The most well known fact of James Blunt’s life is that he served as a captain in the British army, even on a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. The lesser-known fact is that he can really carry a melody. With his debut album Back To Bedlam, James reinvigorates pop music by utilizing many different sounds like R&B and soul. I know, it’s been done before, but how many of those performers were military veterans?
What separates Blunt from other singer-songwriters like John Mayer and Howie Day is his memorable voice. The music should really be what separates artists from one another, but having a distinct voice helps too. Adult pop is the best way to describe the combination of Blunt’s songwriting abilities and mushy vocals.
Back To Bedlam seems slightly more mature and sophisticated than your average pop album. With the monster hit “You’re Beautiful,” Blunt is able to exfoliate the tension and vulnerability that come with love and simplify love with the honest and passionate words “you’re beautiful.” Love is a prevalent theme throughout the album from the opening track “High” with its persistent luby duby lyrics (“sometimes it’s hard to believe you remember me”).
Blunt uses a variety of sounds to spread his messages of love and loss. He tries hip hop in the verses of “Wisemen,” mixes jazz and soul in “So Long, Jimmy,” and does his best Gavin DeGraw impersonation in “Billy.” However, ballads are what he does best and the gem of the 10 tracks is “Goodbye My Lover,” with its simple piano melody and surprisingly moving vocals. I don’t think that James has the best singing voice, but he does use what he has well to complement the piano to create a heartfelt love letter.
Although “Cry” sounds ordinary and generic, “No Bravery” is both compelling and relenting. The album’s focus is very singular, and hopefully time and experience will help Blunt branch out into other directions of theme. As a debut, Back To Bedlam works very well in showing the world what James Blunt sounds like. His next album should luckily show the world what kind of musician that James Blunt wants to be. No pressure, honestly.