Ed Sheeran is the anomaly of modern day pop music. He fits into no category and his music seems to attempt to brush against every genre at some point. He is a jack of all trades but probably isn’t a master of any.
Sheeran comes from the Damien Rice style of folk and folk rock. He sings what he sees, he sings what he feels and does so in sometimes the most rudimentary ways.
Sheeran isn’t polished and hasn’t been directed by a record company in his sound or appearance. But then this is actually his appeal and in trying to be out of the normal boxes popular music artists fall into he is stands alone. Sheeran has never been called the new someone. Contemporary Sam Smith was labelled the ‘new Adele’ and she was referred to as the ‘new Amy Winehouse’. It is now other singers with just their guitar that are labelled “The new Ed Sheeran”.
But how did Ed Sheeran do it? We have all probably seen multiple guys with their guitar singing songs about life and love without giving them much of a thought. Yes, we appreciate their talent of singing and playing an instrument but pop stars have this thing people like to refer to as star quality or the ‘x factor’. Of course I know this is all bullshit and this is why much of pop music in the charts sounds like over produced shite but it seems to just be a reality of the situation.
When a song like “The A Team” starts to make waves in the charts you can only presume this is a fluke. This was Sheeran’s first single from this album (annoyingly just called + which is plus to us normal folk). The song is nothing to do with the 1980’s TV series and is quite a darkly themed track about a girl who takes drugs and pays for it by being a prostitute.
The problem with this song is Sheeran’s lack of conviction. You could actually forget what the hell he is talking about as he strums all innocently over a song that is about addiction and actually eventual death.
“Drunk” displays clever language with buzz words that will speak to much of the young music buying public. “Drunk” “Bed” “Make Up” “Coke Can” – these are all designed to perk your interest in what he is saying. He is saying very little but Sheeran is bringing you into his world of simplicity where you feel like you know him and would like to go for a drink with him.
UNI is disgustingly sweet. It’s his then girlfriend going to university and this being the reason they are breaking up. He misses her and this is his maudlin heartbroken love song. Sheeran shows his singing/rap style for the first time in the second verse. Does it work? It does kind of despite being almost funny at this point.
“Grade 8” is different to most of the tracks on the album as it centres more around the drunks and the bass. This is probably my favourite song on the album as I believe it is the most complete track in terms of structure and also his vocal. He doesn’t rap, he doesn’t stretch his un-stretchable voice – its actually the most soulful track on an album which at times is devoid of any.
“Wake Me Up” like “UNI” is what Sheeran seems to be about. The lyrics are as basic as you can get but this is not because he doesn’t know what to say – it is designed like this. And this where Sheeran is clever and why he has been so successful because he has been able to bring songs to the masses that seem like they are relateable and he has done this by just bringing in popular references. “Shrek” “X Box” “Hot bath” “Drunk”.
“Small Bump” is Sheeran trying to be serious. The tone of the song is different and immediately you realise perhaps he is talking about something potentially sad. The song is about his partner expecting a baby and Sheeran expresses his delight at becoming a father. Unfortunately the very end of the song gives a twist due to his partner losing the baby. The simplicity of the lyrics finally work well because you would expect someone going through a trauma to follow this train of thought as to just think about the things they will or could have done being a parent.
“This” is filler. A nothing song about nothing.
“The City” is a song I had seen Sheeran do live and his EP released around a year before this album featured this song. But the version of the song on the album has been altered with a electric guitar playing a rift and some scattered drums which sound all over the place in a track which should have been a simple acoustic number.
The terrible production offers nothing to the track and ruins it completely.
Sheeran secured a big hit with “Lego House”. Again but even mentioning the world “Lego” interest is immediately perked. The sound and structure of this track is something Sheeran would take into his follow up album with the massive song “Thinking Out Loud” using a near identical song structure.
His geeky lyrics to me would see the opposite sex want to be his best friend other than his lover but Sheeran is appealing to the fundamental point about love which is about just being with someone and expressing your feelings for someone.
“You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” was the second single released from the album. This track was a very popular song for Sheeran in his live performances. This would be his final tune and the one to get the crowd going. He raps on this this song and it tells the tale of how he has been told he wouldn’t make it but has defied the odds. The sweet fragile and shy Sheeran is gone as he appears extremely confident. His rapping is excruciating at times and it’s no shock that this aspect of his music has all but disappeared.
“Kiss Me” sounds as though Sheeran wanted to make a song that could be sung at weddings. It is aimed at an older crowd and for me was the brainchild of “Thinking Out Loud” from his follow up album (annoyingly named x. That’s multiply for us normal people).
“Give Me Love” is the final track on this set and is certainly one of the more interestingly numbers. The words “Give Me Love” is something that explains a lot of the songs from this album such as “UNI”, “Wake Me Up” and “Lego House”.
Sheeran makes no apologies for simple asking to be given love – simple as it might sound it’s quite clever as it shows a little more emotion than some of the other tracks which seem to me to just be telling us the listeners what we want to hear from Sheeran. His use of popular references are for us not him. He probably is a sensible fella but he wants to tell us that he gets drunk and is a real romantic.
I feel that the aim is for us to want to know Ed Sheeran. I suspect many people meet him and think that they could be his friend. Or they could squeeze his cheeks and say to him “you’re so sweet Ed”. Men want to be his mate and girls need to work out if they wish to mother him or fuck him. This is not unintentional on Sheeran’s part because he has manged to appeal to a 16 year old girl and a 80 year old woman as well as appeasing the male contingent.
This is why Ed Sheeran is a star. He’s created a character. He hasn’t had to wear robot masks like Daft Punk and he will never need to re-invent himself because whilst he will not be taken seriously by the pretentious indie rock crowd he has managed to craft an entire market for him and him alone.
After “Give Me Love” there is a gap and a hidden track presents itself. The song is an Irish folk song “The Parting Glass”. It’s a beautiful song and I enjoy many versions of this song. Sheeran does it well and sings it beautifully in what is Sheeran again telling us that he can do anything you want him to do.
I must mention the album cover. This looks nothing like Ed Sheeran. You can’t really make out that it is him – this is deliberate again because the public hadn’t been able to fully endorse his look yet. This normal looking red haired fella needed to be accepted with his music first. He has no prominent role in any of the videos for the first three singles – he is a guest in his own videos.
Now we all know what he looks like. He’s our lad Ed. I call him Ed because he’s my mate. Right?