Ed Sheeran
=


2.0
poor

Review

by HelloJoe USER (8 Reviews)
November 5th, 2021 | 12 replies


Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: = Boasts a genre-defining collection of songs. Some of which play to Ed's strengths while others are somewhat uninspired.

Ed Sheeran is an English Singer-Songwriter from Halifax. This is his fifth studio album, following 2019’s No.6 Collaborations Project and a return to the mathematical symbology which followed his first three albums. The album skates through various genres and styles but I feel where Sheeran’s work is most comfortably fitted is perhaps that which is most rooted in his humble beginnings.

It’s fascinating how we draw from one another; how creativity can reproduce organically like an ever-growing orchard of culture. When it comes to Ed Sheeran, I’ve always believed his inspirations came naturally. In the early days when touring his breakout debut album +, he cited Nizlopi as one such inspiration. They were an English folk duo who were especially known for their childlike single ‘JCB Song’ but also featured a catalogue of rap fused acoustic tracks (They even had a beatboxing double bass player); A style later popularized by Sheeran. With =, Sheeran once more finds himself broadening his sonic influences and I can’t help but hear contemporary artists such as The Weeknd or Maroon 5 in songs like ‘Bad Habits’ and ‘Shivers’.

And when I listen through the various songs on =, the songs that reach me the most are the ones he has harvested from the past to use as ingredients towards his own creative ends. ‘Love in Slow Motion’ is one such song that I think appreciates Sheeran’s origins with its own present-tense twist. It features a hazy and nostalgic acoustic guitar tastefully warped in a nostalgic production choice that is equal parts palpable and anthemic. The same goes for the album's opening song, ‘Tides’. It lives in a similar soft-rock space as songs like ‘Castle on the Hill’. A piano led foot-stomper with a weighty snare drum that drives the song forward. It’s a big song with a lot of modern production sensibilities that show Sheeran can do big and bold well.

Conversely, songs like ‘Shiver’ are dance tracks suffocated in excess. Even during the song’s intro, Ed’s guitar has a buried and textureless guitar that sounds like it is being played absent of any real acoustic place. It becomes worse when the chorus kicks in and this guitar is pushed to the front of the mix and with the added volume, the lack of any body becomes even more evident. There’s also a strange, I want to say, brass instrument that fades in. It’s very low in the mix and with all the excessive noise from the drum machine, fake claps and vapid guitar, it sounds like a bad MIDI sample. And then it just ends. With no real fanfare or sustained chord. It sounds as though the end was clipped out.

It’s very much a pop production that forgoes any resemblance of a real and tangible place, even when instruments are apparently being played. The song itself is an ode to a person that Ed Sheeran holds very deeply but I feel as though this sentiment is better explored in songs that aren’t so faceless such as ‘First Times’, the song that follows immediately after ‘Shiver’. It’s much more successful. The guitar here sounds far more human, and is complimented by simple piano chords and sweeping violins. The chord progressions are simple and familiar as they tend to be with Sheeran but living in this pocket is where I feel Sheeran is at his best. His vocal performance has a certain fragility, too, like how it cracks at 0:52 as he reaches for a falsetto but doesn’t quite make it. I like the end; how it leaves Sheeran’s voice bare to sing the final lines of the chorus.

As far as song-writing is concerned, Ed Sheeran has often borrowed tried and true chord progressions that are familiar and has transformed them into an arrangement of his own. It’s with this methodology that he has written some of his best songs such as ‘Thinking Out Loud’. Perhaps that speaks to the constant chart-topping success of songs like ‘Bad Habits’ which undoubtedly finds familiar chords in P!nk’s ‘Get The Party Started’. To that end, Sheeran’s song-writing has never quite been inventive - not structurally or lyrically. It’s why production plays such an important role in his music. Of course, lyrically he may not be unique but he is most certainly a solid writer. There’s never anything so bad as to cringe and his knack for love songs is particularly strong. Still, when listening to one of his albums, I often find myself drawn most to his production and arrangements, and as for =, it’s sadly a mixed bag...

Songs like the sweepingly romantic ‘The Joker And The Queen’ are a testament to him. The beautiful string arrangements and Ed’s humbled declarations of love demonstrated in a playing-card metaphor is Ed Sheeran playing to his strength of strengths. I appreciate that Ed Sheeran doesn’t wish to be bogged down or held captive by one particular style of music, and wishes to explore other influences, but personally, songs like ‘Collider’ and ‘Bad Habits’ aren’t nearly as successful as his folk and soft-rock influences. Too many songs from = are bogged down by contemporary pop productions that absolve Sheeran’s style of kinetics and touch, leaving something presently homogenous in its place. That said, Ed Sheeran is always honest and undeniably sincere. Regardless of the style of music he plays and the varying degrees of quality that come from that, he’s a performer that sings with his heart.



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2
poor
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Comments:Add a Comment 
JustJoe.
November 6th 2021


10944 Comments


hello

sixdegrees
November 6th 2021


13127 Comments


hello

LeddSledd
November 6th 2021


7444 Comments


hello

Alucard125
November 6th 2021


669 Comments


Funny reading that he's from Halifax - he's made a huge part of his persona about his Suffolk upbringing, where he's lived since he was 3. I used to live about 10 mins from him...

HelloJoe
November 6th 2021


1097 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Yeah, I always thought he was born in Suffolk but apparently he was born in Halifax. That said, he was raised in Suffolk so it makes sense that this would be part of his persona.

HelloJoe
November 6th 2021


1097 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Hello JustJoe et al.

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
November 6th 2021


9843 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

"There’s never anything so bad as to cringe"



He's one of the cringiest lyricists going

HelloJoe
November 6th 2021


1097 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I think he's sincere but nothing cringe inducing. It's mostly generic declarations of love here. It's not like this tasty nugget from Maroon 5's latest release.



"You're the only hand in my back pocket

If you ever left, I'd go psychotic"



or that entire album, actually. Nah, the lyrics here are mostly simplistic but there's nothing I'd call outright dreadful.

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
November 6th 2021


9843 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

I don't know this album that well but Ed is super cringe. That line about her mouth remembering the taste of his love in Thinking out loud is terrible, or the pastry line in the A team. His lyrics always have this slightly off feel, like just say you're dancing with her IN your arms, not BETWEEN your arms. First Times on this is terrible too.

HelloJoe
November 6th 2021


1097 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Haha, it's hard to imagine poor Ed kissing someone. He certainly could have that problem of being too earnest to write 'sexy' or even something that orbits the realm of 'sex'.



That said, it has always been fine for me. I've heard far worse.

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
November 6th 2021


9843 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

Fair enough. For me his songs are filled with weird placing on a pedestal stuff, too many angels, and then that "I'm such a nice real guy everyone else is fake" thing. I don't buy anything about him.

HelloJoe
November 6th 2021


1097 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I don't know him personally so I can't really infer as to whether or not his statements are accurate. I get that it could come across as snobby. Then again, he certainly comes across far better than some of is peers to me.



As for this album, though, it lives in that lyrical space of being just generic. There are far better examples of lyricism this year, that's for sure.



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