After announcing back in 2015 that he was going to be taking a break from both the music and social media scene, fans of Mr Sheeran’s work were eagerly anticipating what he was planning for them. This certainly was a bold move by Ed considering he is such a recognisable musical figure and aside from hearing about the Princess Beatrice incident, it almost appeared as though he had disappeared off the face of the earth. In various interviews, Sheeran stated that he had spent his 2016 travelling the world finding new forms of inspiration for his new body of work and following a rather questionable year full of unexpected political events and shocking deaths, Mr. Sheeran made his glorious comeback to the social media scene announcing that his new music was close to arrival. He was back and ready to make 2017 his year.
I must admit, when first introduced to Ed Sheeran’s music I wasn’t a huge fan of his work. While I did enjoy some of the tunes on Plus (Addition, + whatever you want to call it) I didn’t find that he had much range with regards to his material. My first impression of him was that he was another singer-songwriter in the vein of John Mayer or Jack Johnson singing about an old flame who had done him wrong in the past and how he’s looking to move on. Which isn’t a bad thing to write about but it seemed as though that was the only thing that he could write about, not to mention he had also created the ‘go to busker song of the year’ back in 2011 with The A-Team. My opinion of Ed suddenly changed with the release of his second album Multiply (or X, seriously, does it matter?) in which Ed experimented with his own musical form tackling a variety of genres such as funk with songs like “Sing” and “Don’t”, the traditional wedding ballad with “Thinking Out Loud” and even rap with his stripped back performance of “Take it Back” which was hands down, one of the best tracks of the album.
The year is 2017 and Sheeran has dropped, much to the delight of his fans, his third body of work titled Divide (There’s no division symbol on my keyboard so I apologise). Will the album live up to Ed’s promise in which he claimed in a variety of radio interviews that this is his best album to date or will it DIVIDE the critics (I’ll see myself out) Thankfully it would appear that Ed’s year out has worked out in his favour because this is a solid piece of work. In a music industry which is dominated by well-known faces who appear to drop an album every year in order to maintain their relevance (*cough One Direction, Rihanna), Ed Sheeran clearly has taken time with his craft making sure that each individual track had its own unique message and style of its own.
The album takes no time to kick off with the explosive and ferocious “Eraser” which draws similarities to previous tracks such as “You Need Me I Don’t Need You” and as mentioned above “Take it Back” Ed doesn’t hold back her laying all of his personal feeling ranging from regrets in the past to his current state of mind. It’s an exceptional example of song-writing although I do wish it was a tad bit longer. I much prefer the version recorded by Ed for the YouTube channel SBTV which was over 6 minutes long and a lot more intense than the version we got on the album. It’s also done in one take which is pretty damn impressive. We then move on to one of the more well-known tracks on the album “Castle on the Hill” which resembles some of the earlier songs recorded by legendary Irish band U2 with upbeat guitar work as well as its lyrical content. Here Ed reflects on his hometown back in Surrey and the friends he made growing up in this area. It’s a very relatable subject matter to tackle but the song is a little bit boring and predictable as it comes to a close.
Like with his previous two albums, there are a lot of romantic ballads in here that are going to be featured in a variety of online videos posted by young girls reacting to it for the first time with tears flooding from their eyelids. Some of these examples include “Dive”, “Perfect” and “How Would You Feel (Paean)” (I have no idea why that word is in brackets at the end) which are sweet and sentimental but there isn’t really a distinguishing feature between these tracks and they feel the same with regards to their structure and content. However, one of these tracks titled “Supermarket Flowers”, which Ed has stated himself is one of his favourites from the album, is very effective and actually features some incredible vocal work by Ed. For me personally, I have always found Ed to be an incredible musician but here he really does prove that he has a good set of lungs on him.
But it’s not all just about singing to that one special girl claiming that you want to spend the rest of your life with her, Ed also knows how to have a bit of fun. This can be seen in tracks such as “Shape of You”, which is so far the most successful song off the album and was originally written for Rihanna and New Man, in which Ed is singing to a former flame but rejecting any stories about her new boyfriend. These songs are injected not only with a raw visceral sense of energy but also with a great sense of humour, something which Ed has displayed a countless number of times in interviews. (Don’t believe me? Just watch his reaction when an Australian radio show presented him with Jon Snow’s sword from Game of Thrones for his birthday!) These tracks are so easily some of the more unique tunes on the album and are perfect for that party playlist or when you’re getting ready to hit the town.
Surprisingly, Ed also manages to experiment with his musical form by incorporated musical genres from other countries. Such is the case with the tracks “Galway Girl”, which he recorded with fellow Irish trad group Beoga, and “Nancy Mulligan” where he explores his Irish roots. These tracks will definitely be greeted to a round of excitement and applause during his performance in Ireland as part of his tour. The same can be seen with “Bibia Be Ye Ye”, in which he adopts the musical style from Ghana, and Barcelona, in which, for the first time, we hear sing in a different language for part of the song. It’s interesting to see Ed tackle these genres proving that he has one or two or lots of tricks up his sleeve!
In the end, I was very pleased with the latest effort by Mr Ed Sheeran. A few sappy ballads aside, this is an energetic romp full of great vocal work and brilliant sounds from that little guitar of his. The decision to use different forms of music from other countries was genius and the fast beat tunes certainly get me moving. I’ll be saving this on my Spotify account and Ed proves, once again, that he is one of the hardest working individuals working on the music scene. Not bad Ed. Not bad at all. Just please don’t disappear for a year again. Sean Moriarty