To be Blunt, is this the most annoying man alive?
Ed Power on the return of the man behind the mega hit 'You're Beautiful'
David Gray's voice bristled with irritation. "Everybody wants to know my opinion of James bloody Blunt. I've developed a deep loathing of him purely on the basis of having to answer questions about him," he said in 2007.
Normally, it would take a lot to rile the singer-songwriter. But then, the topic of conversation WAS James Blunt, the crooner behind gadzillion-selling 'You're Beautiful'.
Not since Chris de Burgh's 'Lady In Red' has a singer excelled at getting on the public's nerves quite like Blunt. A 2008 UK poll saw Blunt named one of the "most annoying things in life", ahead of cold callers and people that skip the queue.
What is it about Blunt, soon to release his third album, Some Kind of Trouble, that drives us to distraction?
Well, for one thing, he comes from a nose-bleedingly upper-crust background. Educated at the elite Harrow boys' school in London, he enrolled at the Sandhurst military academy and joined the British Army's Household Cavalry, where his duties included guarding the Queen Mother as she rested in state and deploying to Kosovo.
He has also done what no angst-ridden singer-songwriter is supposed to do, by becoming preposterously successful. In 2005 'You're Beautiful' vaulted to number one. Its ubiquity soon made it hateful, as it became a staple of terrible wedding bands and pub sing-alongs.
And yet... for such a universally loathed character, you'll be pushed to find anyone who has a bad word to say about him as an individual.
"He was a very polite sort of guy," says Conor Donovan, who booked Blunt to pay the intimate Ruby Sessions showcase in Dublin shortly before 'You're Beautiful' went supernova.
Donovan doesn't recall Blunt being particularly posh -- he certainly didn't have any airs or graces when he walked into Doyle's pub in central Dublin to play to 80 people.
"He hung around for a pint afterwards and was very gracious with the audience," says Conor.
Maybe we'd be more tolerant of Blunt if he didn't enjoy his success in so public a fashion. A confirmed bachelor, he has dated a string of glamazons -- aside from behind his piano, the locale you are most likely to see him photographed is exiting a nightclub, usually with a gazelle-like model on his arm.
As for his music, well despite his popularity it's fair to say he remains an acquired taste. Speaking to the Irish Independent, 2fm DJ Rick O'Shea was quite, 'er, blunt about Blunt -- "A bland evil that needs to be eradicated from the modern world," is his assessment.
Can anything redeem him? Well, the new album will apparently showcase a more upbeat side to the 36-year-old. He has apparently run out of things to feel depressed about.
He is aware that, so long as he is famous for 'You're Beautiful', the haters aren't going anywhere.
"Your artistic credibility goes out the window when you have a record that big," he said. "'You're Beautiful' meant something to me, but to most people, it's a song they sing when they're drunk."