Ed Sheeran seems to be everyone's favourite guitar-wielding red-head right now. With 17 songs in the Top 30 Singles Chart and his third studio release "÷" heading for its third consecutive week at the top spot, there's no doubt that the 26-year-old has been absolutely dominating the charts in recent weeks.
Sheeran bounced back onto the music scene in December 2016 when he changed up his social media, following a year-long hiatus hinting toward a possible LP release being on the horizon. January 2nd saw the unveiling of what was assumed to be the artwork of his forthcoming title, whilst January 6th saw the simultaneous release of two new long-awaited singles "Shape of You" and "Castle on the Hill".
Divide (÷) hit the shelves on March 3rd 2017, receiving critical acclaim, 13 million streams in 24 hours (a Spotify streaming record) and debuted at number one in the UK, US, Canada, Germany and Australia. And with 672,000 sales in its opening week, ÷ has now gone down in history as the fastest selling album by a male solo artist in the UK.
So, all-in-all a great start to 2017 for the Framlingham pop folkster.
But while all is shiny in Sheeran-land, I can't help but feel that Ed has ditched his musical ingenuity to mass produce a record that teenage girls and middle-aged mothers wouldn't think twice about whacking a tenner out for.
Back in 2011, Sheeran's debut LP opened with lead single "The A Team", a quintessentially dark eye-opener addressing prostitution, poverty and narcotics. Written after a visit to a homeless shelter this song was based on the true stories he had heard about the lives homeless people live. And subsequently, Ed found fame with this iconic track.
Little can be said for the introduction to Divide, however. "Eraser" is a song that Ed himself has stated to be "very therapeutic" to write, as it uncovers, in little detail, his journey through life and the trials he has faced finding status within the industry. The chorus chimes in with an acknowledgment of how damaging the music industry can be to an individual with Sheeran assuring us "I'm well aware of certain things that can destroy a man like me" - great, a mainstream musician who knows where his priorities lie, right? Wrong.
Three minutes and 47 seconds of this album is dedicated to Sheeran reassuring his fans that he knows where he came from and often has to remind himself of how he got to where he is today, even stating: "I used to think that nothing could be better than touring the world with my songs". Yet I find this all very hypocritical considering the lyricism gone into this album is pretty mediocre.
Don't get me wrong, Ed Sheeran isn't a bad lyricist and he's composed some seriously incredible tracks - Thinking Out Loud, Photograph and Lego House being some of the best love songs I have ever heard. I guess that's why I get a sense of deflation when listening to the new album.
One of the greatest qualities of music is the way a song can relate to exactly how you feel and speak the words you're afraid to say. Something Ed Sheeran has established so well with the creativity and emotion that goes into his love songs. But music is very much a business and as a proclaimed artist it seems Sheeran no longer has to put much creativity into his lyrics for them to hit a soft spot amongst teenage girls and middle-aged women going through a bit of a shit time with their fella.
"But it's such a catchy album!" I hear you cry as you read further into this article. I mean I can't deny we all love a catchy song (or 17 apparently) but a 'catchy' song doesn't necessarily equate to a good, well-written, decently produced song.
And the catchy song is quite the epitome of naivety amongst mainstream music fans. If listening to a plethora of fairly plateaued out love songs with somewhat superficial lyrics for 46 minutes and 14 seconds works well at forcing you into a false sense of emotional stability then this is definitely the album for you.
Kudos to Sheeran though, for all that he's achieved in the past 6 years - Supermarket Flowers is a beautiful tribute. Happier isn't too bad either.