A thoughtful performer with a distinctive voice and a knack for crafting melodic contemporary soft rock tunes, James Blunt is best known for his international chart-topping single "You're Beautiful," a mournful ode to unrequited love. It was the second single from his debut album, 2004's Back to Bedlam, which became the U.K.'s top-selling album for the year 2005. Success soon followed in the U.S., where the song hit number one and the album went to number two early the next year. A former British Army officer, Blunt remained an international Top Ten artist through releases such as his optimistic third long-player, 2010's Some Kind of Trouble, and 2017's The Afterlove, a more polished fifth full-length that saw him join forces with songwriter/producers including Ed Sheeran. Born in Tidworth, Wiltshire, England, in 1974 to a family with a long military history, Blunt learned piano, violin, and guitar in his youth and, with ambitions to pursue a career as a pop singer already well-ingrained, wrote an undergraduate thesis at the University of Bristol titled The Commodification of Image -- Production of a Pop Idol. Having enrolled at university on an Army scholarship, he next attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on his way to six years of service. Ultimately achieving the rank of captain, Blunt served with the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo and finished out his time in the military as a member of the Life Guard Regiment in the British Household Cavalry. He wasted no time in pursuing a pop career upon leaving the Army in October 2002. A subsequent performance at the 2004 South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, brought Blunt to the attention of 4 Non Blondes singer/producer Linda Perry, who signed Blunt to her Custard Records label. Released by Custard and Atlantic in 2005, Blunt's debut album, Back to Bedlam, and its hit single, "You're Beautiful," were hugely successful -- the single hit number one in over a dozen countries and the album has sold over ten million copies worldwide. Blunt toured for much of 2005 and 2006, then issued the two-disc "odds and sods" audio-video release Chasing Time: The Bedlam Sessions in 2006. He had been writing songs while on the road, and invited back Back to Bedlam's Tom Rothrock to produce them. Recorded with Blunt's live backing band, the set included writing collaborations with Mark Batson, Jimmy Hogarth, Steve McEwan, and Max Martin. The resulting All the Lost Souls arrived in September 2007. Featuring the U.K. number one single "1973," it saw him top the album charts again in places such as U.K., Canada, Australia, and parts of Western Europe, and went to number seven in the States. Disillusioned by success and a perceived loss of artistic credibility that came with a certain amount of ridicule for his earnest style, Blunt took a break from music before coming back in 2010 with his third full-length effort, Some Kind of Trouble. A more uplifting, spontaneous album influenced by '70s American pop/rock, it sold well, reaching the Top Five in his international strongholds. In 2012, he brought back Tom Rothrock to track his fourth album, Moon Landing. Featuring the country-folk-influenced U.K. number one "Bonfire Heart," the record saw release in October 2013. Increasingly self-depreciating in public statements, Blunt let roughly three and half years pass before presenting another album. Released in early 2017, The Afterlove featured songwriting collaborations with, among others, his friend Ed Sheeran and OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder. While it became his first album to miss the Top 20 in the U.S. (it peaked at 177), it returned him to the Top Ten elsewhere, including the U.K., where it reached number six. Still with Atlantic Records, he returned with his sixth full-length, Once Upon a Mind, in the second half of 2019. ~ Matt Collar & Marcy Donelson
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Pop - Released October 21, 2013 | Custard - Atlantic
James Blunt may never live down the success of his first single, "You're Beautiful." It made him a star in 2004 yet it also pegged him as the kind of sad-sack singer/songwriter beloved of doctors' offices the world over, which may be enough to sustain a living but not a career. Blunt is savvy enough to realize this and he started to broaden and enliven his craft fairly quickly, abandoning the slow-footed ballads of Back to Bedlam for a richly textured pop that eventually gained some semblance of color by the time Some Kind of Trouble rolled around in 2010. Three years later, Moon Landing arrived and although its title suggest some kind of spectral scope, it's not quite as lively as its predecessor, preferring the exquisitely textured adult contemporary pop of Dido, but giving those intricately produced ballads insistent melodies and rhythms. Sometimes, Blunt's phrasing can lapse into solipsistic moans -- this is especially true when the electronics are stripped away and the tempos slow -- but when everything is relatively sprightly, the feel is surprisingly appealing, even though Blunt can't help but piggyback on styles that are a guaranteed rocket to the Top 40. This is most evident on "Bonfire Heart," a Ryan Tedder collaboration that pounds and stomps in the style of the Lumineers, and there are echoes of Maroon 5 in the octave jumps of "Always Hate Me," but these pandering lapses -- accentuated by an unnecessary tribute to Whitney Houston called "Miss America" -- do not detract from an album that is, by many measures, Blunt's richest and best collection to date. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Pop - Released December 15, 2014 | Custard - Atlantic
Following the strides made on his 2013 album Moon Landing, English singer/songwriter James Blunt followed with five new songs on 2014's Smoke Signals EP. The songs included the peppy, somewhat rustic piano pop of first single "When I Find Love Again" and the shuffling, sprightly title track. All five songs were included on an expanded re-release of Moon Landing, redubbed Moon Landing - Apollo Edition, released the same year. ~ Fred Thomas
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