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James Blake praises Jameela Jamil for teaching him the importance of openness

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The singer has thanked his girlfriend for helping him to “just be able to tell people how I feel”. 

James Blake newest album Assume Form is a brilliant, unguarded ode to his girlfriend Jameela Jamil.

“I love you and you are the reason this album exists,” Blake tweeted to his partner. “But now everyone else has it, so I’ll see you at home in 30 minutes and we can talk sh*t about everyone.” Jamil, for her part, responded to his tweet with the following: “To everybody who has enjoyed this album. You are welcome. *takes a bow*.”

Speaking about the new record to Dazed, Blake has praised his partner for making him a more open person, thanking her for teaching him the value of speaking your mind boldly and freely. 

“It feels good now to just be able to tell people how I feel,” he told Dazed. “I think it’s because I met my girlfriend and there was no room for pretense. She speaks her mind. It was like, ‘Tell me how you feel. Tell me what you’re thinking.’” 

He added: “In my everyday life, I wasn’t being encouraged to sit behind metaphor or sit behind long silences or be in a mood without explaining what it’s about.”

Jamil taught Blake how to put courage behind his convictions, and he has used the lesson to skewer anyone coming at him through the prism of toxic masculinity to label him a “sad boy”. The singer expressed his problem with the term in a 2018 tweet in which he unpacked the use of the word “sad” as further “stigmatisation of men expressing themselves emotionally.”

“I’m 30 and a grown man, and my whole life people have been conditioning me to not feel like I can cry, or not feel like I can be emotional, or not feel like I can tell them when I’m not feeling good about something,” Blake told Dazed.

“It’s like OK, so what can I talk about, then? If I can’t talk about emotions in music… If I can’t talk about those things, and I am anxious and I am depressed and I am sad, then what the f**k else am I going to talk about? On this record, I’m just talking about how I feel now, and I will continue to write about how I feel, or sometimes I won’t talk about how I feel, but I’ll f**king damn well choose when I do and when I don’t - without feeling like because I’m a man I shouldn’t do that.”

Blake joins a number of male celebrities who have started to unpick the seams of toxic masculinity, both through their art and through their interviews.

In a conversation for i-D magazine, Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet spoke openly about the importance of constructing a new narrative of masculinity through their work. 

“I want to say you can be whatever you want to be,” Chalamet said. “There isn’t a specific notion, or jean size, or muscle shirt, or affectation, or eyebrow raise, or dissolution, or drug use that you have to take part in to be masculine. It’s exciting. It’s a brave new world.”

“I didn’t grow up in a man’s man world,” Styles responded. “I grew up with my mum and my sister. But I definitely think in the last two years I’ve become a lot more content with who I am. I think there’s so much masculinity in being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be feminine, and I’m very comfortable with that.” 

Styles added: “Growing up you don’t even know what those things mean. You have this idea of what being masculine is and as you grow up and experience more of this world, you become more comfortable with who you are. Today it’s easier to embrace masculinity in so many different things. I definitely find - through music, writing, talking with friends and being open - that some of the times when I feel most confident is when I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable. It’s something that I definitely try and do.” 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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