Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: James Blunt's "You're Beautiful"

Within the matrices of heterosexual romance, good words are hard to come by. The burden placed upon three simple words--"I love you"--to communicate verbally the unarticulable feelings one has for their betrothed has rendered the phrase dull and meaningless. For those in the process of courtship, a well-chosen love sonnet can be a confusing symbol as well. If one were, for instance, to recite William Shakespeare's most famous example of the form, Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"), the intended audient might complain of its archaic language and accuse the speaker of plagiarism and unoriginality. Similarly, if the choice was Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways," the recepient might claim that Barrett Browning was plagiarizing from Shakespeare. When old fashioned forms of courtship fail to impress, one can always resort, during the process of initiating a relationship, to the even less-impressive "pick-up line." For men who are not "cunning linguists" like James Bond, the pick-up line can be distastrous, as the deliverer often confuses "wit" with "sexist belligerence." It's just down-right embarrassing for a man to say stuff like "You're like a bass drum / I can see myself banging you hard," "Are you from Nashville? / 'Cause you're the only 'Ten-I-See,'" "Do you wanna see something swell?" or, my personal favorite, "What time is it?" Thankfully, James Blunt solved all of our problems when he released his mind-blowingly genius love song, "You're Beautiful," in 2005. Scientific research suggests that the two-word compliment "You're Beautiful" works every time.

The song begins with an inviting four-note figure played on acoustic guitar, later to be joined by a steady rhythm section and swelling sounds of strings and piano. Blunt has one of those high, thin, sexy British voices that sounds like he had just run for ten miles and smoked a cigarette at the same time before he entered the studio to cut the vocals. While the lyric is essentially a shaggy dog story of unrequited love about a man who sees a beautiful woman "on the subway" with "another man" ultimately to never see her again, nobody ever really notices it. What they do hear, however, is James Blunt's soaring, triumphant repetition of the phrase "You're beautiful!" And that's the most brilliant thing about the song. It is a tragic tale of heartbreak, a classic example of a missed opportunity, masquerading as a self-help book for the verbally-challenged lover. According to the greatest creative thinkers and philosophers in the history of mankind, all women (and many men) want to be told "You're beautiful" AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE ... in a high, thin sexy British voice coming from a speaker who has just been running for ten miles while smoking a cigarette at the same time. Even though some in the Thespian community, like Christina Hendricks, think it's passe, suggesting we tell our betrothed "You are radiant," James Blunt was clearly a pioneer of Amorous Studies for singing one of the greatest songs of this young millenia, refreshing our language with a simple, effective, sexy, and classy compliment that will NEVER become stale, no matter how many times it is repeated in a span of 200 seconds.


  1. Interesting that Christina Hendricks, of all people, would warn men against staring at breasts. All I can say in response is that when I take that approach with my betrothed, sixty percent of the time, it works every time.