James Blunt Starts Over with 'Some Kind of Trouble'

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Industry rebels don't come more polite than James Blunt. In keeping with his pre-music military career, Blunt speaks and acts with officer-class poshness and reserve. But the one-time army captain who led a column of NATO tanks in Kosovo in 1999 is resolute nevertheless.

Ask him for his favorite song on his third album, "Some Kind of Trouble" (Custard/Atlantic)-due Jan. 18 in the United States after being released in the rest of the world in November-and he selects "Turn Me On."

Not that you'd know of the track from the record's early reviews. It was, according to Blunt, purposely left off promotional copies "because [the label] thought it was inappropriate and they didn't want people to review it." Blunt says the song-sample lyric: "Why get complicated?/You know you want to turn me on"-is "not as emotionally sensitive as they think my audience would like."

Atlantic U.K. confirms that the track wasn't on U.K. promo CDs, but no one at the label was available to comment on the reason for its omission. When it came to the album's commercial release, Blunt and Atlantic reached an accommodation: "I said, 'OK, look, the album runs numbers one to 11. I'll put the song you really hate on at No. 13.' " The 12th song is "I'll Be Your Man," but "Turn Me On" became "the unlucky song stuck on at the end, which actually in a way highlights it, so I think I've done myself a favor."

Blunt is similarly underwhelmed by the new mix of the album's lead single, "Stay the Night," serviced to hot AC and triple A formats on Nov. 27, which features additional production by Rob Cavallo.

"I find it hard to describe the difference in words," he says. "Punchier? I think perhaps that was the brief. But I don't know if it is necessarily more punchy-it's just slightly different. That's the best I can say, really."

Blunt's beliefs about his label's view of his audience seem to be borne out by one aspect of Atlantic's campaign for the album. Dane Venable, New York-based senior VP of marketing for Atlantic, says Blunt will spend Grammy Awards week in Los Angeles, appearing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Chelsea Lately," then attend the Feb. 13 ceremony-a date that runs straight into Valentine's Day.

Given "the type of songs James is known for," Venable says, the TV shows leading up to the holiday "will create a perfect storm of increased traffic in retail stores."

Yet "Some Kind of Trouble," which features the upbeat, soft-rock "Superstar" and the dancefloor-friendly beats of "Dangerous," is no damp-eyed retread of the sentiment that made "You're Beautiful" one of the biggest hits of 2005. That ballad propelled Blunt's 2005 debut album, "Back to Bedlam," to worldwide sales of 13 million, according to the label; with 2.8 million U.S. sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and 3.2 million in the United Kingdom, according to the Official Charts Co.

The follow-up to "Bedlam," 2007's "All the Lost Souls," fared less well, scanning 463,000 U.S. and 758,000 U.K. copies. But emotionally and creatively, "Some Kind of Trouble" is the sound of an artist starting over.

"That first album is an innocent album," Blunt says. "Writing songs-it was a dream that I would make an album and put it out. And the second one was a reaction to that dream becoming a reality, for all its benefits and its costs. But that's over. And I can hear in this album a new sensibility. To regain innocence is a pretty special thing."

"Stay the Night" hit No. 4 in the United Kingdom, where it has sold 110,000, according to the OCC. By Christmas Blunt will have visited 14 markets, some more than once, filming slots for such shows as Australia's "The X Factor," Japan's "Sukkiri" and TV2's "New Year Show" in Denmark.

Ahead of the U.S. release, Blunt undertook a four-city (one in New York, three in California) acoustic mini-tour in mid-November, appearing in front of radio programmers, media and the staff at Apple. He's back in North America for two weeks around the album's release, with a three-song slot on NBC's "Today" booked for Jan. 17; he then returns Jan. 23 for a three-week press and radio tour of 10 major markets.

Blunt's world tour starts in February in Glasgow, Scotland, with a four-week U.S. trek starting April 18, booked by High Road.

"Playing live is what being a musician is about," Blunt says. "The charts or units sold are nothing to do with being a musician. Getting up onstage and taking people on an emotional journey is the purpose of being here in the first place."