James Blunt, Once Upon A Mind - album review
There's bravery shown by James Blunt every time he releases a new record.
Like Coldplay, it has become 'cool' to mock Blunt. Just search for him on Twitter and see the comments thrown at him and his music by reams of keyboard warriors.
Blunt has opened himself up to this experience for a sixth time with the release of Once Upon A Mind. And yet...his Twitter game is so strong he has owned his position in the musical world and bats laugh-out-loud replies back with ease. There are whole features and website feeds dedicated to Blunt putting down the put-downers.
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It's just a shame, then, that his quick-wit and personality doesn't get much of a run-out in this 11-song collection.
Blunt has described it as his "most honest album I have ever made". After dabbling with electronics he has gone back largely towards the kind of soft ballads that made his 2004 debut Back To Bedlam an international juggernaut.
Already you can feel eyes rolling and Twitter apps loading up to try and be the tweeter to finally slay the self-deprecation king.
And radio-friendly, middle-of-the-road piano tracks like the hopeful but plodding The Greatest and emotive How It Feels To be Alive are the kind of numbers that will be squarely in the firing line.
But the much-needed Give Blunt A Chance (GBAC) fan group, should it exist, would have plenty to wave in his defence.
There's uplifting beats and happy-clap instrumentals in Champions which lift the tempo and atmospherics to more layered levels and spruce up proceedings. Blunt goes full Maroon 5 on the pop-filled Youngster and dabbles with different vocal styles in a track so unlike 2005 smooth, smash hit single You're Beautiful you'd think it wasn't him.
And he even dabbles with the alt-country vibes pushed out by Of Monsters And Men on the foot-tapping Halfway. Is there even a future for Blunt in Nashville and a whole new world of social media bashers to fight?
Maybe not. But whether this is your cup of tea or not, absolute utmost respect goes to Blunt for sincerely not caring what people have to say and carrying on as he wants. Many of those criticising him wouldn't have the balls.
James Blunt kicks off his 2020 tour at Arena Birmingham on February 14
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