By Olivia Pocat
After several years, Ed Sheeran has finally released a new album. The artist’s previous releases include Divide (÷), Plus (+), Multiply (X), and No. 6 Collaborations Project. Plus was the album which propelled Sheeran into fame, following the success of “The A Team” and “Lego House”. Sheeran became a reputable songwriter, writing hit songs for popular artists, including Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Taylor Swift. Ed Sheeran continued to rise in popularity after that first album. His record-breaking Divide tour in 2019 was so successful that the artist believed “I’d never do that again. I thought it would be all downhill from here.” When quarantine hit, Sheeran decided to settle down. Sheeran and his wife, Cherry Seaborn, who he married in early 2019 moved to Suffolk. During Summer 2020 Lyra Antartica Seaborn Sheeran was born to the happy couple. For a couple of months, Sheeran forgot his successful career and didn’t even touch a guitar. However, duty called and Sheeran decided it was important to stick to his career and provide an example of efficient and dedicated work ethic for his daughter.
The first releases from the album, “Bad Habits” and “Shivers” spent a combined 15 weeks at #1 on the charts. “Bad Habits”, the first release, was an immediate success. This memorable pop song features a catchy beat and enticing lyrics. Along with the thirteen other songs on the album, this song was written about his wife. “Shivers” also holds a catchy beat and is super fun to listen to and sing along with. However, like most albums, the best songs aren’t the popular hits, but the lesser-known beats. “Tides”, the first track, reflects Sheeran’s thought process when quarantine started, the thought process he endured before the creation of the album. He sings about the social pressures of being an artist, as well as the times changing, talking about being a father, and that the “tides” are changing. The beat changes from a constant upbeat strum to almost no instrumentals, where Sheeran’s voice is the only resonating tone. The third track, “First Times”, reflects all the first times he experienced with his wife; “the first kiss, the first night, the first song”. It’s a sweet ballad, a love song, which is really nice to listen to. “Overpass Graffiti” is the fifth track, and features upbeat instrumentals which add an interesting element to the song. The phrase “overpass graffiti” is never explicitly mentioned, but Sheeran sings “we’ll never fade, like graffiti on the overpass”. Several other play on words are featured in the song, making it interesting to listen to. The sixth track, “The Joker and the Queen”, is a slow love ballad, similar to “First Times”. Sheeran writes for his wife, proclaiming once again in a hushed whisper, his love for her. “Leave Your Life” has a quicker beat than the previous song, but is again, a slow love song. He promises to “never leave your life”, which reflects a positive message on the album, and a message to his daughter, that even though he might be gone on tour, he’ll never leave her life.
“2step” and “Stop the Rain”, both upbeat and ferocious songs feature beats similar to Sheeran’s previous song “Shape of You”. “Love in Slow Motion”, the eleventh track, sounds similar to “Galway Girl” but with a different meaning, and a little slower beat. It’s a beautiful song where Sheeran plans a candlelit getaway. “Sandman” is a song for his daughter, where Sheeran predicts a happy future for her, but also warning her about the dangers of life. He tells her to dream and “hang out with the sandman”. She’ll be safe with her family. “Collide” proves to be another love song written for Cherry, reflecting on places they’ve travelled, and the love he feels for her. “Visiting Hours”, is an emotional song, where Sheeran sings about his wish to visit the late Micheal Gudinski, one of the artists closest friends and mentors. The final song featured on the album, “Be Right Now” features a metronome beat and Sheeran’s soft voice as he sings about where he wants to be right now, currently happy. He beckons another to join him, and enjoy the silence and space they share together.
Although original and different, the songs on this album, especially “First Times” and “Overpass Graffiti” are similar to Sheeran’s previous hits, “Perfect” and “Thinking Out Loud”. These are some of my favorites, perhaps due to their familiarity and closeness to preceding songs, which I have countlessly listened to. Following the announcement of the release of this new album, Sheeran shared that the famous Elton John reached out to him and proposed a Christmas song. This was due to the success of “Step into Christmas”, an edgy, upbeat Christmas song, which is one of my personal favorites. Sheeran has even shared a snippet of the song to the world, after playing it on his guitar during a live interview with BBC. Most people already know that Sheeran’s album titles are based on mathematical symbols, after the initial release of Plus, but why? According to the artist himself, each album was named for the songs within the album. Multiply, multiplied the success of Sheeran after the release of Plus. And then, Divide divided critics, especially due to the supposed cultural appropriation included through the release of “Galway Girls”. Fans everywhere were positive that the fourth solo album would be titled Subtract, but Sheeran “broke the trend” and named it Equals instead.