Since “You’re Beautiful” crooner James Blunt told the Daily Mail that he “wanted to take some time off for himself”—a statement the paper somehow translated into “I’m retiring”—the joy emanating from Twitter has been palpable. Here’s a very small taste from across the pond, where Blunt is a bigger name:
Of course, the Internet’s purpose is to slander celebrities anytime, anyplace, so we don’t have to engage with friends and family members. But the comments galled me for three reasons.
1. If so many people can misinterpret a brief item about an innocuous balladeer, then I can’t imagine how misinformed we are on real problems—the environment, fracking, Argo’s Oscar chances. In the Internet age, an error becomes a fact with frightening speed.
2. In America, at least, Blunt was known for one, maybe two songs (if you want to count “Goodbye, Lover”) before politely fading away. He never prostituted himself on a reality show, vomited on The Tonight Show, or made out with Betty White in a hip Manhattan nightspot. “You’re Beautiful” was just enormously popular, and that has more to do with America’s radio programmers, who are not exactly known for their variety. So “You’re Beautiful” will be played in doctors’ waiting rooms, your mom’s Hyundai Accord, and by clueless wedding DJs until the sun stops burning bright.
I’m sure if you saw James Blunt perform in a coffee shop or as an anonymous opening act, you’d find him agreeable. Ubiquity ruins everything. Does the overexposure mean that Blunt is a superlative musician? As someone who spent a healthy chunk of Tuesday morning sampling his touchy-feely repertoire I can safely say, “Good God, no.” He has the painfully introspective air of someone who dominates Zach Braff’s iPod. But there are worthier targets for our vitriol. I prefer Blunt to the legion of autotuned, heavily stylized pop tarts that dominate pop music. Compared to Katy Perry’s robotic wheezing in “Firework,” Blunt sounds like Marvin Gaye.
3. I love Twitter, but events like Blunt’s non-announcement turns its community into comedians telling the same lazy joke: “You suck—good riddance” or “You had one lame song.” Social networks are rife with problems: the sharing of details that shouldn’t leave a therapist’s office; the urgency that every thought is a pearl of wisdom; endless, uneventful updates on teams, kids, really tasty cheeseburgers. An underreported woe is that millions—including, occasionally, myself—wrongly assume that they are David Sedaris at the world’s largest cocktail party. Forget about observation and wordplay and build-up: All you need is an obvious observation and an easy target.
I hope everyone saves this list. We’re better than this. Plus, we need to avoid a meltdown when Michael Bolton’s announcement of a Caribbean getaway is viewed as a resignation letter.