This morning Ed dropped the album we’ve been waiting on since ‘I Don’t Care’ with Justin Bieber set up camp at number one. There was an incredible amount of hype and promo, something Ed usually doubles down on, letting the music do the talking. Did this and the star studded line up mean Ed was finally succumbing to the temptations of being a more commercial, and less authentic artist?
Well rest assured you can suspend any worries about this being an album merely riding a wave of publicity - in fact, suspend all worries altogether. Just sit back, relax, and embrace the hits. Because that’s what this album is, it’s basically 15 number ones jam-packed into a single project.
I’ll be surprised if ‘South of the Border’, which features Camilla Cabello and Cardi B, isn’t atop the charts come the end of the day. Yes, this could probably happen on the basis of the star-studded credits alone, but don’t let this take away from how good a song this is. It’s an ear worm that will wriggle its way in and stay there for the whole day. All the tracks on this project are Ed Sheeran masterclasses in how to write the perfect hit song - and apparently, there are 15 different ways to do this.
‘Antisocial’ is a personal favourite, with Ed’s golden melodies combining forces with Travis Scott’s mercurial rhrymes, producing an alloy that is somehow both icy cold and blisteringly hot at the same time. This was confirmed to be the next single, and the hilarious video dropped earlier today.
This project is eclectically beautiful
Despite all the glitz and glamour of the cast-list, there is a refreshing theme of rejecting fame’s traditional values. On ‘Beautiful People’, Ed presents the Hollywood lifestyle in a negative light, crooning ‘Pre-nups and broken homes/Surrounded, but still alone/Let’s leave the party’. Similarly, on ‘I Don’t Care’, he muses, ‘Don’t think I fit in at this party/Everyone’s got so much to say’.
I listened to this expecting a reel of hits, and to some extent that is what I got. However there is definitely a darker undertone that is threaded through the bouncy tracks, covering themes of insecurity and loneliness that one perhaps wouldn’t assume the world-dominating Ed Sheeran would struggle with. This is what makes it all the more moving though, with ‘Best Part of Me’ with YEBBA being an emotional highlight. He confesses, ‘I bite my nails and tell the truth, I go from thin to overweight/Day to day it fluctuates’, before asking his lover, ‘Why the hell do you love me? ‘Cause I don’t even love myself’.
Ed has obviously had his fair share of touching, soul-baring tracks in the past, such as ‘Lego House’ and ‘Small Bump’. But now that he is more associated with the upbeat party-starters, epitomised by his more recent hits ‘Sing’, ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Galway Girl’, the open fragility on this album is accentuated. This project is eclectically beautiful, making you want to jump up and dance one minute, then the next minute it has you reaching for a box of tissues.
‘Remember the Name’ is an old school Hip Hop anthem, with Ed Sheeran excitedly professing his wish for a song with 50 Cent and Eminem in the first verse. What follows? A song with 50 Cent and Eminem, and an instant classic at that.
Hip Hop and R&B weave in and out of the album, and compliment Ed Sheeran’s energetic vocals brilliantly. On ‘Take Me Back to London’, the UK hit maker shows off his rapping skills, going bar for bar with London’s primary grime export, Stormzy. His lightning quick rhymes and witty lyrics put the mumble rapping Lil Pumps and Lil Uzis of today’s charts to shame.
But what’s great about this album is it doesn’t feel like Ed is in competition with anyone, nor has anything to prove. It feels totally free, and plays like a passion project that he genuinely really wanted to make. The interviews he’s done suggest the ‘No.6 Collaborations Project’ is just that. It’s Ed and his friends doing what they love - making music.
I guess it’s fortunate for us listeners (and for his record label) that Ed Sheeran’s friendship circle happens to resemble an illustrious musical pantheon. Commercial success aside, this is easily one of my favourite Ed Sheeran albums already, and it’s only been out for a few hours. On it, he reminds us why he is not only the best hit maker out there right now, but that he is also the best emoter and storyteller.
Hello! I'm currently studying Philosophy & Theology at Oxford University, UK. Having always loved writing and music in equal measure, and having always hated decision-making, I figured hey, why do I need to choose between the two?