Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Ex-Military Officer Rises in the Ranks of Pop Music ; James Blunt's Hit, 'You're Beautiful,' Is Poised to Make Him as Big a Star Here as He Is in Britain

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Ex-Military Officer Rises in the Ranks of Pop Music ; James Blunt's Hit, 'You're Beautiful,' Is Poised to Make Him as Big a Star Here as He Is in Britain

Article excerpt

The man his troops knew as Capt. James Blount spent four years in the British Army, some of it doing reconnaissance in Kosovo, and some of it in the Queen's Life Guard, riding beside her carriage with practiced stoicism.

Now he's a singer whose expressive No. 1 hit, "You're Beautiful" - a soundtrack staple on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" - can be heard all over the radio dial.

Military experience is not a common part of the resume of a pop star, if that is indeed what Blunt is. (He dropped the "o" for his stage name.) Thinking back to previous military-to-music transitions, there's Elvis Presley (who actually served in the military after he was a star) and "Hendrix,'' pipes in Blunt, on the phone from England. "He was a paratrooper.''

Not bad company, but Blunt bears no other similarity to either star. The songwriter makes yearning, delicate, emotional, piano- based music that will likely appeal to fans of Elliot Smith, Damien Rice, Nick Drake, or early Elton John.

Blunt comes from a family tradition of military service, and he credits the Army for exposing him to places where safety, food, and shelter aren't taken for granted. But his debut CD, "Back to Bedlam," is more concerned with love than war.

"I guess as a songwriter you draw on any life experience,'' the affable, quick-talking Blunt says. "On this album there are 10 songs, and 1-1/2 relate to my [previous] job. The others are pretty well balanced about my other life experiences."

Released late in 2004 in his home country, Blunt's debut disc went on to become Britain's bestselling album of 2005. It's at No. 5 on Billboard's chart at present and, just last week, was certified platinum in the US. All this mania was sparked by a pre-Christmas gig on "Saturday Night Live,'' and the success of "You're Beautiful,'' a ballad that reached No. 1 in the Billboard singles chart this week. (It's the first chart-topping song by a British artist since 1997.) Another love song, "High," is the second single. In Blunt's songs, romance certainly crashes - often rapturously - on the rocks. Is Blunt ultrasensitive to love's travails? …

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