Review Summary: Simply put, one of the many reasons you shouldn't care about mainstream pop music today.
Ed Sheeran is one of those peculiar cases in modern popular music; he is thought of by young audiences as the ''intelligent'' one, far more creative than the likes of Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and the whole army of blank, uninspired artists that comprise the majority of the mainstream music scene today. Moreover, he has constructed a clever public image, that of a humble and friendly singer-songwriter that has no intention other than keeping company to the listener for as long as a record lasts. Hell, he even cites the Beatles and Bob Dylan as some of his major influences! Imagine my disbelief and curiosity before I had the chance of listening to his debut...
...and then, imagine my major
disappointment after the record's finale, which is all the more surprising since folk and pop (the two styles mainly explored here) are two genres I dearly love; what's the problem then? To begin with, the production here is awfully generic; whether it'll be a number embellished with pianos, orchestral strings and background chanting like the opening The A Team
, an ''energetic'' tune in the style of Drunk
or a ''pure folk'' affair like Small Bump
, the studio engineers do not have a single clue about personality
. Not only all of the songs here sound exactly
the same with each other, they also don't bother to distinguish themselves from other artists' efforts. Does One Direction or Sam Smith sound different from Ed Sheeran? Not by a long mile. Even when Ed attempts to do something different, like inserting rock and dance elements on The City
, the result isn't really different than other songs here. Simply put, one of the most uniform records I've ever had the misfortune of hearing.
The second obvious defect of the album is the lack of emotional sincerity; Sheeran is simply incapable of putting any real, substantial emotion on the tape, resulting in all of the songs sounding faceless and manufactured. The first reason is the lyrical input, where the songs deal with love, street life, homeless shelters and self-doubt in the most uninspired way possible: stuff like Lights gone, days end, struggling to pay rent
, The worst things in life come free to us
or The pavement is my friend
are downright laughable in their supposed ''direct nature'' and ''rawness''. Another reason is the guy's voice; he sticks with the same irritating formula of the slightly-sensitive-and-slightly-aching vocal delivery on every single
song here. Not once does he change his ''whispering'' style in the slightest way possible, resulting in fifty minutes of one monochromatic delivery after the other. Plus, is it only me or he sounds completely
fake all the time? I honestly can't take seriously the man's vocal efforts; he employs all these ''sentimental'' and ''emotional'' vocal techniques in such an obvious way that he cannot generate any genuine emotion or stimulate these ears at all.
The most crippling issue of the record, though, has to be the average songwriting; seriously, what was the guy thinking? This is supposed to be a pop
record at heart and I can't remember any of the twelve songs presented here. Most of the time, he seems stuck between folk-meets-soul melodies that have no substantial catchiness in them; it's just endless, pointless vocal ''noodling'', with little or no attention paid to memorability whatsoever. The only way in which you can deem these songs as good, from a melodic viewpoint, is if you haven't heard a pop song in your whole life. What's even more, all of the songs are needlessly overlengthened for no particular reason, resulting in a seriously overlong record that closes with the eight minute borefest Give Me Love/ The Parting Glass
. Could this album be any
more of a disaster?
In conclusion, this is one mighty
poor release from every point of view. Generic production, sterile emotional investment, minimal songwriting efforts and a uniquely bland voice that has no intention of changing at all
. Ed Sheeran is the absolute proof that hanging a guitar on your body, adopting a ''vulnerable'' vocal tone and writing laughable, simplistic lyrics is not enough to guarantee success. Well, certainly not artistic
success, since he is pretty big commercially, but who told you that society and common sense go hand in hand?