By 2009 Guy Sebastian had just completed a dream start to his singing career, after beating Shannon Noll in the 2003 final of the very first Australian Idol competition, he had taken no less than ten songs into the ARIA Top 20, including four #1 hits, Angels Brought Me Here, All I Need Is You, Out With My Baby, and Like It Like That; as well as five top ten albums. He was gradually evolving into the gifted rhythm and blues singer that many predicted he would become, after he had arrived from Adelaide with his Afro ‘do, boyish smile, puppy fat and angelic voice.He had decamped to Memphis in 2007 to work with the legendary Stax/Volt heroes of his childhood, Booker T and the M.G.’s, and delivered a credible if somewhat white bread collection of soul classics on his fourth album, not surprisingly titled, The Memphis Album, from which no hit singles emerged.His financial position was further adversely affected after he toured his Memphis album nationally with the legendary Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, who charged hefty fees, and the tour finished in the red. After two years without a hit record, in 2009 he followed up with Like It Like That, a return to the insistent techno beat and sing-a-long choruses of some of his earlier dance floor hits. In the future he would become virtually a permanent fixture on TV talent shows like X Factor where he was a judge in 2010 and stayed for five years and fell out badly with Iggy Azalea (below), and later in the decade a judge on The Voice, and as a coach on 2019’s The Masked Singer. He released his first album of “biggest hits” titled Twenty Ten in 2010, so what did the future hold for Guy Sebastian, who was now married, a father, sporting tatts and designer stubble, body piercings, and not looking or sounding like the innocent Paradise Community Church choirboy from Adelaide, who had charmed audiences almost a decade ago.Sebastian discerned that the way forward was to fuse the cadences of the soul music that he loved with the dance floor techno beats of his many hits; he would begin to develop his fourth studio album, Armageddon in 2011, and headed to Los Angeles to commence recording with a veritable army of songwriters and nine different producers. The album would be released in late 2012, but the first single, Don’t Worry Be Happy was pre-released in late 2011, it was an upbeat pop song which Sebastian wrote after he encountered an angry motorist in Los Angeles. Discussing the inspiration for the track he explained he could sometimes be caught up in in a little bit of “glass half empty” in his life, and wrote the song as a reminder to himself and others, that life is too short to stress about small things, it charted #5 nationally and sold 280,000 copies.
The second pre-release was Gold, an up tempo soul song which was a minor hit, but it would be the third pre-release, Battle Scars, a duet by Sebastian with Chicago hip hop rapper Lupe Fiasco (below with Guy), that would take him back to the top of the charts, for Sebastian’s first #1 hit since Like Like That in 2009. Battle Scars was the perfect blend of rhythm and blues and hip hop rap that Sebastian had been striving for, but unlike many guest rappers on such records, where their limited contribution amounts to a kind of rent-a-rapper arrangement, Sebastian encouraged Lupe to incorporate his lyrics throughout the song. Sebastian sang the pre-chorus and chorus, with Fiasco performing the intro and two rap verses, both contributed to the bridge, and their joint contributions were seamlessly merged by American producer Pro-Jay (below) (Robin Thicke, En Vogue, 2Pac) after Lupe had joined Sebastian in Sydney and completed his rap segments there.The song was inspired by the inner battles that people wage and the emotional scars inflicted by hurtful, broken relationships, and whilst Sebastian’s lyrics had become more introspective as he matured and began to consider what sort of a world his young son would inherit, Lupe Fiasco’s rap lyrics were also particularly apposite “Hope the wound heals but it never does, that’s cause you’re at war with love”. The promo clip was based on a survey of New Yorkers who were asked to write one word that would describe how they feel about life, the pedestrians hold up different one-word messages that represent their inner battles, and their personal scars.
Battle Scars debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts, sold over 770,000 copies and was ranked third in the overall best-selling Australian records of the last decade, behind Gotye (Somebody That I Used To Know) and Vance Joy (Riptide), the album Armageddon was also a #1 hit locally, sold 150,000 copies and received the 2013 ARIA Award for Best Pop Release. Despite some interest from the US about Battle Scars, and critical praise for the R&B/hip hop duet, Sebastian did not break through for a major hit internationally, and since that time he has not taken any other albums or singles to the #1 position here since the Armageddon/Battle Scars double in 2012.