Today we have another modern pop sensation, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran and his massively successful third album, “Divide”. This record was not only the #1 selling album in 2017, but in the modern context of musical streaming, Ed Sheeran is at the top of the list of most streamed artists, and his huge hit “Shape of You” is the most streamed song of all time on some streaming services. My view of this album is complicated, perhaps more than I thought it would be, and I even have some traumatic memories tied directly to “Shape of You” I will elaborate on.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Ed Sheeran is just the most visible artist of an entire movement of dramatically sensitive white male vocalists. You know these guys, right? It doesn’t matter whether it is Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, James Bay, Lukas Graham, or the absolute worst offender, Shawn Mendes (Shawn, it’s pronounced Stitches, not Stee-chez). Not only are you CONSTANTLY bombarded by their music everywhere, even at the gym where nobody ever says “let’s get swole and listen to 7 Years”. Nope, it gets worse. They are just so incredibly delicate and sensitive, you know every girl hears their music and thinks, “why can’t my guy be more sensitive like Ed?” It’s not right, it’s painful to listen to, and it’s inescapable. No song oozes this heart-fluttering want more than “Perfect”, another of the monster hits from “Divide”
On top of that, sometimes they will deliver a song like “Shape of You”. Beyond being omnipresent in every corner of life, some of you may even be confronted like one of my coworkers was, when she told me her mom told her how much she loved this song. Nobody’s parent should ever positively reference a song where the lyrics include the line “and now my bedsheets smell like you”. Again… it is just wrong. It isn’t quite as scarring, but one of my local friends also shared that his love for this song is tied to the love for the shape of his wife. Some thoughts are better left unsaid.
So now that I have all of that out of the way, I will begrudgingly admit that even though the tone of his voice is sometimes a bit much, Ed Sheeran is a very capable singer and furthermore, like his female counterpart Taylor Swift, he is an effective and talented songwriter. Taking a bit more time to listen the second time through, I appreciated the autobiographical nature of many of his songs like “Castle on the Hill”, the admittedly touching “Supermarket Flowers”, and a bonus track, “Nancy Mulligan”. You get the sense that Ed is in fact, a pretty good dude, and despite the fact he is one of the most successful artists on the planet, he effectively portrays himself as just a normal guy who lives life for his friends and family. It’s hard not to like that aspect of his music, and for that I will give him kudos and praise. I don’t think I’m ready yet to add “Shape of You” to my playlist, and I probably won’t need to since the entire planet is still streaming it at an alarming rate, but I found a couple of others I will secretly add to my playlist (don’t tell my son) and move on to the next record on the list.