James Andrew Arthur (born 2 March 1988) is a British singer and songwriter who won the ninth series of The X Factor in 2012. His debut single, "Impossible", was released by Syco Music after the final and debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart in its first week of release. Since then, it has gone on to sell over 1.4 million copies in the UK, making it the most successful winner's single in the show's history and has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide. The follow-up single "You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You" reached number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. He released his self-titled debut studio album in November 2013. The album debuted and peaked at number two on the UK Albums Chart.
After the release of his debut studio album James Arthur, he was involved in a series of controversies which led iTunes to offer refunds for the album. The single release "Recovery" made to number 19, while the sales for the fourth single "Get Down" hardly made the top 100. Arthur parted ways with Simon Cowell's record label Syco in 2014. In 2015, he signed a new deal with Columbia Records to release his second studio album in 2016, titled Back from the Edge. Arthur was also re-signed to Syco in 2016.
Arthur was born in Middlesbrough to an English mother, Shirley Ashworth, and a Scottish father, Neil Arthur. James Arthur started writing and recording songs when he was 15 as an unsigned artist both solo and in many bands including:
Moonlight Drive: A Cleveland-based progressive, experimental, rock five-piece band with Arthur in lead vocals. The band was active between 2005 and 2008. It had recordings such as "Said You'd Be There", "Hole in My Heart" and "Tear Me Apart".
Cue the Drama: An alternative rock band based in Marske-by-the-Sea and active between 2005 and 2008. Recordings included "On the Radio 98KUPD", "It's Killing Me", "I'll Reach You" and "It Hurts".
Save Arcade: A Middlesbrough alternative rock band made up of Arthur (vocals, guitar), Josh Brown (keyboards, vocals), Matthew Green (guitar), Alex Beer (bass, vocals), Travis Shaw (guitar, percussions, vocals) and Karl Dowson (drums). In 2009, the band released a three-track EP called Truth, carrying the title track "The Truth", as well as "Echoes" and "I Un-Proudly Present". In June 2010, the band released a five-track EP, Tonight We Dine in Hades, which in addition to the title track "Tonight We Dine in Hades" included "Superhero", "You Always Want a Fight", "Juliet Is Not Dead" and "She Aims to Please". Both releases were on the independent label 57 Records UK.
A four-piece indie pop and rock band formed in March 2011 based in Redcar / Saltburn-by-the-Sea and made up of Arthur (guitar, vocals), Dean Harrison (piano, violin), Paul Gill (bass) and Save Arcade bandmate Green (drums).
The James Arthur Project / The James Arthur Band: In early 2012, he recorded songs and released two EPs, firstly a soulful pop EP named Hold On as The James Arthur Project in August 2012 in collaboration with John McGough. The tracks were written and arranged by McGough, and mixed by Matt Wanstall with all vocals by Arthur. Arthur also released an EP as The James Arthur Band. The band consisted of Arthur (vocals and guitar), Jez Taylor (guitar), Chris Smalls (keyboards), Jordan Swain (drums) and Rich Doney (bass). In 2012, the band released The EP Collection CD with nine tracks with R&B, soul and hip hop influences, a compilation of tracks on both EPs.
Sin by the Sea
Arthur also uploaded many of his own songs to SoundCloud and YouTube, as well as an album entitled Sins by the Sea.
In 2012 he auditioned in Newcastle for the ninth series of The X Factor, performing an acoustic rendition of judge Tulisa's "Young", before explaining his past, including a short spell in respite foster care and time spent in flats and bedsits after break-ups within his family. He also revealed his father and mother had hardly spoken to each other for over 20 years, and this was a reunion of sorts for them to attend his audition. He sang "A Million Love Songs" at bootcamp and was chosen as one of six contestants in the "Boys" category to advance to judges' houses. From this point onward, Arthur was mentored by Nicole Scherzinger. After his judges' houses performance of "I Can't Make You Love Me", he was picked as one of 12 contestants to advance to the live shows, and one of three in the "Boys" category.
After his second live performance, Arthur suffered from an anxiety attack backstage. While being treated at the studio, paramedics determined he did not need to go to hospital, and he was ordered back to his hotel to rest. He later returned for the results show the following night.
After his performance of LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" on the third live show on 20 October, Arthur was accused of plagiarism. His version was very similar to the rendition by YouTube star only1Noah, which was uploaded on 9 May 2012 and had over 13 million views at the time. However, Arthur later tweeted: "Btw doesn't everyone know I was putting a spin on Noah's version? It had 13.something million hits! Was I supposed to state the obvious?" In week 7, after performing "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", Arthur was controversially in the final showdown. He sang "Fallin'" for survival against fellow favourite Ella Henderson, and the result went to deadlock. Scherzinger and Gary Barlow voted to send Arthur through to the quarter-final, while Tulisa and Louis Walsh voted to send Henderson through to the quarter-final. Resulting from the public vote Arthur was sent through to the quarter-final, receiving 13.7% of the vote whereas Henderson received 12.1%.
Arthur won The X Factor on 9 December 2012, with 53.7% of the final vote, against Jahméne Douglas who received 38.9%. This made him the first-ever winner of the show to have previously been in the bottom two.
Following his victory, Arthur's winner's song, a cover of Shontelle's "Impossible", was released as a charity single for Together for Short Lives. It became the fastest-selling The X Factor winner's single so far, reaching 255,000 downloads within 48 hours and over 490,000 by the end of the week. The single topped the UK Singles Chart in its first week of release. After 11 days, it was the seventh biggest-selling debut single from any contestant from The X Factor, with sales of 622,000. In its second week, the single dropped to number two, but reclaimed the number one spot in its third week, and stayed at the top for a further week. After three weeks, it was the fifth best-selling single of 2012 with 897,000 copies sold. After four weeks, it had sold 971,000 copies. As of 11 January 2013, the single has sold more than one million copies. The song also peaked at number one in Ireland, two in Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland, and eight in Slovakia. As of August 2013, the single has sold 1.2 million copies, 30,000 fewer than Alexandra Burke's version of "Hallelujah". To date, it has sold over 1.3 million copies in the UK, overtaking Alexandra Burke's "Hallelujah" to become the best-selling winners single ever. In May 2013, Arthur released an EP Undiscovered Acoustic of six acoustic songs written and recorded by John McGough with all tracks sang by Arthur.
On 7 August 2013, Arthur announced via Twitter that his next single would be called "You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You", which was released to UK radio stations on 9 September 2013. The song was officially released worldwide on 20 October 2013 and debuted at number two in the UK, falling just behind Lorde's "Royals". Arthur's self-titled debut studio album, James Arthur, was released on 4 November 2013. The album charted in the UK at number two, behind Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
James Arthur released the eponymously titled debut studio album James Arthur by Syco Music on 1 November 2013. The album included the singles "Impossible", his X Factor winner's single, and "You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You", as well as collaborations with Emeli Sandé and Chasing Grace. The album debuted at number 2 on the UK Albums Chart, kept off the top spot by Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2. It became the 30th best-selling album of the year in the UK.
"Recovery" was released as the album's third single on 15 December 2013 and debuted at number 19 on the UK Singles Chart. On 14 January 2014, Arthur confirmed on Twitter that "Get Down" will be the fourth single released from his debut studio album. On 5 January 2014, Arthur began embarking on his debut headlining tour, the James Arthur Tour, a 37-date tour around Europe.
In November 2013, Arthur generated much controversy over the use of homophobic lyrics in a song. Micky Worthless, a Croydon battle rapper, had issued "Stay In Your Lane" a track mocking Arthur, because Worthless didn't feel it was right that Arthur was presenting himself as a battle rapper on national radio. Arthur responded to Worthless with his vitriolic diss track "Hey Mickey" issuing string of slurs directed at Worthless, rapping "Hilarious, precarious you Talibani confused, imbellic mimic of a gimmick" adding the slur "You fucking queer". This sparked outrage among the LGBT community and led to Twitter spats with comedians Frankie Boyle and Matt Lucas, and singer Lucy Spraggan. Arthur immediately apologised for his comments and claimed that he was not homophobic. Following this he announced that he would not be posting on Twitter anymore, with his management taking up control of his page. The backlash continued, however, with a Facebook campaign to see his upcoming appearance on The X Factor be cancelled. iTunes offered refunds for his album due to complaints from customers.
After Arthur switched on the Christmas lights in Manchester on 8 November 2013, Manchester City Council said that he would have been replaced if the controversy had happened earlier.
On 22 November 2013, Arthur's management announced that the singer would be cancelling all public engagements for the next seven days due to exhaustion. Singer Olly Murs came to Arthur's defence, but said later that he was not defending the choice of lyrics.
Further controversies arose after the reviews to his projected rap mixtape All The World's a Stage, particularly regarding the track "Follow The Leader" where he rapped "I'm gonna blow up your family like I'm a terrorist". This led to further accusations of Arthur glorifying violence. This infuriated Simon Cowell who said "I think James, unfortunately, has had so many issues with what he has done publicly – which is a real issue with me... Somebody should have told him to shut up and just put the records out". On 5 April 2014, several media outlets began to report that Arthur had been dropped from Syco, following the dispute over "Follow the Leader". He took to Twitter to deny the claims, however on 11 June 2014, Arthur announced via Twitter that he and Syco had parted ways by mutual agreement.
Arthur independently released his mixtape All the World's a Stage on 16 May 2014.
During the summer of 2014, Arthur stated that he was working on his second studio album and was close to signing a new record deal. He performed at V Festival in August, 2014. On 19 October 2014, Arthur released a collaboration with British record producer Rymez entitled "Kryptonite"; the song entered the iTunes top 150 on pre-orders alone. On 22 April 2015, Arthur unveiled a demo track titled "Promise" on YouTube. He embarked on "The Story So Far Tour" in May 2015. On 6 September 2015, he announced that he had signed with Columbia Records and that a new album was on the way.
On 8 January 2016, Arthur released a new song called "The Truth" on iTunes in the United States. Following the song's release, he took to Twitter and clarified that the song would feature on Family Therapy with Dr. Jenn, and that it was not the lead single.
Arthur released "Say You Won't Let Go" on 9 September 2016 as the lead single from his second studio album Back from the Edge, which was released on 28 October 2016. Arthur also re-signed with Syco. On 30 September 2016, the single reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming his second chart topper and making him the first male winner to date to have two UK number one singles. The song remained on the top spot for three consecutive weeks. In January 2017, the single became his first chart entry on the Billboard charts in the US. By the second week of January 2017, it had surpassed the 1 million sales mark in the UK, making James the first-ever 'X Factor' act to have two singles sell over a million copies in his homeland as well as the 21st act in UK chart history to have two or more million sellers. As of February 2017, it had sold two million copies worldwide. It was later confirmed that he will be appearing at the V Festival in August, having previously performed there in 2013. The same month OneRepublic lead singer Ryan Tedder also confirmed that he would be joining the band and Fitz and the Tantrums as a support act on their Honda Civic Tour in the US and Canada during the summer.
Arthur's follow up single "Safe Inside" peaked at #31 on the UK charts and his third single "Can I Be Him" peaked inside the Top 75 at #69.. In early April, it was announced that he would be embarking on his first arena tour across the UK and Ireland with fellow X Factor finalist Ella Henderson as his support act. The following month, Arthur collaborated with Machine Gun Kelly on the song "Go for Broke" from Kelly's new album bloom, which will also serve as the official theme song for WWE's SummerSlam pay per view event in August . The same month it was announced that James would be one of the vocalists featured on a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water", which was recorded to raise funds for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. The single was released on 21 June and went on to enter the UK charts at #1 two days later. On 20 June James confirmed on Twitter that he would be a guest vocalist on drum n bass act Rudimental's single "Sun Comes Up", set for release on 30 June. He performed the song at V Festival with the group in August and it became another UK Top 10 single for him. Throughout the summer he toured the US and Canada with OneRepublic and Fitz and the Tantrums with the tour ending on 12 September in Texas. Two nights later he performed alongside Julia Michaels and Kelly Clarkson at Fresh 102.7's Fall Fest at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York. On 5 October his book Back to the Boy was released and he did a series of book signings throughout the UK. A week later, it was announced that he had been nominated for an American Music Award in the 'New Artist of the Year' category.
He has cited Nirvana lead singer and songwriter Kurt Cobain as the reason he became interested in music and also draws from many different genres from Hip Hop, to Soul, to R&B, to Rock, and artists like Prince, Miguel and Michael Jackson. Further influences include Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Boyz II Men, Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Bryan Adams. He has also stated that he would love to collaborate with American rapper Eminem.
Arthur was born in Middlesbrough to an English mother, Shirley Ashworth, and a Scottish father, Neil Arthur. Neil was a delivery driver, but also used to be a DJ and drummer for many years, whilst Shirley was a fashion model and later a sales and marketing professional. Neil and Shirley split up when James was one year old and each settled with new partners a few years after their divorce. They hardly spoke with one another for more than 20 years, but they agreed to attend James's audition together in a family reunion to support him. He has four sisters and one brother.
Arthur first went to Ings Farm Primary School in Redcar, North Yorkshire. When he was nine, he moved with his mother Shirley and his stepfather Ronald Rafferty to Bahrain where he studied at the local British School of Bahrain for four years. When they split, James, then 14, moved back to the UK with his mother Shirley and his three sisters Sian, Jasmin and Neve to live on the Coast Road in Redcar. Upon his return, he continued his studies at Rye Hills School in Redcar.
Arthur supports his local football team Middlesbrough F.C. as well as Rangers F.C. After winning The X Factor, he was invited to return to Bahrain to formally open the British School of Bahrain's music and drama rehearsal studios and the school's 400-seat auditorium, both part of the expansion of the facilities in the school in which he studied for four years. The new studios were completed in 2014.
In September 2016, after opening up about his struggles with drugs, anxiety and depression, it was announced that he had become an ambassador for UK mental health charity SANE.
• Sins by the Sea (2011)
• James Arthur (2013)
• Back from the Edge (2016)