A bit like Ed Sheeran, James Hillier Blount produces bland pop that relies on his personality to sell. Sheeran is ruthlessly efficient, Blunt ruthlessly self-deprecating, getting lots of free PR by being witty on Twitter and mocking that which made him wealthy.
We recently read a telling a comment from Blunt (who captained the Household Cavalry alpine ski team): he taught Sheeran to ski, Sheeran taught him to write songs. Telling because while skiing can be taught, the great songwriters, from Mozart to Neil Young, have the songs mysteriously delivered into their heads, and don’t have to be taught.
This is thus a workmanlike album from a man who sees songwriting as an Ikea flatpack and if you want pop music that’s assembled to be pleasantly entertaining but has as much art to it as a dowel rod, it’s fine.
He’s got a nice (but no more) voice, and there are plenty of correctly placed hooks and melody. If you want something to hum to while doing something else and can’t be bothered to learn any new songs, it’s instantly hummable, it’s fine, albeit like a compilation of the most average Bee Gee ballads.
Blunt’s nemesis is You’re Beautiful, because of which he never needs to work again — it sold 3m copies in the USA alone, and was number one in Canada for 22 weeks, but will never be taken seriously. He senses the need to constantly atone for inflicting this one song on the world, though of course he needs people never to forget it, as it’s his pension plan.
This album opens with the line “Some people say the meanest things … I know I’ve done some sh*t/That I admit deserves it” while 2005 has the second line: “All I do is apologise for a song I wrote in 2005” and goes on: “I don’t think I can write a better love song/Without it I’d be no-one.” (Blunty, mate: walk away from this stress, give us the royalties and we’ll take all the flak for it, no worries).
Atonement for You’re Beautiful aside, the album has love songs for every possible occasion, as ruthless in its way as Ed Sheeran, whether it’s meeting up with an ex or jealousy over a crush’s date, or the person caught in an affair, or being broken hearted at a lover clearing off without a word.