Hi. As of March 2017, I'm currently feuding with British singer-songwriter/war hero James Blunt. His latest viral success, a joke set list, is an image I created, and have not been given any public credit for. This is not brilliant. This is not pure.
On the morning of March 20th, four days before the release of his new album, The Afterlove, his official twitter account posted this image, which went super-viral to the tune of more than 150,000 likes over the next three days.
It's funny, self-deprecating and a goofy piece of memorabilia.
My problem with it? It's mine.
Coming off the success of Passive-Aggressive Art Gallery, I'd posted the image the night before as a small joke, equating meeting Blunt as a personal high point beyond the wave of press and online recognition I'd received over the last week. By the following morning, it was posted on James' account without credit - the image directly lifted from my tweet. That's my red IKEA desk as a background.
I immediately voiced my concern to @JamesBlunt, proving my claim to the image first with the actual set list (with my cat acting as authenticator) and the set list shown front and back to verify bleed from the Sharpie used to sign...
...and then with further evidence, namely a previous scan of the same setlist, posted quietly to twitter in 2013.
For backstory, yes, that is James Blunt's actual signature. I skipped school that day to camp out in front of the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC to meet him and get this fake setlist I made signed. He had an excellent sense of humor about it, for me being a 17-year-old piece of shit essentially saying "sign this - I'm telling you that you suck to your face."
He crossed off one "You're Beautiful," and said, "I'm not gonna play *that* one. I'm a little sick of it."
I didn't own his album yet, but I had shoplifted a divider from K-Mart and he signed it as well.
He also signed a cartoon portrait I'd made with a space for his signature in a word bubble. I was hoping to create a Pokemon effect of him saying his own name.
He personalized it, foiling that bit of dickishness.
While my intent at the time was surely to troll, to be a teenage jerk pulling one over on a newly-minted pop star, the way he carried himself that day won me over, and his ability to laugh at himself and tolerate my obnoxiousness made me a sincere fan. You better believe I bought every album he put out since - you're wrong if you think I don't know my James Blunt deep cuts, and you damn well know I paid $130 for a rare vinyl copy of Back to Bedlam from Amoeba Music in Hollywood in 2016.
So, to see my goofy tribute lifted, and to only find out about this when several friends recognized one of my favorite one-of-a-kind items in my autograph collection becoming one of the most-passed-along pieces on the Internet, well, I went on the offensive quickly, and I started calling him out as soon as I could assemble my proof.
I talked to James the same day. He remains charming and personable and chalked it up to an assistant posting it for him that day, as if that makes it fine, because in that case, he just has an assistant who sees nothing wrong with swiping somebody else's image without asking permission.
We joked about it. We called it a collaboration.
And like the world's oldest young person, I insisted on comparing myself to Bernie Taupin (who was Elton John's lyricist, and thus my closest comparison for writing the words for a British singer).
I fought for further credit. Perhaps a retweet of my original tweet, or a corrected tweet acknowledging my contribution, or maybe even just a retweet of the Passive-Aggressive Art Gallery, which at the moment was still one of the top moments on Twitter and was news in the Daily Mail internationally. Just a little something to say thank you and put something I made out in front of his 1.1 million followers, but this time, with a shot of making some of his fans my fans too.
Instead, I next saw a USA Today article about Blunt, praising his web presence, calling him Twitter's unlikeliest, funniest star, and starting with the delightfully infuriating sentence "James Blunt is a master of writing his own punchlines."
Of course, the viral setlist is a focal point of the article. I am credited, appropriately, as "a guy."
I contacted the writer of the article. I let him know the image used was mine. He responded and said he would add a note, but this did not come to pass.
Literally nothing about the "James Blunt is funny and self-deprecating" narrative is hurt by giving me credit for my joke, and its frustrating as a fan to think no one in his camp would consider how a fan would enjoy knowing something they made was worthy of an endorsement by its subject.
"Hey - we really like your setlist - do you mind if we share it?"
"That would be great, just give me credit if you don't do a direct retweet."
Instead, I keep shouting into the twitter void. My work is a key part of the promotional push for his new album and a media-ready cornerstone to spotlight his humility and charm, and I don't even get the satisfaction of a public endorsement from a notable former has-been.
Honestly, I should probably just let it go. It's not like I can just steal some of his work and show him how it feels.
Unfortunately, this whole experience has taught me that, as gross as it feels, I need to be more vigilant and insist on the use of watermarks on original pieces in the future.
You know what irks me the most, though? The wording of that viral tweet.
"Anyone want a signed set list of mine from 2006?"
As if he's giving it away, as if it's something he owns, as if it was something he'd have if it weren't for me.
From my cold, dead hands, James. From my cold, dead hands.