Ed Sheeran’s Album Review : Divide
Track List: 16
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Ed Sheeran’s recipe of music is one that is cheerfully digested by many the world over. For one, he is a welcome break from what radios and music television stations have subjected us to for decades now, where lyrical depth is often sacrificed for commercial value. His songs resonate with a good number of millenials, and beyond the fact that his voice has that draw-you-in effect, the reality that Ed does not possess that model-esque, made-for-TV face or body is part of what makes him unique.
However, I didn’t always give the Liverpool-born crooner much of a chance. His “Multiply” (spelt as X) album released in 2014 (featuring songs like “Lego House” and “Give Me Love”) was well received, but I often found myself rolling my eyes whenever I played the tracks, as he was not churning out anything radically different in my opinion. When your playlist is dominated by the likes of John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews, Maroon 5, The Fray, Sam Smith and Frank Ocean, it takes something really special to blow you away.
Three years have passed since “Multiply”, two since that awesome live performance of “Thinking Out Loud” at the 2015 Grammys, and when I heard that Ed was working on a new project, my interest was piqued, what with the way the ladies on my social media timelines swooned over him. I set my reminder for March 3, and when the album dropped, I swooped in.
The album gets off on a flyer with the moderate-tempo track “Eraser”, which shows Ed remain a bit of spoken word prowess amidst a decent hook as he talks about dreams and struggling with Fame. “Castle On A Hill”, which has all of that Avicii flavour, brings that nostalgic feel with memories of growing up and the dynamics of friendship. “Dive”, which in my opinion is the highest point of the record, dwells on sincerity, as Ed pleads with a love interest not to lead him on if she isn’t ready for serious stuff (lyrics like “don’t call me baby unless you mean it” are as earnest as they get). The backing vocals blend in nicely, and the guitar riffs are sublime, sounding that something that could have been rendered by John Mayer. (Sheeran actually admitted to asking the “Daughters” singer for help on a track, and I would love to see them collaborate on a live performance of ‘Dive’.)
“Shape Of You” explores Ed’s direct, lustful side, and while there isn’t much by way of depth, the tune is catchy and suggests that is clearly made for popular radio, with the song currently climbing up the Trace TV charts with a cute video to boot. “Perfect” shows you how much he cherishes a significant other (when he decides to be in love), with its slow tempo and moist lines like “dancing in the dark, with you between my arms”. He tries his hands at rapping with “Galway Girl”, reminiscent of the track “Don’t” from the Multiply album. The album takes a slightly melancholic turn as successive tracks “Happier” and “New Man” dwell on lost love, moving on and new partners, with “Happier” (ironically) the sadder of the two.
“Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” sees Ed reassuring someone of his love, and “What Do I Know” deals with generational gaps as well as questions about politics and world peace. It’s not one of the particularly memorable songs on this record, as Ed comes off sounding like a contributor in one of those “We Are The World” tracks or Coca Cola ads; he should just stick to the heartbreak theme!
The album reverts to its regular schedule in “How Would You Feel “ (Paean”), where lyrics like ‘we were sitting by a parked car, stealing kisses in a front yard” are accompanied by great guitar playing, particularly the solo from 2.58 (again, the chords sound like he had help). “Supermarket Flowers” is breathy but treats listeners to more of the same, and “Barcelona” feels like it would fit in a DJ’s playlist on a Hawaiian vacation. “Bibia Be Ye Ye” explores some tropical, scratch that, some African sounds while Ed announces his search for company, “Nancy Mulligan” is stuff for camp fires. The album winds down with “Save Myself”, a ballad on brokenness and the need for self-fixing.
On the whole, the album will get you shuttling you emotions while never losing sight of the central theme (yea, cliché, but Love pretty much sums it all). It’s an improvement on “Multiply”, trying out new aspects while maintaining the earnestness in the lyrics. There is still work to be done on his overall musical layout, but at this rate, Ed Sheeran is two albums away from legend status.
Standout Tracks: Dive, How Would You Feel (Paean), Happier
Tracks That Didn’t have To Be There: What Do I Know, Barcelona