Born in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, England, Ed Sheeran was practically made for international success. At the age of 18, Ed Sheeran attended the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, Surrey, England, but dropped out after one semester. After moving to London in 2008, Ed Sheeran started playing in several small venues, auditioned for TV-musical shows, and started opening up for bigger international acts in England. In 2010, Ed Sheeran would fly to Los Angeles where he would perform on the side of streets and open mic nights at various clubs throughout California, where he would eventually catch the attention of Jamie Foxx. Early Sept. 2011, Ed Sheeran would release + (plus), and would sell 102,000 copies the first week and became the ninth best selling of the year with a year-total of 1,800,000. The album would be split between negative and positive reviews by critics, however, that did not stop any of Sheeran’s fans to stop buying and listening to his music. During June of 2014, Ed Sheeran released his sophomore release, X (multiply), selling 180,000 copies the first week and selling 8,600,000 copies worldwide as of today. On Dec. 13, 2015, Sheeran announced that he would be taking a year off from music and would spend time with family and enjoying himself. Exactly a year later on Dec. 13, 2016, Ed Sheeran returned with two singles for his upcoming album Divide.
The album opens up with the track “Eraser,” a very retrospective track about Sheeran’s life as a musician, perhaps narrating his reasoning to take a year hiatus. The song consists of rap segments, a very early 2000’s sounding chorus, a soft acoustic guitar that sets the mood of this opener, and some of the best lyrics the album has to offer.
The next track, “Castle on the Hill,” was one of the leading singles for the album. The rhythm guitar at the start of the song seems to have influence from the 80’s rock band U2, however, the song as a whole has pompous chorus, a break after two repeats of the chorus that plays like a ballad, and another repeat of the chorus but with a bit more jazz to the vocals. Fans will love this track because it gives a glimpse of Ed Sheeran’s childhood home Framlingham Castle, the “Castle on the Hill” on the east coast of England.
Following was a very solemn track called “Dive,” that gives off a vibe similar to Shawn Mendes, but, of course, with the flare of our red-haired singer/songwriter.
The other leading single for Divide is “Shape of You,” that features an electric xylophone that helps set pace for the song. This song is different from Sheeran’s past lyrics as it talks about loving a girl’s body. The production of this song is significantly sharper than the previous tracks for this album. Sheeran’s voice is more distinct and is packed by gang vocals, and is by far the most popish song he has released. The problem with this song is that one can tell that he uses different microphones throughout its duration. Whether this was intentional or not, it makes the song sound sort of choppy and very produced.
Another notable song on Sheeran’s comeback album is the track entitled “Perfect.” This truly shows Sheeran’s capability to play many different styles of songs. The track is wonderfully placed in the album as it is slower with organic stringed instruments, and provides a nice break from the faster-paced portions of the album.
Other songs that are worth checking are “Galway Girl,” which has a very obvious ode to Irish music; “How Would You Feel (Paean),” a love song that is perfect for reading on a rainy day; “Supermarket Flowers,” another retrospective track that shows Sheeran’s genius in songwriting; finally, the song “Nancy Mulligan” is a very catchy and fun song with more Irish-influenced instruments, however, I am sure fans of Ed Sheeran will find something to enjoy in each song.
Divide is Ed Sheeran’s best album to date in his catalog of mathematical albums. Sheeran impressively shows his abilities as a songwriter as he is able to differentiate each album from one another while still making each sound like him–something many musicians have trouble doing. Although Divide is nothing groundbreaking and can be overproduced at times, it still is a very good album that should see many hours of playing time.
– Colt Pierce