Capri Scarcelli | a&e editor
Nov. 4, 2021
After four years of radio silence from acoustic hearthrob and wedding dance-enthusiast Ed Sheeran, my high school tears have seemed to dry up with the lackluster album that is Sheeran’s =.
With June and September releases “Bad Habits” and “Shivers” debuting No. 1 and 2 on Billboard’s Global 200, Sheeran edged his way back into the pop scene just in time to tease his album release, this time with no featured artists.
Completing the album series that is +, x, ÷ and now =, Sheeran’s Oct. 29 release steers away from the lulling self-pity and heartache that was topping the charts for the majority of the last decade. Instead, he swaps his brokenheartedness with a sense of determined optimism and mature love for his wife and — surprise! — new baby girl.
In the first track “Tides,” the opening lines are straightforward with the tone he sets for the album, insisting “I have grown up/ I am a father now/ Everything has changed/ But I am still the same somehow.”
Sheeran, who married his childhood sweetheart, Cherry Seaborn in 2019, dedicated this album to her as a way to show his contentment with growing up. Ditching his guitar in the pandemic, Sheeran experimented with 80s synth tracks and backbeats for a fresh stream of music we haven’t heard from him before.
However, I think this takes away from Ed Sheeran as we always knew him.
Take Taylor Swift, for example. Although she switched genres completely from country to pop, she still nods to the root of her career in each album and remake she publishes. Sheeran, on the other hand, seems to have left behind the raw talent that made him special.
In pop culture, Sheeran has been the butt of every ginger joke for the last five years, and the laughs continued with the production value of his music video for “Bad Habits.” Fans insinuated that the artist “cracked” and that he wanted to be taken more seriously this time around for his creativity — but it didn’t really work in his favor.
“The Joker And The Queen” and “Overpass Graffiti” seem to try and emulate the ballads we’ve known and loved before, but now slapped on with a happier ending to cover up his past hurt. Even “Stop The Rain” seems to be a nod to his previous bonus track off of x, “Make It Rain,” but the lyricism is underwhelming compared to works off of his previous stellar albums. Though not musically produced in the same manner, these tracks still put a nice twist on music we used to love.
“Sandman” was even a lullaby he wrote to his daughter, which is now transferred to millions.
For the most part, these tracks have everything to do with living in the present moment. “Love In Slow Motion,” for example, is a reminder to his wife and child that this tour may mean time away from home, but even in those moments, he can still express his affection for them while doing what he loves.
The same goes for “Visiting Hours.” Though he could have gone more in depth metaphorically with this track, the song stands as a sweet and tender tribute to his music mentor who died, wishing he could “visit in heaven.”
Overall, Sheeran may have missed the mark of wholesale relatability, with little nostalgic moments for us to reminisce on.
Now that the 30-year-old singer-songwriter has entered adulthood, his teenage target audience must grow up and smell the roses, too.