James Blunt banned by radio station 'to give listeners a rest'

Ciar Byrne,Media Correspondent
Monday 29 May 2006 00:00 BST
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A radio station has responded to James Blunt's suggestion that anyone who does not like his music should simply switch off the radio, by banning his tracks from the airwaves.

In a move that may be closely monitored by other stations, Essex FM announced that from today it would no longer play Blunt's hits "You're Beautiful" and "Goodbye My Lover".

The GCap Media station said it was responding to recent audience research, which revealed that listeners had tired of Blunt's distinctive sound.

"Quite often there will be popular artists that people are starting to grow weary of. This time, the number of specific comments about James Blunt were more than we have ever seen for one particular artist," Chris Cotton, the programme controller, said.

"It was quite staggering. People said, 'Can you get rid of him?' 'Can you ban him?' Even people who say they are fans of his songs go on to express that they're sick of it."

Initially, the station will ban Blunt for a few days while eliciting feedback. But early indications suggest listeners are happy with the decision. When the station announced its intention to ban the singer, the switchboard was inundated.

"The amount of feedback is enormous, so it looks like there'll be a pretty long-term ban," Mr Cotton said. "This does tend to happen when artists reach a certain level of popularity, when it becomes wall-to-wall coverage.

"He has a unique sound and is an honest songwriter. That's the sort of combination that makes someone stand out, but people also tend to tire of that sound.We don't have anything against James Blunt and we're pleased he has been so successful, but we really need a break.

"While his songs have been very popular, there is a tremendous amount of industry pressure to play certain artists frequently. Often this can be out of step with the audience's tastes, which results in songs being overplayed. We're happy to stand up to this pressure. We encourage other radio stations to take the same step."

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Blunt's music has been labelled too bland by many people, but last week he was given the music industry seal of approval when he won two Ivor Novello awards.

"You're Beautiful" was voted international hit of the year and most performed work at the ceremony, which recognises songwriting talent.

Accepting his award, Blunt said: "To all those bastards who don't like my music - you're all adults, you can switch your radio off."

Asked if he ever got sick of his music, the former Household Cavalry officer whose love life, including a fling with Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, has made headlines, said: "I don't have to listen to it. I'm the one who sings it. And it's continued to get me laid."

Blunt has not found it quite so easy to seduce the audience of Essex FM, who, according to the station's playlist, prefer the music of Corinne Bailey Rae, Robbie Williams and Keane.

"You're Beautiful" reached number one in 25 countries, and in March Blunt became the first British artist to top the US Billboard chart in nine years. His album Back to Bedlam has sold more than seven million copies worldwide.

Acknowledging that some people might be tiring of his songs, when he accepted the Novello award for Most Performed Work, Blunt said: "I should probably be rude about it before anyone else is. So thank you very much for the Most Overplayed Song award."

In 1999, BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 refused to play "Millennium Prayer" by Sir Cliff Richard. It went to number one despite a lack of airplay.

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