His latest, “÷ (Divide),” is the next in his mathematical operator series. In it Sheeran takes his folky six-string roots and adds in pop influence.
“Eraser,” a bland Twenty One Pilots-like that features Sheeran rapping over a set of looped acoustic guitars. The track’s production feels more trendy than innovative. In a year’s time it’ll just feel stale.
“Shape of You,” a tropical beat with shallow lyrics about grinding in the club. It feels like the track was built from the ground up for radio play.
Second single “Castle on the Hill” fares better. It’s a pop-rock track with an epic build up a la U2 or, 30 Seconds to Mars. The jangly guitars soar overhead throughout a la the latter band’s “Closer to the Edge.”
On the song “What Do I Know?” Sheeran presents a warm and sparse instrumental of clean electric guitar, kickdrum, and layered harmonies. The redhead sings about how music can bring about change.
While the song feels genuine in its delivery, it suffers from the same problem as much of the album. It’s so topical and nonspecific, it feels inconsequential. Sheeran is too vague to be singing about anything important.
Even on a song like “How Would You Feel (Paean)” where Sheeran is singing about “the one,” he can’t say anything more personal than “stealing kisses in a front yard.”
Closing track “Supermarket Flowers” is a standout. It’s a piano ballad written in memory of Sheeran’s grandmother. The lyrics, written from the perspective of Sheeran’s mother, are a moving tribute. The chorus of “Hallelujah/You were an angel in the shape of my mum” is backed by an angelic choir. It’s the most human moment on the record.
Ed Sheeran has talent, he’s good with a guitar, has a unique voice and can write an earworm of a chorus. However, this album is faceless and cliché. There are a few good moments, but they’re buried beneath what can be called filler at best. 5/10