James Blake (musician)

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James Blake
James Blake - Roskilde Festival 2011.jpg
Blake performing at Roskilde Festival 2011
Background information
Also known as Harmonimix
Born (1988-09-26) 26 September 1988 (age 28)
Enfield, London, United Kingdom
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • record producer
  • Vocals
  • piano
  • synthesizer
Years active 2009–present
Associated acts
Website jamesblakemusic.com
Notable instruments

James Blake Litherland (born 26 September 1988),[1] known as James Blake, is a British singer, songwriter, musician and producer from London. He first received recognition in 2010 for a trio of dubstep-influenced EPs, and the following year his self-titled debut album was released in the United Kingdom[2] to critical praise. His second studio album Overgrown was released in 2013 and was awarded the Mercury Prize.[3] His third studio album The Colour in Anything was released in 2016.[4] Blake has also released remix work under the moniker Harmonimix.

Blake received his first Grammy nomination at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards for Best New Artist.[5] At the 2014 Brit Awards, Blake was nominated for the Brit Award for British Male Solo Artist.[6]

Early life[edit]

James Blake is the son of musician James Litherland, and showed a strong interest and aptitude in music from a young age.[7] He received classical training in piano as a child,[8] and completed primary education at Grange Park Primary School, Winchmore Hill and secondary education at The Latymer School, Edmonton. Later on, he attended Goldsmiths, University of London, where he received a degree in Popular Music.[9] While at school, Blake and friends hosted a series of "Bass Society" music nights that featured UK artists such as Distance, Skream and Benga.


2009–10: Early releases[edit]

Blake began his music career by releasing his debut 12" record, entitled "Air & Lack Thereof" in the United Kingdom during July 2009, while being persistent in recording songs in his bedroom. Having been released on the imprint record label, Hemlock, the extended-play became a favourite of BBC Radio 1 DJ Gilles Peterson.[10] Soon after the release of the record Blake was invited by Peterson to do a special mix on his international show, including an exclusive Mount Kimbie track.[10] As a second-year composition assignment for his studies at Goldsmiths, he submitted the soon-to-be-released Klavierwerke EP, which was awarded high marks.[11]

James Blake performing at Glastonbury Festival June 2011

A third EP, entitled CMYK, was released through R&S Records during 2010.[12] The title track, "CMYK" was selected by BBC Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw as his Record of the Week[13] and also received airplay from other DJs. On 29 September 2010, Zane Lowe selected Blake's cover version of "Limit to Your Love" as his "Hottest Record in the World". The song was written and originally recorded by Feist and appeared on her studio album, The Reminder. The single was released in the United Kingdom on 28 November 2010,[14] where it debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number 47.[15]

2011: Self-titled album[edit]

Main article: James Blake (album)

Blake was nominated for the BBC's Sound of 2011, an annual poll that highlights the forthcoming year's likely successful musicians;[16] he was eventually placed second, ahead of fellow shortlisted acts; The Vaccines, Jamie Woon and Clare Maguire. It was also revealed on 15 December 2010 that Blake had been made the runner-up behind singer-songwriter Jessie J at the BRIT Awards' "Critic's Choice".[17] In January 2011, Blake was awarded Single of the Year (2010) for "CMYK" at Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Awards. Blake's work found itself on numerous 2010 year-end best-of lists, with "CMYK" ranking 24th on Frontier Psychiatrist's top 40 songs of the year,[18] the Bells Sketch/CMYK/Klavierwerke EPs ranking 8th on Pitchfork Media's top 50 albums of 2010, and "I Only Know (What I Know Now)" ranking 8th on Pitchfork's top 100 tracks of 2010.[19]

Blake revealed in late December 2010 that his album would be self-titled, and the 11-track James Blake was released on 7 February 2011.[2] Only days after the original announcement was made, the album was leaked onto the internet.[20] On 9 January 2011, "The Wilhelm Scream" was trailed as the album's second single ("Limit To Your Love" was also included on the album).[21] In February 2011, James Blake first appeared on the cover of the publication The Fader, in its 72nd issue.[22] Blake debuted a collaboration with Bon Iver called "Fall Creek Boys Choir" in August 2011 and during the next month, the BBC released an exclusive mix by Blake, which included 10 of his unreleased songs. These included "Deeds", "Olivia Kept", and "Evening Fell Hard for Us". During the final weeks of 2012, James Blake performed three "intimate" shows where he debuted new songs.[23]

Later that year, Blake released both the Enough Thunder and Love What Happened Here EPs in 2011. These EPs, noticeably more structured than his previous releases, featured R&B-tinged work as opposed to the experimental electronic style found on CMYK. Some reviewers expressed doubt about Blake's stylistic movement, with Pitchfork's Larry Fitzmaurice saying that "[his] reliance on piano-based singer/songwriter electro-soul perhaps played it a bit too safe, prompting comparisons to the once-outré, now-gear spinning career of fellow avant-crooner Jamie Lidell".[24]

2012–13: Overgrown[edit]

Main article: Overgrown
Blake performing in 2013

Early in 2012, Blake spent time with American rapper Kanye West (who named Blake as his favorite artist)[25] and singer Justin Vernon. Later that year, Blake announced a new collaborative non-single release under the moniker Harmonimix with British rapper Trim; the single "Confidence Boost/Saying" was released on 24 September 2012. Also in 2012, Blake and friends (including Foat, Nick Sigsworth, and touring musicians Rob McAndrews and Ben Assiter) secured a residency at the club Plastic People as the collective 1-800 Dinosaur, hosting a series of impromptu dance nights.[26] In the summer of 2013, the collective launched a label of the same name, on which Blake and other artists released material.[26]

Blake announced via Facebook on 7 February 2013 that his second album, Overgrown, would be released on 8 April.[27] The first single from the album, "Retrograde", was debuted the same day on BBC Radio 1, and was released on 11 February. On 25 February, the track listing and album art were revealed.[28] It was selected as Variance Magazine's Album of the Year as of December 2013.[29] The album features guest appearances from noted electronic music producer Brian Eno and Wu-Tang Clan producer and rapper RZA, and further developed the song-based R&B work of his previous releases.[30] The release received critical acclaim and was awarded the 2013 Mercury Prize. Blake noted to Hot Press that his relationship had been an influence on the album.[31]

2014–present: The Colour in Anything[edit]

In December 2014, during his BBC Radio 1 Residency, Blake announced that his third studio album would be titled Radio Silence and would be released in the first half of 2015.[32][33] He later confirmed that the album would feature Bon Iver and Kanye West, as well as feature guitar work from Connan Mockasin.[34]

On February 11, 2016, Blake premiered a new song entitled "Modern Soul" during his BBC Radio 1 residency.[35] On April 14, 2016, Blake revealed during a surprise hosting spot on BBC Radio 1 that he'd finished the album, and that it was 18 tracks in length. He stated that it includes one track that stretches to 20 minutes in length. Later in the broadcast he premiered a new song titled ‘Timeless’, though did not say whether it would be included on the album.[36] In a May 2016 interview with BBC Radio 1, Blake stated that he began work on the album in England, and after "running out of steam" went to the United States to complete the recording at Shangri La Studios with producer Rick Rubin.[37]

Blake produced and was featured on the song "Forward" from Beyoncé's 2016 album Lemonade. He also co-wrote the album's opening track, "Pray You Catch Me". On April 28, social media posts by Blake and his label, 1-800 Dinosaur, reposted photos of a mural by children's novel illustrator Sir Quentin Blake (best known for his work with writer Roald Dahl) that hinted at the new album title The Colour in Anything;[38] this was confirmed as the title of his new album several days later.[39] The album was released on May 6, 2016.[40]

On September 1, 2016, James Blake released a remix of Timeless featuring Vince Staples.[41]

Musical style[edit]

Blake's early releases are fragmented electronic works[42] influenced by UK dance and bass styles, (such as 2-step and the stark dubstep of artists like Burial and Digital Mystikz), '90s trip hop, and contemporary R&B.[43][44] On his acclaimed trio of 2010 EPs (The Bells Sketch, CMYK, and Klavierwerke), Blake's own voice is obscured or processed in favor of vocal samples from '90s R&B, prominent sub-bass frequencies, and minimal, jittery rhythms.[43][45][46] During this period, Blake's work was tagged by journalists as "post-dubstep", alluding to his movement beyond the style's characteristics.[47][48] By the time of his 2011 debut album, Blake's vocals and piano had become more foregrounded while traditional song structures became increasingly apparent, reflecting the influence of gospel, soul, and ambient music.[45][49] His second album Overgrown (2013) continued this trend, integrating an electronic approach with balladry and Blake's soul-inflected vocals, and featuring contributions from hip hop artist RZA and electronic musician Brian Eno.[42][43] Discussing his stylistic development, critic Mark Fisher wrote that "listening back to Blake’s records in chronological sequence is like hearing a ghost gradually assume material form [...] out of digital ether."[43] Author Madison Moore noted the prominent use of minimalism, sparseness, and silence in Blake's work, a quality also noted by Eno in 2013: "he takes a lot of stuff out and ends up with very skeletal pieces."[50]


Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions Certifications


US Dance
James Blake 9 32 1 24 2 11 6 38 9 123 4
Overgrown 8 5 12 57 2 24 32 27 16 32 1
The Colour in Anything
  • Released: 6 May 2016
  • Label: Polydor, Republic Records
  • Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital download
13 16 23 88 21 16 20 26 19 36 1
"—" denotes album that did not chart or was not released.


Title Details
The Bells Sketch
  • Released: 8 March 2010[67]
  • Label: Hessle Audio
  • Formats: Vinyl, digital download
  • Released: 31 May 2010
  • Label: R&S Records
  • Formats: Vinyl, digital download
  • Released: 27 September 2010
  • Label: R&S Records
  • Formats: Vinyl, digital download
Enough Thunder[68]
  • Released: 7 October 2011
  • Label: ATLAS, Polydor
  • Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital download
Love What Happened Here
  • Released: 6 December 2011
  • Label: R&S Records
  • Formats: Vinyl, digital download
200 Press
  • Released: 8 December 2014
  • Label: 1-800 Dinosaur
  • Formats: Vinyl, digital download


Year Single Peak chart positions Certifications Album




2009 "Air & Lack Thereof" non-album single
2010 "Limit to Your Love" 39 63 5 42 3 7 62 James Blake
2011 "The Wilhelm Scream" 136 64 82 [A]
"Lindisfarne / Unluck"
"Order / Pan" non-album single
"Fall Creek Boys Choir"
(with Bon Iver)
Enough Thunder
"A Case of You" 78
2013 "Retrograde" 87 88 10 99 45 [B] Overgrown
"Life Round Here" 49
2016 "Modern Soul" The Colour in Anything
"Radio Silence"
"My Willing Heart"
"I Need a Forest Fire"
(featuring Bon Iver)
195 [C]


  1. ^ "The Wilhelm Scream" did not enter the Dance/Electronic Songs chart, but peaked at number 36 on the Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales chart.[73]
  2. ^ "Retrograde" did not enter the Dance/Electronic Songs chart, but peaked at number 20 on the Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales chart.[73]
  3. ^ "I Need a Forest Fire" did not enter the Dance/Electronic Songs chart, but peaked at number 18 on the Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales chart.[73]

As featured artist[edit]

Year Song Album
2014 "0 to 100 / The Catch Up"
2016 "Forward"
(Beyoncé Knowles featuring James Blake)
(Frank Ocean featuring James Blake)
"Deathwish (ASR)"
(Frank Ocean featuring James Blake)
"White Ferrari"
(Frank Ocean featuring James Blake)
"the ends"
(Travi$ Scott featuring André 3000 & James Blake)
Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
as Harmonimix
  • 2012: "Confidence Boost"—Harmonimix & Trimbal


Year Artist Song Title
2009 Untold "Stop What You're Doing" James Blake Remix
2010 Mount Kimbie "Maybes" James Blake Remix
2010 Destiny's Child "Bills, Bills, Bills" James Blake Remix
2013 Mala "Changes" Harmonimix Remix
2013 Drake "Come Thru" James Blake Remix
2014 Beyoncé "Drunk in Love" Harmonimix Remix

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Director
2010 "Limit to Your Love" Martin de Thurah[74]
2011 "The Wilhelm Scream" Alexander Brown[75]
"Lindisfarne" Martin de Thurah[76]
"A Case of You" Seb Edwards[77]
2013 "Retrograde" Martin de Thurah[78]
"Overgrown" Nabil[79]
"Voyeur" Tobias Revell and Ferry Gouw[80]
"Life Round Here (feat. Chance The Rapper)" Nabil[81]
2016 "I Need a Forest Fire" Matt Clark
as Harmonimix
Year Title Director
2012 "Confidence Boost (Harmonimix & Trim)" Rollo Jackson[82]

Awards and nominations[edit]

On 19 July 2011, Blake was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize 2011 for his self-titled debut album;[3] the award was won by PJ Harvey. However, in 2013, he was nominated again for Overgrown, and subsequently won the award, the result being announced on 30 October. The judges at the event described his album as "...late night music for the digital age. An inventive, poignant and poetic record of great beauty."[83][84] He was also nominated for Best New Artist at the 2014 Grammy Awards.

Year Organisation Nominated work Award Result
2010 Worldwide Winners Awards "CMYK" Single of the Year Won
2011 BBC Sound of 2011 James Blake Sound of 2011 Second place
2011 BRIT Awards James Blake Critic's Choice Nominated
2011 Mercury Prize James Blake Mercury Prize Nominated
Q Awards James Blake Breakthrough Artist Nominated
2012 Ivor Novello Awards "The Wilhelm Scream" Best Contemporary Song Nominated
2012 BRIT Awards James Blake British Male Solo Artist Nominated
2012 MTV Video Music Awards Japan "Limit to Your Love" Best New Artist Nominated
Best Dance Video Nominated
2013 2013 Mercury Prize Overgrown Mercury Prize Won
2013 UK Music Video Awards "Overgrown" Best Alternative Video Nominated
"Retrograde" Best Colour Grade In a Video Nominated
2014 56th Grammy Awards James Blake Best New Artist Nominated
2014 BRIT Awards James Blake British Male Solo Artist Nominated
mtvU Woodie Awards "Life Round Here" Best Collaboration Woodie (shared with Chance the Rapper) Nominated
Music Producers Guild Awards Overgrown UK Album of the Year (sponsored by Universal Audio) Nominated
2014 World Music Awards James Blake World's Best Male Artist Nominated
World's Best Live Act Nominated
World's Best Entertainer Nominated
Ivor Novello Awards "Retrograde" Best Contemporary Song Won


  1. ^ "James Blake on his 23rd Birthday, Limit To Your Love". YouTube. 26 September 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "James Blake – Album Release Information", Retrieved 2011-01-06
  3. ^ a b "Ministry of Sound Biography – The IMO Records Blog". Imorecords.co.uk. 2011-11-03. Retrieved 2013-02-18. 
  4. ^ Legaspi, Althea (2016-05-05). "James Blake Releases Surprise 'The Colour in Anything' Album". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-05-06. 
  5. ^ "Grammy Awards 2014: Full Nominations List". Billboard. 7 December 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "Brits 2014: Nominations in full". BBC News. Retrieved 19 January 2014
  7. ^ "James Blake Re-Conquers The BBC, Covers His Dad and Joni Mitchell « The FADER". Thefader.com. 11 February 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Pytlik, Mark. "James Blake". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  9. ^ Edwards, Rhiannon (5 September 2013). "Interview: My university experience « The Telegraph". Thetelegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Radio 1 Programmes - Gilles Peterson, James Blake Live In The Studio". BBC. 2010-05-19. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  11. ^ "Interview: My university experience « The Telegraph". thetelegraph.co.uk. 5 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  12. ^ ShareTweet. "James Blake – CMYK EP review | Juno Plus". Junodownload.com. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  13. ^ "Music – James Blake". BBC. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  14. ^ "James Blake – Limit To Your Love – Release Date", retrieved 2011-01-06
  15. ^ "James Blake – Limit To Your Love – Chart Run", retrieved 2011-01-06
  16. ^ "BBC Sound of 2011 – James Blake Profile", retrieved 2011-01-06
  17. ^ "The BRIT Awards 2013". Brits.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-18. 
  18. ^ "Frontier Psychiatrist: Top 40 songs of 2010". Frontpsych.com. 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  19. ^ "Top 50 Albums of 2010". Pitchfork. 2010-12-16. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  20. ^ "Leaked: James Blake - James Blake". Jpsblog.net. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  21. ^ "The Wilhelm Scream revealed as second single". One Thing. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  22. ^ "World Premiere! The FADER Issue #72: Wiz Khalifa, James Blake and Casely-Hayford". The FADER. 2011-02-17. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  23. ^ "Watch James Blake Play Two New Songs – Pitchfork". Pitchfork. 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2012-12-08. 
  24. ^ "James Blake: Love What Happened Here review". 
  25. ^ Rolling Stone
  26. ^ a b Cliff, Aimee. "1-800 Dinosaur: a bunch of mates and a bunch of grapes". Dummy Mag. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  27. ^ "My new album...". James Blake. 2013-02-07. Retrieved 2013-02-07. 
  28. ^ Blake, James. "Brian Eno, RZA Guest on New James Blake Album". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  29. ^ The Top 25 Albums of the Year 2013
  30. ^ "Brian Eno, RZA Guest on James Blake Album". 
  31. ^ ""I fell in love" - James Blake tells Hot Press". 
  32. ^ "James Blake announces new album title". Pitchfork. 2015-01-13. Retrieved 2015-01-13. 
  33. ^ "James Blake says new album out in about five months". Pitchfork. 2014-11-23. Retrieved 2015-01-13. 
  34. ^ James Blake Says Kanye West and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon Will Appear on His New Album
  35. ^ "James Blake Shares "Modern Soul"". Pitchfork. 2016-02-11. Retrieved 2016-02-11. 
  36. ^ "James Blake announces album completion". FACT magazine. 2016-04-14. Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  37. ^ Lobenfield, Claire. "James Blake's The Colour in Anything will be released tonight". Fact. Retrieved 5 May 2016. 
  38. ^ Bowe, Miles. James Blake Hints at New Album Title and Artwork. Fact. 28 April 2016.
  39. ^ Bowe, Miles. "James Blake's confirms next album title, debuts new artwork on billboard". Fact. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  40. ^ Bowe, Miles. "James Blake's announces album release date". Pitchfork. Retrieved 5 May 2016. 
  41. ^ Timeless remix featuring Vince Staples
  42. ^ a b Haddrill, Matthew. "James Blake - Overgrown". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  43. ^ a b c d Mark Fisher. "The Secret Sadness of the 21st Century". Electronic Beats. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  44. ^ Bevan, David. "New Vocabulary". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  45. ^ a b Miller, Derek. "James Blake – James Blake: RA Review". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  46. ^ Powell, Mike (24 May 2010). "James Blake: CMYK EP". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  47. ^ "A profile of James Blake – post-dubstep artist". BBC News. 6 January 2011. 
  48. ^ Aaron, Charles (4 March 2011). "10 Post-Dubstep Artists Who Matter". Spin. 
  49. ^ Legal, Dave. "It's a Post-Dubstep White Soul Thing; You Might Understand". The Stranger. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  50. ^ Madison, Moore (Feb 25, 2016). Katherine Williams, Justin A. Williams, ed. "James Blake, digital lion". Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter: 175. 
  51. ^ a b Peak positions in the United Kingdom:
  52. ^ a b "James Blake > Australian Charts". 
  53. ^ a b "James Blake > Belgium Flanders Charts". www.ultratop.be/nl/. 
  54. ^ a b "James Blake > Belgium Wallonia Charts". www.ultratop.be/fr/. 
  55. ^ a b "James Blake > Danish Charts". danishcharts.com/. 
  56. ^ "James Blake - Music Charts". Acharts.us. 2012-02-05. 
  57. ^ a b "James Blake > Dutch Charts". dutchcharts.com/. 
  58. ^ "James Blake > News Zealand Charts". charts.org.nz. 
  59. ^ "James Blake > Swiss Charts". hitparade.ch/. 
  60. ^ "James Blake > Billboard 200 Charts". www.billboard.com/. 
  61. ^ "News - James Blake at the Music Box". Dubstepswag.com. 2012-02-05. 
  62. ^ "Dance/Electronic Albums". Billboard. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  63. ^ "iTunes - Music - James Blake by James Blake". Itunes.apple.com. 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  64. ^ a b "Certified Awards Search" (To access, enter the keyword "James Blake" and check the 'Exact match' checkbox). British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  65. ^ a b c "SØG". Ifpi.dk. 
  66. ^ "iTunes - Music - Overgrown (Deluxe Version) by James Blake". Itunes.apple.com. 2013-03-08. Retrieved 2012-03-10. 
  67. ^ "James Blake - The Bells Sketch - EP". Factmag.com. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  68. ^ "James Blake Reveals Enough Thunder". Pitchfork. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  69. ^ "James Blake – Chart History: Japan Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  70. ^ "Mexico Ingles Airplay". Billboard.biz. 
  71. ^ Peaks in Scotland:
  72. ^ "James Blake – Chart History: Dance/Electronic Digital Songs". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  73. ^ a b c "James Blake – Chart History: Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  74. ^ "James Blake 'Limit to Your Love' - Music Video". GORILLA VS. BEAR. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  75. ^ "James Blake 'The Wilhelm Scream' - Music Video". YouTube. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  76. ^ "James Blake 'Lindesfarne' - Music Video". Stereogum. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  77. ^ "Watch the New James Blake Video". Pitchfork. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  78. ^ "James Blake 'Retrograde'". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  79. ^ "James Blake : Overgrown". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-09-07. 
  80. ^ "James Blake//Voyeur". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-09-07. 
  81. ^ "James Blake Feat. Chance The Rapper "Life Round Here" (Official Video)". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-10-19. 
  82. ^ "Video Confidence Boost". beatMashers. Retrieved 2012-09-25. 
  83. ^ "Mercury Prize 2013: The nominees « BBC News". bbc.co.uk. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  84. ^ James Blake wins Mercury music prize for album Overgrown | Music | The Guardian

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Marina and the Diamonds
Sound of... Runner-up
Succeeded by
Frank Ocean