Ed Sheeran Decides to Change Things Up and Divide This Time Around
After a bit of a hiatus, everyone’s favorite English singer-songwriter is back with a brand new full-length. If + is what put Ed Sheeran on the map and x is what made him a global superstar, ÷ is the next logical step in Sheeran’s discography, where he expands upon his signature sound by venturing into new sonic territory.
÷ proves this almost immediately with the opener “Eraser.” Subtle electronic layerings are embedded in the instrumentation, something which will recur throughout the record, but what really holds the song together is a driving acoustic guitar riff. That drive continues on lead single “Castle on the Hill,” but this time around it comes from a piano instead of a guitar. “Dive” has an almost-gospel feel at times, and Jessie Ware’s background vocals really add to the track, before “Shape of You” helps book-end “Dive” as the second lead single. I must say: when I first heard “Shape of You,” I wasn’t really a fan of it, as it honestly felt too much like every other pop song on the radio. After a few listens since then, however, it’s grown on me quite a bit, and now I can appreciate it as the fun pop tune that it is, with Sheeran’s emphatic vocal lines just serving as icing on the cake.
Sheeran brings back the layers both with symphonic undertones on the slow jam “Perfect” and later with killer vocal layerings on “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here.” Not only that, but he steps into somewhat unfamiliar territory, first by fusing Celtic influence on “Galway Girl” and then by featuring a turntable-like effect at the end of “New Man,” the latter of which to me feels like a sleeper hit. Its percussive guitar riff complements the chorus’ catchy vocal licks, making “New Man” one of the album’s standouts. “What Do I Know?” is the first instance on ÷ where Sheeran’s lyrics really caught my attention, fitting quite nicely with the humming on the chorus and the stripped-down instrumental feel. The minimalistic nature of closer “Supermarket Flowers” makes it that much more powerful, allowing for the Brit’s “singer” half to really shine through one final time.
I was initially going to leave out the bonus tracks from the deluxe version of the record, but they’re all worth noting, whether it be the interspersed Spanish and subtle yet phenomenal horns of “Barcelona,” the feel-good vibes of “Bibia Be Ye Ye,” the Celtic influence being brought back on “Nancy Mulligan,” or the striking piano and profound meaning that make “Save Myself” a perfect closer, even if it’s not the “true” closer. The four tunes honestly add even more to ÷ and make me wonder why they didn’t make the cut. Regardless, the newest effort from Ed Sheeran is well-worth the wait, and is bound to impress everyone who gives it a listen, from the casual Top 40 listeners to the self-proclaimed music “snobs” like myself.