Release Date: Nov 5, 2013
Record label: 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.
“I have never been a beautiful boy / never liked the sound of my own voice…” That autobiographical lyric is how British singer/songwriter James Blunt opens “Bones” from his fourth album, Moon Landing. When an artist possesses a truly distinct, pronouncedly different voice from the multitude, it can work beneficially or adversely. Many artists in such a position have experienced the sweet taste of success with a breakout single or album, only to later find themselves as “has-beens”.
James Blunt's ballads have always sounded emotionally lopsided, like inspirational speeches in search of a hard time. Compared to his past three albums, Moon Landing feels loose, almost rugged, though he still seems to bank on the fantasy of a world where most problems can be solved with a kind word or a warm bath. When he does beat his breast – like on "Bonfire Heart" or "Bones" – he does it gently.
There are easy targets, there’s shooting fish in a barrel, and there’s James Blunt. Ever since the former army captain appeared to take over the world by telling us all about how his life is brilliant and an unnamed ‘angel’ on the Tube was beautiful, his name seems to have become the musical byword for the colour beige and treated with a fair amount of disdain. Which is a shame, as he seems like a nice enough chap in interviews and has taken to displaying a winningly self-effacing attitude on Twitter of late.
Introducing James Blunt's new single, Bonfire Heart, on last Sunday's Radio 1 chart show, Jameela Jamil suggested he was "the most hated man in pop". That's debatable – Bonfire Heart is actually his biggest hit in years – but his continued success defies analysis. His fourth album is Blunt at his Bluntest: though he claims to have aimed for rawness and spontaneity, it's not so easy to leave your comfort zone, and the music stays within familiar soft-rock parameters.
Riding on as much good communal feeling as the guy who gets his acoustic guitar out at a party and starts playing Wonderwall, James Blunt is here, still, with his fourth album on which he continues to tread the well-worn soft-rock/folk-pop path. Single Bonfire Heart (the video for which features him riding around Wyoming and Idaho on a motorbike taking pictures of poor people) is very radio-friendly but, like every other song on Moon Landing, essentially drippy. Worst of all, though, is Blunt's distinctive voice, which sounds as if his testicles are being twisted.
It now feels like a lifetime ago when Brit singer-songwriter James Blunt ruled the pop charts in 2005 with the ubiquitous “You’re Beautiful.” After falling off the radar on these shores, he’s back with his fourth record, but this is not the reinvention Blunt so sorely needs. The same problems that plagued his past work, including his breakthrough “Back to Bedlam,” bleed into these tracks. The songs are filled with transparent lyrical ideas and an arid musical mix.
Can we blame James Blunt for establishing that super-earnest British folkies can rule the mainstream pop charts? His treacly, inescapable 2004 single "You're Beautiful" earned huge sales and abject loathing from critics. His latest, "Moon Landing," is his sort-of attempt to get back to flintier, personal songwriting. He does manage to out-Mumford and out-Sheeran his countrymen on the rustic single "Bonfire Heart" (ironically, co-written with super-pop penman Ryan Tedder).