James Blunt is back with The Afterlove and resistance is futile
Mocking whipping boys is grist to the mill for many people, and not just for those critics who take aim with an arsenal of cynical condemnation, let loose, and then sit back to be high-fived on social media by their mates.
The truth is something more prosaic. Guilty pleasures notwithstanding, we listen to more Ed Sheeran and James Blunt than we perhaps care to admit. Part of this is involuntary, of course – those darned radio playlisters just won’t take the hint, but what about the naysayers that ridicule the likes of Sheeran and Blunt based purely on what they read and not what they know?
Liking or disliking the music is fair enough, but opinions based on supposition, not facts? We all know where that leads.
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There’s more grist to that extremely busy mill on The Afterlove. Blunt’s fifth album sees him advance the reach of cowriting to significant, if not ridiculous lengths. Using the services of nearly 20 cowriters (including Sheeran, Ryan Tedder, Amy Wadge, Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid and Adonis Shropshire) across 10 songs, the all-too inevitable impression is that the former British army officer is taking no chances in covering as many stylistic bases as possible.
This strategic approach works fitfully, with the superior songs benefitting from self-referential lyrics that at least prove Blunt has a sense of humour (something his 1.3 million Twitter followers know only too well).
Yet Blunt is too often defined by a persona that has so far failed to counteract the creative equivalent of dad-dancing; his songwriting, too, often smacks of artificiality. This is why the likes of Lose My Number, California, Time of Our Lives, Heartbeat and Paradise have all the charm of an oil slick.
When Blunt and his writing committee get it right, though, the earworms wriggle in: Love Me Better, Bartender, Someone Singing Along and Make Me Better will be unavoidable for the next few months. Advice? Stop sneering and get used to it.