Ed Sheeran released his third album ÷ (Divide). Simply by virtue of it being Ed Sheeran, without listening to a single song, it’s fairly certain the album is guaranteed to be a commercial success. For fans of one of our generations most brilliant song writers, the question is will it live up to the incredibly high expectations set by his last album X.
Ed Sheeran wastes no time on the first track, ‘Eraser’, starting the album with a song that blends a quick hammer and pull-off style guitar riff with the type of beat you’d hear in hip hop song, a blend that only Ed Sheeran could pull off so well. The next song, one of the album’s lead singles, ‘Castle on the Hill’, provides some upbeat nostalgia, and builds up perfectly so that by the time the chorus hits you find yourself unable to stop yourself from nodding along. As the album continues, we hear a variety of ballads, whether it be on electric guitar in ‘Dive’, with a slow acoustic riff in ‘How Would You Feel’, or ‘Happier’, a piano-based song reminiscent of Sam Smith’s ‘Stay with Me’.
Ed Sheeran tries some new things that we didn’t hear in X. The slow solo in ‘Dive’ and in ‘How Would You Feel’, he has disc-scratching at the end of ‘New Man’, but most of all he went for an eclectic mix of music by incorporating different cultural styles of music beyond just typical English and American sounds. One of the lead singles ‘Shape of You’ is an interesting case. Ed Sheeran wrote it with Rihanna in mind, then halfway through writing decided he would keep it for himself. Lots of people praise Ed Sheeran for incorporating different styles of music, but Durham student Jeanne-Alexie Elias, a big fan of Ed Sheeran from Trinidad, says that ‘Shape of You’ doesn’t reflect the Caribbean sound.
“I think he captured a really great dance song using a vibe that could be similar to hip hop or maybe even vaguely inspired by Caribbean sound, but I really don’t think he succeeded in giving off what I would consider an island sound. I didn’t even think it was meant to be like Caribbean music. I only heard other people say that.”
Other songs like ‘Barcelona’ or ‘Bibie Be Ye Ye’ play around with foreign sounds, but ultimately, they also fail to truly capture the sound of the cultures from which they borrow elements. Ed Sheeran has more success in the songs ‘Nancy Mulligan’ and ‘Galway Girl’, he seems to have a better grasp on the Irish sound. In the case of ‘Galway Girl’, he manages to fit in his hip hop style in but keep an overall Irish sound to the song, something I’ve never heard done before.
Ultimately, even if these songs don’t fully capture the sound of other cultures, what all these different songs do is create an extremely eclectic mix of music. There are seven slow ballad songs on the album, which are often considered to be Ed Sheeran’s bread and butter, but there are also nine upbeat songs that have such a wide musical variety to them, a variety amplified by where he has drawn influence. This is the most versatile album from an artist known for his exceptional creativity and versatility, and it’s already an obvious success. In the UK, a week after its release, it held the top 16 spots on Spotify’s top 50. This level of success is unprecedented on Spotify. . It’s easy to see this will probably the most popular album of 2017.