It is a big day for pop as Ed Sheeran releases his third studio album, ÷ Divide, on Friday (3 March 2017). It took a year-long break and various life experiences for Sheeran to bring the record together, with the monumental success of his second album x (Multiply) firmly behind him.
With six years strong in the music game, Sheeran, 26, already has a loyal fan base on a global scale. But will his latest effort Divide and conquer? IBTimes UK takes a listen to determine whether Sheeran still has that down-to-earth, special charm.
A lot has changed since Ed Sheeran was last prominent on the pop scene. The Thinking Out Loud hitmaker ditched the spotlight to travel the world while dealing with the end of one relationship and the beginning of another. All of these goalposts – teamed with an intense level of fame and the cons that come with it – have changed Sheeran's outlook on life and it oozes through every inch of Divide.
Almost like a musical journal, Divide is somewhat structured like a diary of Sheeran's past year and, as listeners, we are afforded the privilege of learning just what makes the singer tick after an extensive period away. Before Sheeran can begin this exciting new chapter, he has to wipe the negativity from his past which is exactly what he does with the album opener Eraser. Sheeran is frank in his admission of getting caught up with the fame game, singing from the jump: "I was born in a small town, I lost that state of mind... I forget when I get awards now, the wave I have to ride."
After breaking free from the grips of celebrity, Sheeran celebrates his humble beginnings on the hometown ode Castle On The Hill – and sounds better for it. It is fair to say the happy chappy is a hopeless romantic and sweet ballads like Dive, Hearts Don't Break Around Here and What Would You Do only prove this. All dedicated to his girlfriend Cherry Seaborn, Sheeran has never sounded more in love.
You could argue that Thinking Out Loud was his peak of smittenness but Sheeran reckons there is one better on Divide. Perfect is a huge ballad, already vintage before its time with its noughties-era production and classic lines like: "Darling, you look perfect tonight." It clearly comes from a warm place in Sheeran's heart as he recalls fond memories of walking "barefoot in the grass" with Seaborn, whom he pretty much declares is "the one". However heartwarming it may be, Perfect is just not as 'cool' as Thinking Out Loud, which is an easier listen in the commercial sense.
Still, this new relationship has turned Sheeran into a New Man and this witty number is where Sheeran stands out. It is the perfect blend of his endearing humour, lyrical talent and ability to create a modern, melodic tune led by his faithful guitar.
In the midst of the fleet of loved-up ballads, songs like New Man, the endlessly chart-topping Shape Of You and the searingly sunny Barcelona and Bibia Be Ye Ye, provide some light-relief before Divide verges on becoming too soppy. Sheeran does take risks with going too far on either end of the spectrum – while Perfect may be sickly sweet, Barcelona toys with the danger of being too cheesy. Fortunately, cuts like Galway Girl are there to keep the album on an even keel.
Listen to Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You:
Divide is certainly an eclectic album of sounds to say the least. It is both romantic and reflective, daring and crowd-pleasing and unafraid to expose every morsel of Sheeran's ambition sonically. Sheeran is a man with all the success and money in the world but ultimately, he is simply a man in love and it is a joy to hear.