I’m starting off this review straight to the point with no hesitation, in 2017 I still don’t know why Ed Sheeran is so thoroughly respected in music. No shade but he seems standard all things considered, and ultimately he seems to be closer to a generic pop artist than any savior of any genres far more refined. Remember in the 90’s when Alternative & Grunge artists put out timeless music during the last good days of Rock & Roll of any variation, well if you hoped that Sheeran could tap into that sound and bring back that distinctive feel then like me you’ll be greatly disappointed, as instead Sheeran seems to be a less talented and/or charismatic version of a Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, etc. - whereas ultimately even in that category he’s not even good enough to be in the conversation.
Yet if it’s true that men lie, women lie, and numbers don’t, then this review doesn’t matter and the numbers simply speak for themselves, as Sheeran has two Grammy awards and has sold over 25 million records worldwide, quickly becoming one of the most famous pop artists of the time period. For those like myself who didn’t know until recently, Sheeran became a global sensation opening up for Taylor Swift during her Red Tour, which subsequently became great promotion for his sophomore album x Multiply, easily his most successful album to date.
Nonetheless Sheeran is back a few years later with his third album ÷ Divide (continuing the themes of + plus and x multiply), and despite a major subtraction of album sales the English singer/songwriter is as famous as he’s ever been.
All the same it’s the content of the music that really matters, thus ÷ Divide is critiqued track by track below with open ears and no bias at all.
“So blame it on the pain that blessed me with the life, friends and family filled with envy when they should be filled with pride, and when the world's against me is when I really come alive, and every day that Satan tempts me, I try to take it in my stride” this intro is nothing but passionate raps from the Grammy Award winner himself, which above anything demonstrates just how influential the genre of Hip Hop has become, yet even still I’d only recommend this to the Hamilton Broadway show audience before anyone else.
Castle on the Hill
“I'm on my way, driving at 90 down those country lanes, singing to "Tiny Dancer", and I miss the way you make me feel, and it's real, we watched the sunset over the castle on the hill” Decent enough country/pop record that was sure to do numbers, this one is an ode to his come up in Framlingham, Suffolk of England, and I suppose it’s exactly what it should be.
“I could fall, or I could fly, here in your aeroplane, and I could live, I could die, hanging on the words you say” Produced by Billy Blanco this one is easy listening and smooth and one of the better records off the project, overall a solid album cut.
Shape of You
“I'm in love with your body, Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I, I'm in love with your body, Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I, I'm in love with your body” If you listen to FM radio at all you’ve probably heard this record a cool million times since it’s release last January, and although at times it’s cringeworthy I suppose it’s catchy enough, ultimately not mad at this…
“Baby, I'm dancing in the dark with you between my arms, barefoot on the grass, listening to our favourite song, when I saw you in that dress, looking so beautiful I don't deserve this, darling, you look perfect tonight” A love ballad and it’s sentiments are sweet enough… I can see how this could give John Mayer a run for his money so I’ll co sign this one
“You know, she played the fiddle in an Irish band, but she fell in love with an Englishman” SKIP!
“Walking down 29th and park, I saw you in another's arm, only a month we've been apart, you look happier” this one’s almost laughably generic in it’s content and it essentially tarnishes whatever melody it has, this is a debatable album cut / skip worthy honorable mention.
“I heard he spent five hundred pounds on jeans, goes to the gym at least six times a week, wears boat shoes with no socks on his feet, and I hear he's on a new diet and watches what he eats” This is an absolutely terrible record and the lyrics actually gets worse… SKIP and don’t ever look back
Hearts Don’t Break Around Here
“I feel safe when you're holding me near, love the way that you conquer your fear, you know hearts don't break around here…” Another love song with sweet sentiments but this time the melody isn’t melodic at all… another SKIP without question
What Do I Know
“I'll paint the picture, let me set the scene, I know when I have children they will know what it means, and I pass on these things my family's given to me, just love, and understanding positivity” A nice positive message but on it’s best day this is very average… even still the lyrics are better this time around so I’ll say this ones a decent album cut.
How Would You Feel (Paean)
“You are the one, girl, and you know that it's true, I'm feeling younger, every time that I'm alone with you” 😴😴😴 SKIP!
"So I'll sing Hallelujah, you were an angel in the shape of my mum, when I fell down you'd be there holding me up, spread your wings as you go, when God takes you back he'll say, ‘Hallelujah, you're home’” An ode to his late grandmother and in it’s simplicity I suppose it serves it’s purpose… not mad at this
“And you and I, we're flying on an aeroplane tonight, we're going, somewhere where the sun is shining bright, just close your eyes, and let's pretend we're dancing in the street, in Barcelona…” This was originally set to be the first single off the album, and for what it’s worth this uptempo record definitely has a lot going for it… overall this one has Disney/Pixar soundtrack potential written all over it, and by years end I guarantee that it gets that kind of placement.
Bibia Be Yo Yo
"Someone told me, "Always say what's on your mind," and I am only being honest with you, I, I get lonely and make mistakes from time to time, se enioma enko ye, bibia be ye ye, bibia be ye ye, ye ye, ye ye…” This one was co-written by Sheeran long with London artist Fuse ODG who’s of Ghanaian descent, which overall makes this another blend of cultures allowing the rest of us to learn that the title translates to “All Will Be Well,” similar to Barcelona I’m not mad at this (although Sheeran really does need better melodies in his verses smh)
“Nancy was my yellow rose, and we got married wearing borrowed clothes, we got eight children, now growing old, five sons and three daughters” Sheeran is two for two when it comes to speaking on grandparents, and although the Irish Folk sound isn’t for me it ultimately might be his wheelhouse. This one’s a solid album cut for sure.
“Life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels, I drown it with a drink and out-of-date prescription pills, and all the ones that love me they just left me on the shelf, no farewell, so before I save someone else, I've got to save myself” Good lyrics and overall a solid outro that serves as one of the best records on album.
Ultimately this album has a few highs and many lows, and in the end it’s highlights aren’t as memorable as the amount of such blatant skipworthy material. In many cases the lyrics are absolutely awful and cringeworthy beyond belief, yet for good measure the rhythm and melodies are often lacking as well, and ultimately a few times does the megastar truly pull it all the way together. It’s true however that the Irish Folk sound is an acquired taste, yet it’s the pop records that for the most part leave so much to be desired, and to date I’ve yet to hear a record with Sheeran’s name on it that’s worth the time or energy. Granted that may seem harsh though, and perhaps I’m expecting the wrong type of artist, where instead of being compared to any real notable musicians he should instead be aligned with his dear friend Taylor Swift - where around that company I’m sure he’s nothing less than a Ringo Starr.