On May 14, 2014, James Arthur released his independent rap mixtape "All the World's a Stage" on Soundcloud. Arthur (the winner of "The X Factor" U.K. in 2012) normally performs rock/pop music, so rap music is a departure for him. Fans' reactions to "All the World's a Stage" have been mostly positive. (See a sampling of reactions at the end of this article.)
As part of his "X Factor" grand prize, Arthur won a recording contract with Syco Music, the company co-owned by Simon Cowell and Sony Music.
According to The Sun, Syco objected to lyrics in a couple of songs that Arthur planned to put on his rap EP, which is titled "All The World’s a Stage."
The questionable lyrics in the song "Follow the Leader" are: “Look at what you do to me, I’m crying over stupid sh*t, you’re such a f*cking homophobe, wish I’d never let you in, to think that I was thinking maybe I should let you live, I’m gonna blow up your family like I’m a terrorist.”
In another song, Arthur reportedly has these lyrics: “I can smoke my weed, you can drink rosé, all day.”
In a Twitter message that has since been deleted, Arthur commented: "As far as I know I am still with syco but I am exclusively signed to Sony."
Arthur also took to Twitter to explain the "Follow the Leader" song lyrics.
He tweeted on April 4, 2014: "For anybody who is confused by the lyrics in the 'follow the leader' teaser.. The song is from the point of view of demented fan hence the homophobe reference and the aggressive tone.. In the story the fan turns on me.. Can't wait for you to hear it in context!"
On April 5, 2014, Arthur tweeted: "The song 'follow the leader' from the mixtape is not promoting terrorism, it's a story, a reciting of a Stan Esc letter from a demented fan. Just for the record.'
However, it has been obvious that Arthur's relationship with Cowell and Syco has been rocky.
Cowell told Metro in a March 2014 interview: "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."
Arthur then responded via Twitter: "@SimonCowell I should 'shut up and put out records' or else this? Cue more media bullying."
There were rumors that Arthur was parodied as the villainous hunchback character Trevor Modo in "The X Factor" stage musical "I Can't Sing!," which opened at the London Palladium in London on March 26, 2014 and closed on May 10, 2014.
However, Cowell tweeted a denial on March 31, 2014: "For the record no character in I Can't Sing is based on James Arthur. Have no idea where that came from."
As previously reported, Arthur gave an angry rant complaining about "The X Factor" and Syco Music.
According to a Daily Mirror report published on March 8, 2014, Arthur (who is 26) said in a March 2014 interview on the Polish TV show "Interia" that "The X Factor" and Syco Music make the male "X Factor" winners into karaoke puppets: “I have people telling me what I can and can’t do, what music I can and can’t make. People who aren’t artists don’t think about creativity and art, they think about money. When you find fame or you get signed to a record label, it’s not what you imagined, because you imagined they would have 100 percent trust or faith in you as an artist. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case. It’s what sells ...
“Having watched 'X Factor' over the years, they just haven’t got it right. The male winners haven’t been believable. They look like puppets, they sound like puppets. I happen to agree with a lot of people who say it’s like karaoke. I’ve done it myself watching the show over the years and saying, ‘I’ve seen better down my local pub.’ Unfortunately, there’s a f*ckload of karaoke singers in the world and all they can do is make them look like good karaoke singers.”
"The X Factor" U.K. 2010 winner Matt Cardle began speaking out against "The X Factor" around the time that Cardle's first album, "Letters," was released in October 2011. In May 2012, Syco Music/Sony Music dropped Cardle, who has since been releasing his music independently.
Before Arthur auditioned for "The X Factor," he also released music independently. His angry comments about "The X Factor" and Syco Music are among the many rants that Arthur has given since he found fame on "The X Factor."
Since 2012, he has been involved in several public feuds (mostly on Twitter), and he got an immense amount of backlash from the public for his rudeness and insulting behavior, including calling rapper Micky Worthless a homophobic name. Arthur has since made public apologies for his offensive behavior,
In November 2013, Arthur (who has admitted in interviews that he has a history of depression and suicide attempts) cancelled his public appearances for a few weeks, reportedly because he had a meltdown. His representatives said it was "exhaustion," but his sister Sian told the Sunday People that Arthur had a nervous breakdown, and he blamed his sudden fame for the nervous breakdown.
Arthur also announced in November 2013 that he was quitting Twitter and letting his management team tweet on his behalf. But as many people predicted, Arthur changed his mind, and he returned to Twitter in January 2014.
Arthur's first single, a cover version of Shontelle's "Impossible," was an international smash, by reaching the Top 5 in several countries. (It was No. 1 in the U.K., where Arthur's version of "Impossible" was the fastest-selling single of 2012.) Arthur's self-titled debut album, released in November 2013, debuted at No. 2 in the U.K., where it has gone gold. The album was a Top 40 hit in other countries, such as France, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
Although Arthur launched a successful European tour in 2014, his music sales have been on a decline. After "Impossible," his other singles released so far in chronological order are "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" (which was a No. 2 hit in the U.K.), "Recovery" (which reached No. 18 in the U.K.) and "Get Down," which flopped at No. 96 in the U.K.
In addition to having mental-health issues, Arthur has publicly confessed that he engages in illegal drug taking. Arthur has admitted that he smokes marijuana to help him cope with stress.
Several media outlets, including the Daily Mirror, have reported that an unknown but significant number of people who bought Arthur's self-titled album have requested refunds because they are offended by his combative behavior.
Arthur is scheduled to make an appearance at the 2014 World Music Awards at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, Monaco, on May 27. He is nominated for six prizes at the show: Best Entertainer, Best Live Act, Best Song (for "Impossible"), Best Album (for "James Arthur"), Best Video (for "Impossible") and Best Male Artist.
Here is a sampling of Twitter reactions to "All the World's a Stage":
"Would like to thank @JamesArthur23 for sticking to his word about the mixtape coz it's bloody fantastic can't get enough of it."
"#WhereMyAngelsDareNotTread is my fave so far; besides #FollowTheLeader Thanks @JamesArthur23 for this amazing mixtape!! #AllTheWorlsAStage."
"@JamesArthur23 #AlltheWorldsAStage Almost heard the whole mixtape for the 1st time. Sounds like u worked thru some anger with this bro xxx"
"@JamesArthur23 The mixtape is sick👌💯 I'm so proud of you #AllTheWorldsAStage."
"Dude is angrily raw and I feel you brother. @JamesArthur23 went in hard on his new mixtape, enjoy it y'all."
"Listening to James Arthur's mixtape and it takes him THREE LINES before he compares his career to a slave ship."
"@JamesArthur23 I'm sorry but this mixtape is 10000000% better then your album, sounds more like your own music again."
"Finally @JamesArthur23's mixtape #AllTheWorldsAStage is out! Incredible work done there, james."