James Blunt, the posh English gentleman who was once a soldier, captured the music industry with the success of his debut album ‘Back to bedlam’. I like many others was impressed with Blunt’s first single ‘You are beautiful’ and decided to buy his album. However one listen to the whole album made me understand why some in the media had dubbed him Mr. Bland!
‘Back to bedlam’ with its ten songs, is without a doubt a very impressive first album by anyone’s standard. However the problem with it is that once you have heard one James Blunt’s song, you have pretty much heard all of them. Blunt lacks vocal versatility, a fact that he doesn’t try to hide but it also means that it limits the expression of his deliverance of the songs. The album attempts to address this issue somewhat by focusing in a more layback, soft rock sound in which, Blunts vocal range lends itself very well. This fact is best expressed in the songs ‘You’re beautiful’, the second song on the album, and ‘Goodbye my lover’, the fourth song. These songs stand out the most to me because the subject matter of the songs is one of almost a desperation need created/experienced when one is in love. For this reason Blunt’s voice, which is whiney in expression carries the emotion of such desperation required perfectly for these songs. This is also the main reason, in my opinion, that the songs in this album are largely sad’ in nature.
Blunt does try to stretch his vocal ability in songs such as ‘High’, ‘So long jimmy’ and ‘Tears and rain’: the first, seventh and fifth songs respectively. However the outcome is mediocre. When Blunt tries to hit slightly higher notes as he does in ‘High’ and ‘Tears and rain’ or tries to adopt a more versatile range as is demanded by the more upbeat vibe to the song ‘So long Jimmy’, he comes across as very amateurish. This limitation to his vocal expression sometimes gives the listener a feeling as though Blunt is singing along to someone else’s song rather than be in command of the artistic expression the songs demand. It seems that his vocal abilities are best expressed with a more toned down melody, as is the case with ‘You’re beautiful’. This fact also limits the variation of instruments that can be married to create more engaging melodies for the listener. In fact in the eight song ‘Billy’ and the sixth song ‘Out of mind’, Blunt’s voice sounds as those he is struggling to be heard over the melody.
Despite these limitations ‘Back to bedlam’ is a good, relaxing album to listen to. Furthermore the need to tone down melodic expression to allow for better execution by Blunt’s voice make it easier for the listener to sing along to the songs. This fact will appeal to some and thus favor Blunt’s career progression as a musician. However if you enjoy great vocal versatility, such as those demonstrated by the likes of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson and so on, this album becomes very dull very quickly. The limitation of Blunt’s vocal ability as mentioned above resulting in a restrictive subject matter, in this case to largely sad/depressive song types, will also alienate anyone who prefers more happy/dance songs. This album will however suit anyone who enjoys sad, slightly whiney songs or anyone who enjoys the songs by artists such as David Gray.