Introduction

Ed Sheeran is one of the top artists in the world, capturing audiences with his powerful vocals, catchy lyrics, and thrilling stories. Starting out in the United Kingdom, Ed was discovered via internet media sites YouTube and MySpace, performing covers and original songs to thousands of listeners and fans. In 2011, Ed Sheeran released his debut album +, pronounced “plus,” and gained instant acclaim with hits such as “The A Team,” “Lego House,” & “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You”. He was nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammys that year for “The A Team,” as well as opening up Taylor Swift’s Red Tour and headlining three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. He followed up the success with his smash hit, (pronounced “Multiply”), in 2014. The album featured countless hit songs such as “Don’t,” “Sing,” “Thinking Out Loud,” “Photograph,” & “I See Fire”. The album also featured hidden gems such as “Tenerife Sea,” “The Man,” “I’m A Mess,” “One,” “Afire Love,” “Take It Back,” “Runaway,” “Bloodstream,” “Nina,” “Shirtsleeves,” and the suicide prevention balled, “Even My Dad Does Sometimes”. Sheeran has received numerous awards from the album including two Grammys in 2016 for Song of the Year and Best Male Pop Solo Performance, both for “Thinking Out Loud”. On March 3, 2017, Ed released his third album: ÷ (Pronounced “Divide”). Today, I’m reviewing the new album track by track.

1. Eraser

The opening song of Sheeran’s last two albums set the tone for the rest of the piece. Eraser does not. Where The A Team launched + with a sentimental ballad and One launched X with a gentle love song, Eraser launches ÷ with a fast, acoustic rap song setting up what I believed was going to be a big pop album, and I was pleasantly disappointed when the rest of the album did not follow the tone set by Eraser. The song itself is big, bombastic, and boasting, borrowing the template for Take It Back (from X) and blowing it up a couple notches. This is definitely the low point of the album, only going up from there.

Track Rating: 6/10

Grade: C+

2. Castle on the Hill

The first single released for this album, Castle on the Hill is a nostalgic ballad about growing up and memories. The song is fast paced and personal at the same time. The big chorused song manages to walk the line between big stadium ballad and personal story song seamlessly. The production itself is great. A fantastic, original song unlike anything I’ve heard previously in Sheeran’s catalog.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

3. Dive

Dive slows things down after the first two tracks, placed perfectly. Dive is a beautiful, crooner-styled song, backdropped by a beautiful electric guitar riff coupled with a low bass. The song cautions against being played and led on. The song has a very vintage feel to it and Sheeran’s vocals hold the listener’s attention throughout the entire track. Another brilliantly original song that sounds unlike anything I’ve ever heard from Sheeran before.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

4. Shape of You

The second single released by Sheeran picks the pace up a little from Dive, but it doesn’t compromise the originality of the smooth production and melody. The song’s beat is acoustic, featuring acoustic guitars and cajons, but the melody is kept by a very tropical house sound. The song itself details an encounter between Sheeran and a woman he met in a bar and how he wants to love her. A familiar subject matter repackaged in a sleek new model.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

5. Perfect

Perfect attempts to capture the same magic as Thinking Out Loud and manages to recapture some of the same themes and repurpose them into a new slow song. The song is sure to be a staple of high school slow dances. Perfect details the story of first love and how his woman looks..well, perfect. The song is beautiful and unique.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

6. Galway Girl

The album takes a big twist tonally and merges his rap ability with a jam that is sure have every listener singing along for a long time. Galway Girl tells the story a girl who “plays a fiddle in an Irish band and falls in love with an Englishman”. Ed details his encounter with a woman who he met in a bar and had a perfect night with. The song has Irish fiddles and influences in its production, which speaks to me personally (I’m Irish). The song is infectious in its groove and lyrics. The woman in the song is suspected to be the fiddler for the Irish band Beoga, who Ed tagged in his tweet celebrating the song reaching number one in Ireland. A fantastic song that is sure to please everyone; a classic for sure.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

7. Happier

The album takes another right turn into slow town with the first breakup tune of the album. The song tells the story of Sheeran seeing his ex being happier with her new man. He claims to be at fault for what went wrong and how he still loves her, but he is happy that she is happy. The song is tragic and heartbreaking, with production similar to artists such as Matthew West and Brandon Heath. Taking a moment to slow our breathing down post Galway Girl  was a smart pacing decision and fits in nicely.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

8. New Man

The album picks up a little bit more with a medium paced song that watches Ed rips on the new man of one of his ex-girlfriends and calls her out on two-timing activities that she’s been pulling on her new man. This song’s subject matter is half original and half a mixture of themes from Don’t and The Man, down to the use of self-censoring his f-words in the chorus with breaths. This song also features the funniest lyric I’ve ever heard in any song ever. It occurs early in the song. You’ll know it when you hear it.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

9. Hearts Don’t Break Around Here

We slow back down a bit here and hear him sing about his desired new love in an Irish-inspired tune. The song adopts the Irish ballad-style guitar pattern used by artists like Rend Collective. The song is beautiful and naturally builds, singing about how they’re in love and how hearts don’t break around here. It’s a pretty song that is similar tonally to Photograph.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B+

10. What Do I Know?

The album speeds up again with a faster paced tune, bringing back the chill electric guitars and a similar melody to that used in Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” also written by Ed Sheeran. The production is solid and the message is inspiring. The song talks about what life is about and how music changes everything, but hey, what does he know?

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

11. How Would You Feel (Paean)

The third and final single from ÷ was released on Valentine’s Day. The slow and beautiful ballad again tries to resurrect the magic of Thinking Out Loud, partially accomplishing its mission, but I feel like Perfect is a better version of this song about first love. The production is nice, featuring a nice blend of strings and acoustic guitars. All in all it’s a very beautiful song, but I feel that Perfect accomplishes this song’s purpose better.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

12. Supermarket Flowers

The album pulls the momentum gained by the built up speed from the previous song and makes up for it with a beautiful piano driven song. The song is a tribute to his deceased mother and how I feels without his mom, whom he calls “an angel in the shape of his mom”. The tragic and beautiful evokes an emotional response and made me cry. Cherish those you love, because you don’t know how long you have them.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

13. Barcelona

Things speed up again with a fast-paced song about dancing with his loved one and gives this Latin-inspired pop song a dance infused tropical ere. The song’s production is solid and is chill, but also very aggressive vocally. The song is a pretty and fun jam. It does leave something to be desired in the production, however.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

14. Bibia Be Ye Ye

The song increases speed again, giving us a road house worthy song. The song tells about things Ed regrets and yet how tomorrow is a new day and things are looking up. The fun song’s hook is somewhat gibberish, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. The song is really fun and keeps building momentum towards another fantastic climax. The production is solid.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

15. Nancy Mulligan

The song is written and produced in an Irish-style melody and is a foot-tapping good time. The song tells the story of how his grandfather William Sheeran met his grandmother Nancy Mulligan. They met during World War II and ran away together from Belfast, Ireland, down at the Wexford Border. The song is the climax of the album, ending things on a high, fast-paced note. This song is definitely a greatest hit for Ed Sheeran.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

16. Save Myself

The final song serves as a slow, personal introspection about his emotional state after a bad breakup and how he needs to learn to love himself before he can love another. The tragically beautiful song serves as an epilogue to the climactic and happy ending that was Nancy Mulligan. The piano driven song closes it out on a very real note.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

Conclusion

This album is worthy and very fitting follow-up to the masterpiece that was X. To properly sum up this album’s virtue and worth, I must equate Ed Sheeran to another fantastic pop artist: Michael Jackson. In 1979, Michael Jackson released his solo debut Off The Wall, which people only remember for a few songs. In 1982, Thriller was released and became not just his best album, but the best album of all time. In 1988, Bad was released and everyone agrees, while not better than ThrillerBad is a fantastic album that just falls short of Thriller. This is how I would sum up Ed Sheeran’s discography as well. + is a fine album with a couple of great songs. X is a masterpiece and may never be topped by its creator. ÷ is a fantastic album, in fact a near masterpiece, that falls just short of X. It’s worth very penny you pay for it and I love almost every song on the album. Ed Sheeran is a music master and this album is fantastic.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

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5 thoughts on “÷: A Review

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