Blunt said on VH1's The Vspot
that he wrote this song about seeing his ex-girlfriend with a new man he didn't know about on a train in the London underground. He says they shared a lifetime in their brief moment of eye contact. The words came to him all at once.
Steph - Cape Cod, MA
This song is often heard as very romantic, but there's something a little unhinged about this subway encounter that leads him to near obsession and compels him to make "a plan."
When Blunt did interviews to promote his 2017 album The Afterlove
, he often talked about the real meaning of this song, and why it was concealed.
"It's not the song that people think it is," he said in Time
. "It's about this guy who's high as a kite stalking someone else's girlfriend - and should be locked up and put in prison. But people think, 'Ah, he's a sweet romantic.' If you think that's what romance is, then I think you're pretty weird."
Blunt was marketed as a tender and sensitive balladeer, which skewed perception of the song. By 2017, he was ready to shed that image.
In a February edition of Radio Times, James Blunt responded to a question about the girl he sings about: "The girl in question is my ex-girlfriend and she's with her new man. I've always said that I haven't seen her since and then the press tried to find her. I'm not bothered enough to start acknowledging or denying whether they found her."
The girl that inspired this song is Dixie Chassay, who works in the casting department on films. Blunt mentions her in the thank you note on his first album.
Emma - Plymouth, England
This song reached #1 in its seventh week on the UK chart and after no less than four weeks in the Top 3, a rare feat in the UK where chart toppers usually go straight in at the top of the chart.
James Blunt sang this at Elton John's civil partnership ceremony to David Furnish on December 21, 2005, the first day same-sex unions were allowed in England and Wales. John and Furnish got married exactly nine years later, once gay marriage was legalized in England.
Back To Bedlam sold 2.37 million copies across the UK in 2005, making it the year's top-selling album.
In the video, Blunt jumps into the sea without a shirt. This can be seen as a suicide, as it goes with the last lines of the song, "But it's time to face the truth. I will never be with you." The clip's director, Sam Brown, disagrees and says the act is really about moving on. Blunt had to train with a diving instructor to make the 50-meter (164 feet) leap into the water, which he did twice before cutting his foot.
On the unabridged album version of this song, Blunt sings:
She could see from my face that I was f--king high
In the radio edit (and also the video), this was changed to "flying high," when puts the song in a completely different context: instead of being high on drugs, he is simply thrilled to see her.
Blunt told Event magazine: "I'm afraid I do use 'f--k' a lot. It's a very adaptable word. In 'Your Beautiful' I have the line 'f--king high,' and the record company asked me to remove this swearword. I did try putting in 'particularly' and 'especially' instead, I decided that they really aren't suitable substitutes for my favorite word."
Weird Al Yankovic recorded a parody of this song called "You're Pitiful," but Blunt's record label (Atlantic Records), blocked the release. Yankovic has allowed the song to be downloaded free.
Cliff - Burkesville, KY
Blunt performed this on a 2007 episode of Sesame Street as "A Triangle." Apparently, Blunt has a thing for the three-sided shape. Sample lyric: "It must be those angles put a smile on my face, not to mention the hypotenuse."
In an interview with Q magazine February 2008, Blunt was asked about the photo of a pill on the cover of the Back To Bedlam CD. He explained: "It's a ceramic pill about a foot long that I found in Carrie Fisher's house, where I lived when I recorded both albums. It said 'Prozac' on it but I changed it, obviously, to say 20 milligrams of James Blunt. I just thought it looked cool."
The Daily Record March 22, 2008 asked Blunt if he was bored with this monster hit. The singer-songwriter replied: "If I had the radio on all the time and they kept playing that song then yes, I'd probably turn it off. But do I still like the song? Absolutely. It's a really personal song about a moment which meant a great deal to me. And I'm sure plenty of guys have seen their ex-girlfriend with a new man at some stage. It bites into you and I captured that in a really honest song. I love that song for capturing that moment. I'm saddened by what it reminds me of, and I appreciate what it did which is advertise an album I'd made."
Back To Bedlam was the biggest-selling album of the 2000s in the UK. Dido's No Angel was the second most popular, and Amy Winehouse's Back to Black the third.
British Songwriter and producer Sasha Skarbek had been helping James Blunt develop his songcraft for a while when the pair sat a piano one day in LA. During that session they developed this tune from a basic sketch into a complete song in just three hours. "It's strange that the songs you become known for tend to be the ones that come so quickly that you almost question it," Skarbek reflected to Q magazine June 2012.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Blunt sang this during the marathon 2008 All the Lost Souls tour 213 times in 58 countries in two months.
The ubiquity of this song caused some problems for Blunt, who told the British tabloid Hello! in 2014:
"There was one song that was force-fed down people's throats - 'You're Beautiful' - and it became annoying. And then people start to associate the artist with the same word."
Blunt added: "I think, at the end of the day, I was marketed by a record company to appeal to women during Desperate Housewives commercials and you lose 50 percent of the population in doing so. The marketing also painted me out as an insanely serious person, an earnest person and, as all my friends know, I'm anything but. I have a couple of over-emotional miserable songs that I'm known for, but I think it's turned that corner now. People can see I don't take myself that seriously."
In the beginning of the song, Blunt sings the first line twice ("My life is brilliant") because he mistimed it. The mistake was left in the final album recording, but omitted in radio versions. Blunt explained in a 2020 interview with The Guardian
: "The song has a false start. I sing 'my life is brilliant' twice, which is my little joke, but I think in my elated state, from whatever concoction I might have taken at the time, life did seem really brilliant. The tube certainly looked very colorful."
Aline - Montreal
Director Sam Brown shot the music video atop a cliff in Mallorca, Spain. He used a rain machine to create a dreary atmosphere, but it was actually a warm summer day that was ideal for Blunt, who had to strip off his clothes in the clip. The shoes he removed weren't his, though. The director lent his own shoes to the singer because Blunt liked them so much.
The song's co-writer Sacha Skarbek told Hit Quarters what songwriting lessons he shared with the singer: "When James and I first started working together although he had enormous potential - a great ability with lyrics and turn of phrase - he didn't necessarily have all the songcraft - the understanding of how arrangements work or of how hooks are important and how they work. So not just the technical side but also in how to get your message across - when to make things simple and when to allow a little bit more imagery. I think that was what I was able to offer him at that stage."
Blunt's 2019 video for "Cold
" follows where "You're Beautiful" left off, showing him washed ashore after diving into the water.