James Blake’s ‘Friends That Break Your Heart’ Offers an Emotional, Unique Take on Heartbreak

The ever-so-talented James Blake is back with his fifth full-length record, “Friends That Break Your Heart.” The album, which released earlier this month, is an emotional, elegant collection of ballads that refer to something that not many celebrities — or people — talk about — the heartbreak of losing a friendship.

Blake released three singles off the album prior to the record release date, starting in July with “Say What You Will,” followed by “Life is Not the Same” and “Famous Last Words.” And he selected well, as these are certainly standouts off of the album. “Say What You Will” truly shows off Blake’s incredible vocal talent and the flowy beat certainly makes you feel lost in the music. “Life is Not the Same” showcases hints of Blake’s older trap-pop beats with emotional lyrics like, “life is not the same / if we’re miles away / I was your champion / I did everything your way.” Other album standouts include “Coming Back,” featuring SZA, a song with a more traditional pop/hip-hop beat like that found on his 2019 release “Assume Form.” Another song worth the listen is “I’m So Blessed You’re Mine,” which is probably the song closest to Blake’s early sound when the production was the focus and vocals came second. This one will certainly get your bass booming and body dancing.

“Friends That Break Your Heart” also features appearances from JID, SwaVay and Monica Martin. It also includes production from Metro Boomin’ and Blake’s girlfriend, Jameel Jamil. The latter production credit received some backlash from fans, claiming that Jamil was only credited due to dating the singer-songwriter. Jamil first acknowledged the hate on her Twitter stating that she was a DJ for eight years and studied music for six years before that, far before she ever entered into a relationship with Blake. Blake followed up by saying, “thankyou for the time you put into this record Jameela. It wouldn’t be half what it is without the insane skill set you brought to it. Love you and I hope all this serves an as example to Women who are routinely discouraged by eye-rolling wankers that your work is necessary and important. The double standard is so fucking irritating. Why does nobody ask me what men did on the record specifically? Because they’re looking for confirmation of their sexism, hoping that indeed Jameela was just a pretty fly on the wall getting the men’s credit for being a girlfriend. And they can fuck off.”

Blake also said that this album is the most straightforward emotional album that he’s ever written, highlighting moments of loss, between friends and lovers alike. Though singing about love and loss isn’t totally new for the British singer, he takes on a different approach this time around.

“It’s kind of a breakup with a friend, of a certain number of years, like someone who’s central to your life and it’s hard. There’s no kind of protocol for it. I was always told, and I say this in the song, ‘friends that break your heart and they tell you only love can break you, the more you care.’ What I’m trying to say is, I just grew up with, maybe it was the unspoken knowledge and maybe I inherited it from society or whatever, that it’s romantic relationships that can break your heart, anything outside of that is just kind of fair game. Really it’s just, take it on the chin. I’ve actually had my heart broken in friendship far more times than in romantic relationships. And I think that has been one of the themes to this album, is to actually talk about that and say that. I mean, there are love songs on this record, but the ones about heartbreak are not about romantic relationships. And I think that’s kind of unusual in a way and sets this out apart from some of my others,” Blake told The Fader.

And he’s not wrong. Celebrities rarely address feuds or breakups with friends. Even most people don’t address that and how to grieve and move on from that. So really, this is an album that we could all probably listen and relate to. Good thing it’s very kind of the ears, too.

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