And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #184: James Arthur v Everyone

By | Published on Friday 22 November 2013

James Arthur

I only really became properly aware of James Arthur very recently, thanks to the marketing campaign for his album, which seems to revolve around him insulting people on Twitter. To be honest, it was only on Wednesday this week that I learned he’d actually won last year’s ‘X-Factor’, rather than just being one of the finalists. So that’s a thing.

Anyway, like many people, I’ve had something of a crash course in James Arthur-ness over the last week. ‘Car crash’ is possibly a more apt term.

As previously reported, Arthur was heavily criticised after posting a track to SoundCloud in which he rapped some homophobic lyrics (and racist ones too, but that line drew less attention, being somewhat less overt). The track was a response to another posted by rapper Micky Worthless – itself a long list of homophobic insults directed at Arthur – which all came about after the pair got into an argument about the ‘X-Factor’ star’s authenticity (a topic Arthur raises with tedious frequency).

After being called out on Twitter by comedian Matt Lucas, Arthur eventually took the track down and addressed his critics, insisting that the line “You probably want to put your stinky dick in me, you fucking queer” wasn’t actually homophobic at all. It was, he said, language commonly used in battle rapping that “has come to mean something completely different”. Though he weakened this (already incredibly weak) argument slightly by saying that Worthless had “littered his track with severe homophobic slurs”.

Just in case you weren’t buying that, he also used the tried and tested ‘I’ve got loads of gay mates, me’ defence, pointing out that one of his friends, fellow ‘X-Factor’ contestant Rylan, is “as gay as they come”.

Although Matt Lucas seemed satisfied with Arthur’s apology, many were not calmed by it, and in the face of further anger (particularly from another comedian, Frankie Boyle), Arthur announced that he would be leaving Twitter for good and letter his management post on his behalf instead. More generic, less antagonistic tweets then began emerging, signed by “JAHQ”.

Who JAHQ is exactly remains clear, though they write many of their tweets in a very similar style to that used by Arthur himself, so must have been very well trained in the Arthur brand. Some of you might have suspicions that the singer hadn’t actually left Twitter at all, and he was still writing directly to fans, in between endlessly retweeting pretty much every positive mention of him (because it wasn’t all naysaying, despite everything).

Whether or not he’d actually left Twitter wasn’t a debate we had to have for very long though, because he was soon back for another round of being shouted down. On Wednesday, another ‘X-Factor’ finalist Lucy Spraggan posted screengrabs of text messages he’d sent her following comments she’d made about his controversial track.

“Lucy, what are you playing at having digs at me?” he had texted. “Is it coz you’re a gay rights activist you had to say something as extreme as ‘people kill themselves every day over words like queer’? Are you for real?”

He then added that she must “want attention” and suggested that she was angry because he hadn’t tweeted a link to her album when it came out. He also said that his album had “sold ten times” what hers had in its first week, and that “real people don’t care” about all the controversies.

Actually, most of those comments were possibly in relation to other veiled comments Spraggan had made after he insisted that his heavily co-written album was “self-penned”, but by then the context had mostly been stripped and Arthur was on the back foot once more.

It was this that prompted a brief return to Twitter, in which he once again accused Spraggan of being an “attention seeker” and playing the victim, as well as posting more of her side of their text message conversation, which didn’t really paint her in the bad light he seemed to think it did.

The battle, as far as he saw it, won, he then announced that he was heading back into Twitter exile, tweeting: “Keep the witch hunt coming, motherfuckers. Be a sheep or do some homework. I’m off again. Enjoy HQ gettin my lyrics wrong”.

Then ‘HQ’ deleted all of his tweets to Spraggan, making it harder to “do your homework”. But think for themselves many did, with one Arthur fan going by the Twitter name Louieloodle74 deciding that, actually, she wasn’t that keen on him any more, what with all the homophobia and narcissism (apparently “real” people do care). Rather than simply deleting his album from her computer though, she got in touch with iTunes, from which she had downloaded the record, and demanded a refund.

Logic would suggest that Apple would refuse this, but the response came back: “I understand you would like to cancel the album you have purchased because of comments made by the artist which you didn’t like … After reviewing the circumstances of your case, we determined that issuing you a refund for your purchase of ‘James Arthur’ is an appropriate exception to the iTunes terms and conditions, which state that all sales are final”.

While huge swathes of criticism may not have convinced Arthur of a need to think before he speaks (or tweets), for someone who clearly cares deeply about sales figures, a mass of fans digitally returning his album might have some effect.

And if enough Arthur fans (or former fans) did this, he might find that while he outsold Lucy Spraggan’s total sales during the week of his album’s release, by the end of the first month she might be overtaking him as the returns flood back to iTunes. Of course it’s unlikely that a significant enough number will seek a refund for this to happen, but what a precedent it would set.