Looking for trouble

Before he was a famous singer, James Blunt was a soldier in the  British Army. Earlier this year, a story was released about how Blunt defied a command that could have put the world in jeopardy by sparking  WWIII. Musically, however, the headlines have been lacking for Blunt who hasn’t had a major hit since 2005. His new release, “Some Kind of  Trouble,” is an attempt to change that.

The opening track of the album is, “Stay the Night,” which has the unfortunate appeal of sounding way too much like Train’s puzzling hit, “Hey, Soul Sister.” This similarity is distracting and never really leaves the mind, disabling one from listening to it without thinking of the other. How did this happen? Where was Blunt when “Hey, Soul Sister” was being played a hundred times a day on radio stations everywhere? Not a good start.

The next track, “Dangerous,” is an even more unexpected change of pace. It starts off with a very synthetic-sounding beat of drums that supports the rhythm throughout the track. It has a very 80s feel that is accentuated in both the hook and the lyrics as Blunt sings, “She is dangerous, she is dangerous, I’m sure.” It sounds like something Michael Jackson, Eddie Murphy, and Hall & Oates would have written in a studio decorated with neon lights.

The third track, “Best Laid Plans” sounds like a continuation of what Blunt was doing when he first started in “Back to Bedlam.” It’s constructed by soft, piano-guided vocals that crescendo in a powerful chorus. Even the context of the album is the similarly wallowing, self-pitying, emotional sentiments that Blunt expressed in his debut.

Later on, Blunt makes a very blunt statement. He says, “Times like these I don’t want to be a superstar/ ‘cause reality TV killed them all in America.” Well, James, tell us how you really feel. Could this be the reaction of a superstar who failed to garner any considerable attention with his sophomore album, “All the Lost Souls?” Or is he just singing about an imaginary person’s issues? After all, the song is a narration of somebody else’s life.

Whatever the meaning of that song is is debatable. What is not — what is a fact — is the aggressive way in which Blunt attacks the track, “Superstar” with full force. The song includes a heavy, quite electric, Queen-like guitar solo in the instrumental break in the middle. It’s different from the toned-down version of musical arrangement that Blunt displayed on most tracks in “Back to Bedlam.”

I would definitely recommend this album to someone unfamiliar with Blunt’s previous work, though I would rather introduce them to “Back to Bedlam.” “Some Kind of Trouble” is good, it’s just predictable. Even when he’s doing something on the album that seems like new territory for him, it doesn’t stand out from anything else being done by other artists. When Blunt first came on the music scene his style was fresh. His simple, elementary style was a good dose of something unlike the mainstream. But today, Blunt has been unable to reinvent himself and to catch that same spark, which propelled him to the immense popularity he gained with his debut.

“Some Kind of Trouble” lacks excitement and this is a problem in a world where so many exciting things are happening in music, and where the most successful artists survive
by reinvention.

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