My Mom and I have this little inside-joke going on regarding Ed Sheeran. The joke originates in a time when both Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard were storming the hit parades and were played on the radio side by side. Rather inevitably, we switched up the artists’ names and now they shall forever be known to us as Ed Howard and Ben Sheeran. So whenever either Ed or Ben (we’re all on first name base) releases a new album, our inside-joke gets revived and we have another album to listen to while driving through France (10/10 would recommend).
Only a couple of days ago, Ed Howard – uh, Ed Sheeran – released his long-awaited new album. Following his tradition of naming his albums after mathematical symbols, his third LP is titled “÷”. The album was introduced by the release of not one, but two first singles, which both took the world’s attention by storm. The announcement of a world tour followed, as well as numerous television interviews and performances. Expectations were running high by the time “÷” was globally released on March 3, 2017. The fans responded enthusiastically, while the press remained a little bit hesitant – so what is the take of someone who could potentially be categorized as both?
Long story short: “÷” has the same formula as Ed’s previous albums, but it works like magic.
The album opens with Eraser, a track that is undoubtedly and characteristically Ed Sheeran. It’s the singer-songwriter sounds, mixed together with R&B-influenced rap vocals, personal and “boy-next-door” lyrics, and a catchy beat. Eraser is the accumulation of every reason Ed has gained fame and even though he broke through 6 years ago, it’s a formula that has stood the test of time. The track is the perfect starting point of the album, in the sense that every single song all throughout “÷” has elements of Ed’s magic formula, but somehow elevated or slightly adapted.
Castle On The Hill, one of the first two singles Ed released a couple of weeks ago, is the perfect example of this. The personal “Mr. Nice Guy” lyrics are highlighted, but now backed up by electric guitars and a more epic build-up. For those who are big fans of the soft-hearted ballads, new album tracks Dive, Perfect and Happier should please the more romantic souls among us. Personally, I think Ed’s ballads are not the strongest tracks on the album. They are just too similar to last album’s hit single Thinking Out Loud and don’t really bring anything new to to the table. Tracks such as Galway Girl and New Man, however, do have a little something extra. Galway Girl, for example, mixes Irish influences in the lyrics, the string sounds throughout the refrain and the folk feel, together with Ed’s characteristic R&B-influenced rap vocals.
The most challenging and out-of-the-box track of the album would be Shape Of You, which, coincidentally, is my absolute favorite track of “÷”. Shape Of You is a catchy showcase of Ed’s loopboard skills, which sounds super danceable; a little bit less innocent and a little bit more daring. It’s refreshing and really takes the album to the next level. Without it, “÷” would have been too safe and, frankly speaking, not very original.
All in all, Ed Howard – no, Sheeran – once more proves his ability to create a pop album full of singer-songwriter tracks, all with catchy beats, narrative “boy-next-door” lyrics and clever vocals. “÷” is album with a little something for everyone, whether you are looking for Ed’s ballads or more colorful tracks, such as Shape Of You.
Featured photo: Greg Williams via EW