To put it Bluntly
James Blunt has reinvented himself of late.
When he initially burst into the public consciousness with the album Back to Bedlam in 2004 he was met with critical acclaim and commercial success, as the album sold over 11 million copies.
Since then though he’s become something of a joke figure in the eyes of many, in no small part down to his plummy accent and high pitched singing voice.
‘Posh-bashing’ is just about the only thing you can get away with these days when it comes to observing social classes. Blunt’s demeanour, and indeed his very name (born James Hillier Blount) leaves him open to ridicule according to the established rules of modern day society.
Knowing he’s not traditionally well liked in the music industry, Blunt has chosen to embrace this, engaging in a refreshingly self-deprecating approach to his critics, slating his own music and mannerisms as he goes.
His Twitter comebacks are appreciated the world over as he (often profanely) rebuffs tweets that are either directly or indirectly aimed at him. He must have great fun searching for mentions of his name before jumping in and throwing a comment grenade onto the tweeter’s timeline.
Recently, it’s his Twitter wisecracks that have seen him garner most publicity rather than his music, however not everyone has forgotten that he’s a musician first, and a social media comic second.
Chris Bryant, Labour’s shadow culture minister, has hit out at what he sees as the amount of people from a ‘privileged background’ dominating the arts world, inspired in part by Eton-educated Eddie Redmayne’s nomination for an Academy Award and Golden Globe success. During the course of Bryant’s diatribe he specifically name-dropped James Blunt as one of the privileged few who we “couldn’t have a culture dominated by.”
Now he might have a point that certain people are given a greater heave onto the career ladder than others, but James Blunt took particular objection to this, delivering a withering riposte in the form of an open letter to the shadow minister.
He articulated (whilst including the odd mild expletive) that his ‘privileged background’ had been nothing but a barrier to him during his musical career with the majority of people insisting he was ‘too posh’ to succeed, even being advised to change his accent at one stage if he wanted to achieve any measure of success.
Furthermore he pointed out that his private school in no way promoted his musical talent, instead steering him to his initial career in the army, which it saw as the appropriate direction for a public school boy to take.
Whilst chuckling at references to ‘classist gimp’ and ‘prejudiced wazzock’, I particularly enjoyed the sign off: ‘Up Yours, James Cucking Funt’, which left readers in no doubt as to his sentiment on the matter.
Chris Bryant might have legitimate concerns about the state of the industry and the fact that people of modest means struggle to make it, but I’ve never understood why it’s acceptable to object to someone for being privately educated. Yes they may be seen as more privileged than the rest of society, but surely it’s an accident of birth?
The child can’t be blamed for their parents having enough wealth to fund a private education. Just as in the same way that a child in a state school can’t be blamed for their family not having enough money to have them privately educated (whether they’d wish to or not is another matter). It’s all an accident of birth.
Choices in later life are different of course, but I don’t believe James Blunt thought on his first day at Harrow ‘I’m going to be slated for this when I’m older, send me to a comprehensive, mummy!’ or indeed “Comprehensive be damned! This is where I belong.” Object to the system by all means, but I think it’s unfair to round on a product of that system, which often seems to be the case when it comes to political point scoring.
I appreciate that he’d have had better financial support during his early career than most and I agree with Chris Bryant that the arts would benefit from greater diversity and that those who are less well off could be given a greater helping hand, but I don’t think we should be finger pointing at privately educated success.
James Blunt might be a little crude at time, but he acts with genuine humour and apparent good grace. The prevailing impression from interviews is that he’s a genuinely nice bloke, privately educated or not. And that’s something that can’t be said for everyone.
So good PR to James Blunt, for sticking up for himself and pointing out that his success isn’t all hinged on his expensive education.
See James’ letter here, and Chris Bryant’s retort here.
Oh and I’m not privately educated by the way, unlike Chris Bryant, who went to Cheltenham College apparently. Hmm.