So I’m not sure whether you’ve heard of a young man who goes by the name of Ed Sheeran. In case you weren’t aware he released an album a couple of weeks ago – Divide, ringing any bells? You might have heard of him if you listen to the Official Charts – in fact, you would have heard 16 of his tracks if you had tuned into the Top 40 last Friday. Sarcasm aside, after a year out, Ed Sheeran has absolutely nailed his comeback. Divide sold more than 500,000 copies in its first week which is more than any other artist has done since Adele’s 25 which was released in November 2015. The boy is smashing it.
Now, let me start by stating – I do not hate this album. I think it’s a fantastic pop album and if this was the first time I had heard of Sheeran, I would be all over it. But for me, this albums fallen flat slightly. I’ve been a firm follower of Sheeran since I heard Songs I Wrote With Amy in 2010. At this point there was a lack of male pop artists and when this guy appeared with a guitar in hand, uttering lyrics that we could all relate to alongside fantastic chord progressions I was so excited. Sheeran started a trend, and now because we have been introduced to many similar sounding artists who have upped the ante, I feel like Divide is lost in a sea of acoustic singer songwriters who use their music as an extended love letter to their partners. This is not a bad thing, however, I just didn’t get the same feeling as I did whilst listening to his previous albums. When X was released, I would have it on repeat for days, and every single song had a different quirk within it that differentiated it from all the others. I wouldn’t say that was the case with Divide.
I’ll start with the tracks I love. ‘Shape of You’ was the ‘holy crap Ed’s back!’ track we needed to kick start 2017. It’s one of those songs that as soon as I heard it I couldn’t wait to be on a dance floor boogying along to it, wine in hand, at high volume. Originally written for Rihanna, this song got me pumped for the album, I thought Ed was going to completely change the game. Another track I love is ‘Bibia Be Ye Ye.’ When I first heard this track, it reminded me of when Vampire Weekend emerged back in 2008, it felt very nostalgic. ‘Barcelona’ as well is a fantastic song that reminds us that Summer isn’t far away. It’s another track that reminds me of why I like Ed Sheeran so much. I must also mention ‘New Man’ – it’s almost like the ‘Don’t’ (X) of Divide, where Ed just explicitly says what everyone’s thinking about a certain ‘type’ of person we all know.
Now moving on to some of the tracks I thought could have been left behind. ‘Castle on the Hill’ sounds like a U2 track, yes everyone will sing along but will you get that buzz when it comes on the radio? Probably not. It’s almost as if Ed released ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Castle on the Hill’ at the same time to try and cover both Radio 1 and Radio 2 demographics. It’s just a bit bland. ‘How Would You Feel (Paean)’ was added to the album presumably due the success of ‘Thinking Out Loud’, it’s got a very similar formula in which he pours his heart out putting him on this pedestal. Then what happens is you’ll find that a lot of his younger followers will want an Ed Sheeran as their partners, someone that says exactly what they want to hear. Other tracks I feel could be left behind are ‘What Do I Know?’ and ‘Supermarket Flowers.’
As you can see there’s a definite distinction between the songs from Divide I loved and the songs I thought were a bit meh. I really think Ed could have taken this album in a new and exciting direction, but instead he played it safe, with tracks replicating his previous successes. Again, as I said, I don’t hate this album I just don’t love this album. It deserves to be a success because you can tell a lot of hard work has gone into it, but in my opinion Ed has slightly missed the mark with this one.