October 11, 2007

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James Blunt, All the Lost Souls
Atlantic Records, Sept. 18
In this, overnight alt-pop sensation Blunt bestows more tender mercies upon docile yuppies through his second attempt at becoming an Elton John with a Five For Fighting grasp of current radio events. His gentle, weird lilt is oddly birdlike, rusted in a patina of grunge, like Eddie Vedder crooning a lullaby for Dakota Fanning so she’ll forget about the Martian death-bots. Everyone knows Blunt from his 2005 megahit “You’re Beautiful,” the first British pop single America’s taken seriously since Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind,” and it’s precisely that sort of cartoonishly awed resonance he excretes in “One of the Brightest Stars” — the song’s lyrics seem more directed to Blunt himself than Princess Di, but either way it’s a VH1-load of hyperbolic reverence.

This kid has to be admired somewhat for enduring forced-listening sessions of ’70s gunk. In his last album it was painfully obvious that he handcuffed himself somewhere where he couldn’t shut off the Fleetwood Mac loop, whereas this time he prepared for the writing process by torturing himself with the Eagles Greatest Hits (“Give Me some Love”) and Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is” (“I’ll Take Everything”). “1973” may be the key to Blunt’s whole pop branding, as it reveals a Natalie Merchant side to his sound that answers a lot of questions. BEric W. Saeger