It has been a long time since Ed Sheeran’s initial performance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. With a tiny beat-up guitar, Sheeran serenaded every preteen girl surrounding Ellen’s stage with the glow of simulated candle-light.
A lot has happened since his debut album Plus was released in 2011 and judging by his newest album Divide, it seems like a once refreshing artist in the pop scene has been worn down by producers and the status quo.
His new album starts with the song Eraser, which is a mostly spoken word attempt at a my-roots-were-tough-but-now-I’m-awesome hiphop single. This and the next track “Castle on a Hill” are obvious examples of pandering to his core audience’s yearning for fame and justification for his own privileged way of life. It seems odd that the producers wouldn’t separate these two tracks in the song order, considering their agenda is so similar.
In terms of his single “Shape of You”, it’s quite catchy and it’s tight yet vaguely acoustic vibe is, to be fair, quite interesting. However, this song was definitely written specifically for the radio audience listening to it on pop radio that will generally seek no further interest in the rest of Sheeran’s album.
All in all, this album says three things about Ed Sheeran. One, he really wants to emphasize his Britishness. Almost every song has some reference to his upbringing in working class UK. Secondly, Ed Sheeran does not want to be doing what he’s doing. Every other song is sung half-heartedly and is obviously a song pushed on him by the higher executives. Lastly, Ed Sheeran (or his higher executives) love to pander to their target audience. In lyrics and music, this album sounds like every teen pop album that will come out this year. In terms of emotional response, you can either listen or watch Bo Burnham’s “Repeat Stuff” 20 times, except that Bo Burnham’s video is intentionally funny.
-Luke Webster, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor