WRITTEN BY: MIKE KABA
Ed Sheeran returns from a three-year hiatus with his new album, ÷. The British pop star declared back in December 2015 that he’d be taking some time off to work on new material. Exactly one year later, he broke his silence by hinting at a forthcoming album via social media. On January 12, 2017, Sheeran finally unveiled the track list and release date for ÷.
He introduces us to the record with “Eraser,” a humbling reminder that after international tours and millions of sold albums, fame isn’t immune to the tribulations of seclusion and substance abuse, rather a proponent of it. He juxtaposes his rise with one of the album’s promotional singles, “Castle on the Hill.” Here, Sheeran relieves the audience of the record’s somber opening with an up-beat, reminiscent reflection of the days of his youth filled with first romances, rural English country lanes, and drunken backfield nights. He speaks to his life’s dated simplicity compared to the isolation he now attempts to numb through substance and song. Transitioning to “Dive,” Sheeran finds himself questioning a woman’s intentions, refusing to let love befall his tender heart. The strain present in Sheeran’s cry throughout the chorus speaks to his level of desperation in averting heartbreak. The track offers a strong resemblance to his 2014 hit, “Thinking Out Loud,” bearing a blues-complexion complemented by the Brit’s surrounding harmonies.
The marimba-lead in “Shape of You” could confuse the listener into thinking the single belongs to Sia, or maybe Rihanna, as it suggests a tropical-house feel. Sheeran explained on BBC Radio 1 that at the outset, he was planning to produce the track for Bad Gal RiRi until he couldn’t really imagine lyrics like “put Van the man on the jukebox” recited by the Barbadian megastar. At that point, he kept the track for himself. What’s more, he made “Shape of You” the lead single off this album. Proving to be a good decision, it currently reigns at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat unaccomplished by Sheeran until now. The songwriters of TLC’s hit “No Scrubs” were recently given writing credits under Sheeran’s track after many began to notice the similarities between the 90s hit and the current #1.
On March 17, 2017, the singer tweeted his next single from the album would be “Galway Girl.” This announcement via Twitter is appropriate in response to the internet’s overwhelming support for the track, so it should come at no surprise when the fiddle-favorite dominates the charts in the coming weeks. The tune’s title pays homage to Steve Earle’s original “Galway Girl” as Sheeran lays down his infatuation with the lass from Grafton Street. “New Man” is destined to be Sheeran’s following single for radio; it provides an upbeat melody that sticks and humorous yet genuine lyrics.
He may be without a university degree, but in “What Do I Know?,” Sheeran still believes he’s found the solution for solace: music, positivity, and love. The lyrics are commonplace, but the timing of its release, during a tempestuous political climate, is what enriches the track’s uniqueness. It’s the type of feel-good anthem for a group of friends to play around a dusk summer campfire while forgetting about the world for a minute. Other lullabies like “Happier” and “Perfect” are sprinkled throughout while Sheeran attempts a balance with “Bibia Be Ye Ye” and “Nancy Mulligan.”
÷ debuted on the Billboard 200 at #1 and it doesn’t appear it has plans to leave that spot for some time. Sheeran will be on tour promoting the album this year, stopping in Philadelphia on July 11th and 12th at the Wells Fargo Center. The rapcoustic record is showing laudable commercial success and it’s apparent that that’s Sheeran’s goal… even if, time and time again, he tries disguising himself as just another ordinary fellow.