Ed Sheeran safely plays to his strenghts on Divide
British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s star has been rising for years now and it seems he is still not at his absolute peek yet. In 2014 his success reached new heights when his single ‘Thinking Out Loud’ became one of the biggest hits of the decade, but over the past two months he showed that 2017 will be even more his year. In the first week of January he launched not only one but two new singles, ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Castle on the Hill’ and has been dominating the charts ever since. The expectations for his third album ÷ (Divide) are incredibly high, both in terms of chart success and the quality of the record. Does Ed Sheeran deliver?
Ed Sheeran built a career on his eclectic mix of acoustic pop, folk and a touch of hiphop and this is exactly what he continues doing on his new album with the first track ‘Eraser’. The raps about coming from a small town might get a little old, but there is no arguing with the catchiness of that pop chorus. The same thing goes for ‘Castle On The Hill’, that has this anthemic quality that just makes you want to belt along or the infectious beats of ‘Shape Of You’ that make it impossible to sit still.
Sheeran could basically release every album track as next single and have a big hit, but ‘Dive’ might be the ultimate choice, as it delivers a balance of raw emotions describing the insecurity when you get the feeling somebody does not feel the same for you, a beautiful soaring melody and a soulful arrangement while Ed dares to show off a more raw side to his vocals. If Sheeran wants to opt for something slightly more uptempo, ‘New Man’ seems a guaranteed success with witty lyrics in the verses about the new boyfriend of his ex lover, followed by an earworm chorus.
Sheeran might be one of the most romantic songwriters of his time, but even he needs to watch himself not taking this too far into cheesy territory. While promo single ‘How Would You Feel’ balances on the right side, ‘Perfect’, which he describes as better than ‘Thinking Out Loud’ himself, drowns in too many lyrical cliches to really convince. On ‘Happier’ however, he hits exactly the right spot, questioning how he treated his ex girlfriend who is now happier with another man by her side. This is the kind of song that Ed Sheeran perfected, sounding honest and heartbroken.
To be fair, even in Sheeran’s most cheesy moments, he still manages to make the songs sound like hits. It took him three albums to completely perfect his craft which at the same time means that Divide leaves almost no room for experiments in terms of sound. ‘Galway Girl’ comes closest with its fun and upbeat inclusion of some Irish folk influences and this makes it one of the highlights of the record. You can’t fault Sheeran for delivering a well-crafted perfect radio pop record while doing what he knows best, but for the sake of growth in his career, it would be great if he would dare to step out of his sonic comfort zone a bit more next time.