Remember James Blunt? You might be forgiven if you don’t, or if the name sounds familiar but you’re not sure why (sorry James).
He’s the squeaky-voiced ex-Army Captain who had a number one hit with ‘You’re Beautiful’ back in 2005, when the song hit the top of the UK chart and stayed there for five consecutive weeks. In fact, ‘You’re Beautiful’ became so wildly popular that it was the fourth best-selling song of 2005, and the 39th most popular song of the decade.
Ironically, it seems that the song’s popularity helped spring Blunt into the public eye, but it also turned him into one of the most hated artists of the last 20 years.
A quick search for his name on Twitter brings up a variety of insults and put downs. One recent example from @robdoylecouk says:
James Blunt's debut album 'Back to Bedlam' has sold 11 million copies. And the government trusted *us* to vote on #Brexit.
— rob doyle caricature (@robdoylecouk) July 8, 2016
Using Blunt as the punchline of a joke is common on Twitter. When @lunablakemusic asked a question with no link to Blunt at all, look at the response:
@lunablakemusic being stuck on a never-ending path made entirely of upturned plugs with no shoes and only James Blunt for company ?
— Ted Maul disturbs (@TedMauldisturb) July 9, 2016
@AnnaaMcDonaldd, another Twitter user, asked:
Why am I listening to James blunt hungover, what's my life come to ?
— anna (@AnnaaMcDonaldd) July 9, 2016
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Those examples were all taken from a single search of Blunt’s name, and were posted within a period of two hours, which should give you an indication of how popular it has become to hate Blunt and his music.
But, rather than letting his record company run his accounts, or even shying away from social media completely, Blunt has shown an unexpected response to the public’s opinion of him.
He responds to the hate, sometimes even quoting the original tweet to show his followers exactly how he handles the insults. This has caused Blunt’s online followers to see him as someone who responds to even the cruellest of jibes with such a degree of wit and self-deprecation that you can’t help but like him.
When @laurenlyall thought she’d come up with another Blunt insult, she’d not realised just how perfectly she’d set him up for the ultimate response:
Damn thing's always getting caught under my feet. RT @laurenlyall: Why does James Blunt sing like his willy is being stood on?
— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) October 16, 2013
He continued in the same fashion when @TroyJosephDavis asked, “no one really likes James Blunt right?” Blunt’s response was short, sweet but totally on point:
Yeah, I bought those 20 million albums myself. RT @TroyJosephDavis: no one really likes James Blunt right?
— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) April 17, 2015
At the time of writing, that tweet has over 7,500 retweets, making it one of the most popular tweets Blunt has ever sent out.
Soon, Blunt’s follower count began to rocket, with users following him just to read his latest comeback. This was evidenced by @BWillett87, who tweeted directly at Blunt, saying, “can’t stand your music but your comebacks are second to none.” True to form, Blunt quickly retweeted it and added:
— James Blunt (@JamesBlunt) July 31, 2015
It’s been lauded as a fantastic marketing strategy, but in a 2014 interview, James explained that his responses are more about being self-aware and trying to calm the situation with humour.
“It totally defuses them. It is a cycle of people being horrid to each other, then someone’s horrid to them back, it’s this negative circle that humans do. What I try and do is say things with humour. I mock myself as much as I mock anyone I write to,” he said when speaking News AU.
No matter how he sees it, Blunt is undoubtedly gaining popularity due to his Twitter usage, which may have had a direct correlation with his recent chart success; his album ‘Moon Landing’ reached number two on the UK album charts in 2013. That, combined with having over 1.2 million followers on Twitter alone, makes it clear that his online antics are helping to rehabilitate his musical reputation, and to create a new alter-ego as Twitter’s very own comeback king.