3 November 2021-
Just like clockwork, Ed Sheeran is back with his 4th album — 5th if you count 2019's collaborative effort No.6 Collaborations Project. Either way, we're happy to hear some more...
Ed Sheeran built a stellar career with a soft voice and an acoustic guitar. Very few can claim the same — if any: even Dylan famously went electric at some point. To be fair, so does Sheeran these days. The point here is to a) remind ourselves of how remarkable this achievement really is, b) compliment the man for said achievement. There are, coincidentally, also 2 reasons that we see for this:
- Sheeran has a knack for crafting an infectious pop tune very few have showed — if any: in the 2019 film Yesterday, which explores an alternate reality where only one man remembers the Beatles and therefore takes their work as his own, Sheeran plays himself as the sole musician trying to compete with the legendary Lennon/McCartney duo. Logically losing: 2 against 1 just isn’t fair. Seriously, though, you’d pretty much have to go back to Sir Paul McCartney himself for such delicate melody making…
- The second otherworldly aspect of Sheeran’s work is the astoundingly evocative lyrics that he writes. Songs like “Photograph” or “Castle on the Hill” beautifully highlight that truly unique sense of musical storytelling: even McCartney would have to bow to that. Perhaps not Dylan, then again that gentleman would probably bow to no one. Except perhaps Woody Guthrie. But we diverge: Ed Sheeran’s ability to paint a picture using but a few words largely explains how he was able to pack Wembley stadium on his own — several times over.
Both these traits are on full display with new album = (pronounced “equals”). The composing on “Overpass Graffiti”, the drum n bass-inspired “Collide” or the choral “Visiting Hours”, while always extremely simple, never fail to evoke a sense of ever-so-slightly tainted hope. An eminently British feeling, one might comment: nevertheless, the effortless nature of such a mechanism does explain a significant part of the singer’s appeal.
And then there’s the lyrics. “First Times” actually references those historic Wembley shows, and then some, showcasing with truly disarming honesty the point of view of a global popstar. To an extent we rarely saw — if ever. Even The Boss always retains a certain degree of restraint when depicting his take on life. The only relevant comparison that comes to mind may be… fellow contemporary British superstar — and current chart-topper — Adele. And it’s not just one song: album opener “Tides” immediately sets the tone with stating Sheeran’s (recent) fatherhood in the same immediate, straightforward way. “The Joker and the Queen” is an equally subtle and touching piece on his better half. “Sandman” is a beautiful ode to his newborn daughter…
The (track) list goes on. With a rather contemporary electro-pop feel throughout: those who regret the early acoustic days will be prompt to criticize that part, and lead single “Bad Habits” may attract some of that negativity. But, by and large, you can tell this album was crafted with the same genuine honesty and artfulness as previous releases. And that’s just what we wanted.
Nay — needed.