James Blunt – All The Lost Souls
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Record Label: Atlantic Records
Like everyone else, I love a good underdog story. And, while an artist whose debut album goes on to sell 14 million copies might not seem like an underdog in the traditional sense, James Blunt still kind of is. Through no fault of his own, “You’re Beautiful” was the type of song that you just couldn’t get away from. You’d hear it on every adult contemporary radio station known to man, you’d see the video on VH1, and you’d hear about James’ story on the news. All that shit. Now, while this type of ubiquity might seem like the holy grail for musicians, it is only if you can avoid the all-too-common backlash that comes with such degrees of fame. So, here we are essentially three years after the initial release of Back to Bedlam, and the question remains if James can overturn the bad vibes that finally started to catch up with him, or if he is destined to be a one-off flash in the pan.
So, there you have it. I really wanted to like All the Lost Souls – or at least be able to find its redeeming qualities. But damn, James Blunt makes it hard to like and respect his work. So much of his follow-up is just way too cheesy to be taken seriously by most everyone beyond the age of 12. All the Lost Souls is absolutely riddled with soft-rock radio fodder – a record created less to sate some deep artistic void, and more to fill the silence on the minivan drives home from Ikea. Sure, this might seem harsh, but I have a tough time constructing an argument that tells me it is not also true.
When you sit down with Blunt’s record for the first time, it is easy to think at first that you might just get the sonic coup that you were silently hoping for. The album’s opener, “1973,” is an extremely engaging track that dresses up James’s brand of wuss-pop in a rather becoming shawl of subtle jazz and R&B tones, with the end result serving as a welcome departure from anything else Blunt has done in the past. Unfortunately, such tangents are short-lived, as “One of the Brightest Stars” (a truly cringe-worthy title) devolves into the uber-sensitive, trying-way-too-hard type of crooning that made Back to Bedlam such a painful listening experience. After this, the disc makes a favorable uptick once more, with “I’ll Take Everything” combining a shuffling drum loop and a surprisingly soulful hook to add a little flavor to an otherwise bland mix.
Be prepared though – don’t expect much else to earn favor with you after this point. The rest of All the Lost Souls is rife with the kind of stuff girls take bubble baths to. Muted acoustic guitars, twinkling pianos, Blunt’s grating caw, silly lyrics, and a pace that could put a Starbucks-wired espresso-head to sleep. The kind of music that makes The Fray sound hard. So yeah, if you are looking for a nice gift to get mom for Christmas, then she will likely appreciate the harmless, perfectly inoffensive stylings of All the Lost Souls. But as a golden headline on The Register once proclaimed, “James Blunt is still a tedious wanker.” After a listen to this record, that’s a tough sentiment to argue with.