nobody FORCED him to marry Courtney Love.)

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com/ Christopher Rose

    AL: Thanks for turning me on to that song “Goodbye My Lover”, which is indeed a thing of beauty, indeed I’m not embarrassed to say I cried and furthermore, I may one day record it myself to play to my wife at my funeral!

    However, you can call off the suicide watch, a friend says it was written for a girlfriend who died. I don’t know more details on that.

    As for “You’re Beautiful”, I have to switch sides on this one. Nobody I know, male or female, can stand this song, partly ‘cos he starts off all confident at the beginning:-

    “She was with another man.
    But I won’t lose no sleep on that,
    ‘Cause I’ve got a plan”

    and only 2 minutes later he’s all pathetic:-

    “I saw your face in a crowded place,
    And I don’t know what to do,
    ‘Cause I’ll never be with you”.

    What happened to the plan, Al? What happened to the plan?

  • HateBlunt

    James Blunt is shit, he needs taken out

  • HateBlunt

    Quote Al:
    “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.”

    If only he did we would all by saved from his whiney, pre-fabricated rubbish.

    he needs to GO!!!

  • http://www.20six.co.uk/LordToucan/archive/2005/08/02/1wcvf4e695ok7.htm#comments Lord Toucan

    James Blunt is the end result of years of attempts by the United Kingdom to create the perfect music-killing machine. He and his Army of soft rock rejects (Coldplay, Keane, David Grey, Travis etc) will not stop until real music has been wiped off the face of the earth.
    We have to stop them.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Al, this is a really well-written review. I just fuckin hated that “You’re Beautiful” song and video. The reason he’ll never be with that beautiful bird is because he’s a whiny, pansy wanker who needs a serious case of puberty.

    All right, enough of that from me. I do think you wrote a good piece. I just didn’t like the song very much or the guy’s voice. I guess I should just leave it there.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    It’s interesting that “You’re Beautiful” specifically seems to be drawing much negative reaction, even among some folk like Chris who really like some of the other songs.

    DJRadiohead, I appreciate your meta-point about the song, but you can’t deny that melody.

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com/ Christopher Rose

    Actually Al, I’ve only heard the two songs and I really don’t want to listen to that other one again unless and until i’ve got me a serious heartbreaking flashback thing going on. I’d definitely put “Goodbye My Lover” on my personal greatest sad songs collection though. Sob!

  • Jimmy Riddle

    Mr Barger,

    I believe you should seek specialist advice if you like James “C-word” Blunt. He is an utter tosser, who perpetrates some of the shittiest music ever produced – and that’s not just the booze talking.

    “you’re beautiful” is like a shit-stain on the wall of the british music industry, and has damaged the british youth in ways we may never understand.

    Destroy Destroy Destroy

  • source of untruth

    The blunt-scum killed women and children in his pillaging of reading in 1960, and can no only sate his blood-lust by disemboweling virgins every tuesday – its true – and if he looks in a mirror, he doesn’t have any reflection – all he can see is a washed-up talentless shitbag that should be shot, so he thinks “that can’t be right” and goes off and buys a more expensive one, but then forgets because he has to snort coke off a gerbil and destroy music and then he wants to bugger a whole primary school before matins and gary glitter them up like fuck.

    Nature made him that way.

  • more hate

    I have a shiny sixpence for the plucky fellow who can bring me the head of james fuck.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Folks, listen to this chorus of people testifying above on the power of James Blunt. Jimmy Riddle, Source of Untruth, and More Hate all testify to the extraordinary power of this music. Look at the apparent depth of the emotional effect on these individuals. That they find the mirror that Blunt turns on their lives unbearable is not, I posit, Mr Blunt’s fault, but only their own. But even lashing out in their pain More Hate et al are giving witness to the powerful emotional effect that James Blunt has.

  • reggie von woic

    Who would’ve thought? A guy from the army with such a melodic high voice.

    The video to ‘you’re beautiful’ was excellent–simple, makes sense, and has everything to do with the song itself. Little sad though…kinda romantic too.

  • gonzo marx

    ummm..so he should have snorted Drain-O and drunk bleach?

    and i listened…then deleted, childish chord choices and major keys don’t work for me

    your mileage may vary

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Gonzo, I’m not sure which did you more harm: the glue sniffing or listening to Rage Against the Machine. Something or other has apparently destroyed your ability to even recognize a MELODY.

    I am glad, however, to note that “Beautiful” is rocketing up the charts, #17 this week on the Billboard Hot 100.

  • gonzo marx

    big Al…glue was never one of my indulgences…

    as for Melody…of course i recognize it, as well as many other factors in my taste for Music

    as i clearly stated, i do not find the particular simplistic bit you are talking about pleasant…

    and that is my own personal taste…i didn’t say it was “bad”…just that i found it more boring than dead air on C-SPAN while comatose

    on the side note of Music…check the R30 thread please, and in the name of JuJu…read my bit there, and sometime this weekend, watch/listen to the Rush concert footage mentioned on VH-1 classic this weekend..the Post has the times

    we can talk about it after you have witnessed what i am talking about…perhpas it will make my taste a bit more understandable to you…

    perhaps not…but i DO try and communicate, and i appreciate your effots as well

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    I love you, Brother Gonzo, but Rush? I’d LIKE to like them just on general ideological grounds, but they’re just not that good. There’s not a song in their 30 year catalog the equal of “Beautiful,” much less “No Bravery.”

  • gonzo marx

    well then Al..i guess we cannot communicate about Music…i find more “melody” and a depth of complexity in the first bar of ANY Rush song, than in anything i have heard ffom Blunt

    “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

    there’s a reason it’s a cliche

    but, as a Favor…watch the concert

    they are truly three of the finest musicians around…i am guessing you do not play an Instrument…and if you do not trust my saying so, ask a Musician you know

    nuff said?

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.reggievonwoic.com reggie von woic

    I resent that Lord Toucan (comment 16). “…soft rock rejects (Coldplay, Keane, David Grey, Travis…”.
    Not sure what world you live in, but COLDPLAY a reject? LOL!!

    Ant by the way, Blunt’s voice is anything but blunt.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Dear Mr Woic, Lord Toucan is in denial of the pure power of James Blunt, but he is certainly right to list Coldplay as an Enemy of the People. It is something of a severe slander against Mr Blunt to be lumped in with that weenie batch from Coldplay.

  • http://nightdragon.diaryland.com Mark Edward Manning

    James Blunt has established himself as a great songwriter. “You’re Beautiful” is a wonderful song, that was in the Top 10 all summer long here in Britain. “Goodbye My Lover” is the current single to be released. “GB My Lover” could have made my recent Top Ten Sad Songs list, but it’s a well-written song. “You’re Beautiful” is tied with Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” for best song of the year, IMHO.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    “You’re Beautiful” is most excellent- and a breaking Billboard hit in the US right now- but we would be remiss if we didn’t give proper credit to “No Bravery.” That one’s right up there, too.

  • http://www.dexlo.com Derek

    I cant believe people can listen to those lyrics without at least unleashing a small amount of vommit.

    “There must be an angel with a smile on her face,
    When she thought up that I should be with you.”

    might be the worst sentence in a song. ever.

    And supposedly this guy with the nails accross chalkboard voice has a plan? where is the execution? where is the attempt? there is no story to this song just some pot head getting rich on shitty music.

  • DerekisDumb

    Well just write a song and prove you do better than Blunt… Derek you seem to be a way better writter and musician

  • some stranger

    “DerekisDumb” your name and your argumentation are kind of pathetic. One doesn’t have to be able to do something better than someone else in order to be allowed to express his opinion.

    About the song I can only say that it makes the impression of being a construction to me. Of course every song is “constructed” by someone, but with some of them I can somehow identify myself, because you can somehow understand what the songwriter means and you can project his feelings on yourself.
    With James Blunt that doesn’t work for me at all. From the first time on that I heard this song on the radio I had the feeling that this guy just wants to make cash by trying to sing something emotional. It is clear, that what he says isn’t complete nonesense, but it is extremely superficial because of the way he tries to make his point.
    Now if what he talks about would be “authentic” that wouldn’t make the song better at all, but it would change the impression Mr. Blunt HIMSELF leaves to me. Now he is just another greedy and lousy singer/songwriter.
    And I think you can’t deny the point of him being narcistic. If you look at his clip … I think it is kind of obvious and it serves me as an indication to the accusation I made about his intention of making cash as fast and as mush as possible.

    But I agree with Mr. “Aaron, Duke De Mondo” when he says that the charts prove that he must have impressed quite a lot of people and that thus I cannot deny that he has some talent (even if it seems to be only the one of selling his cacophony to me).

  • http://blogcritics.org/mt/tb/40635 So Sad

    I got on this site because I am desperately trying to figure out why my 23 year old nephew decided to commit suicide. The James Blunt CD was the CD he was playing right before he killed himself and his girlfriend said he just loved this CD. He listened all the time. When I listened, I could see it was deep & depressing and some of the lyrics seemed to imply suicide. When I searched and found comments about it, it seemed to fit his final note. His final note said some things that were similar to the lyrics to “Tears and Rain”, but they don’t fit the guy we knew. It makes me wonder if the music we focus on can truly influence us, maybe w/o even knowing it. He was the most outgoing, funny, friendly, devil-may-care kid around and we miss him so very much.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    So Sad, I think it’s more likely that Blunt’s music matched what he was already feeling than that the music sparked the feelings, but I know that there are no pat answers and no comfort when someone ends their own life. Only confusion and pain, and I’m sorry for your loss. I fear you won’t find firm answers, because suicide rarely provides any.

  • http://blogcritics.org/mt/tb/40635 So Sad

    Phillip Win, thank you so mcuh for your comments. You are probably right. We’ve spent hours trying to figure out why, but in the end it will change nothing. Logically you know you can’t fix it, but somewhere deep down you feel if you could just understand what he was thinking and why, you could somehow change the outcome. God, I wish I could!

  • TC8trax

    James Blunt is an Ass-Monkey, singing a banal, lame and shit-laden song. Those who enjoy this white-bread aural waste of time are apparently brain-dead!

  • TheRealDeal

    Ive seen far too much criticism / opinion aimed at Blunt’s ‘you’re beautiful’… i think you guys have allowed the real diamond in the rough which is ‘high’, to slip by unnoticed, i heard this song a few weeks back (which incidentily stirred my interest in the album) and it just encapsulated everything that is, being in love. Its a beautiful track, the lyrics far surpass anything else he’s written, the video is just twisted enough to be symbolic and of course, this track features Blunt’s range and vocals at their very best. Fuckget ‘youre beautiful’ cos its tacky, soppy top-10 nonsense… give this one a fair-dinkum.
    PS: I just read that ‘youre beautiful’ is a fave at U.K weddings…which sadly demonstrates both the British public’s complete sadcase mentality…and the obvious shortfall of quality in this song.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Real Deal- Thanks for stopping by. “High” is certainly a fine little song, but I don’t see how you can carry on about it and then dismiss “You’re Beautiful.” That’s the finest hit song of the year, and knocking it doesn’t make your fave better.

    In some ways, I could really see “You’re Beautiful” as a nice romantic theme, but the whole “never going to be with you” theme seems antithetical to a wedding. But then people were playing “Every Breath You Take” by the Police as a wedding theme for years. That’s just people not listening close, I have to think.