Album Review: Ed Sheeran — ÷

Veteran musician and global superstar Ed Sheeran returned to music this March with the release of his third studio album, ÷ (pronounced “divide”).

This much-anticipated release has been well-received, and Sheeran is blowing up the charts. Let’s see if this album lives up to the hype…

1. “Eraser” — 7/10

Sheeran raises a glass to welcome us into his new album, discussing the road that led him to become a global superstar. Commenting on the downsides of stardom and the pressures he faces to appear perfect, Sheeran sings, “ain’t nobody want to see you down in the dumps / because you’re living your dream and this s — should be fun.” This track has an angsty vibe, proving an interesting introduction to ÷.

2. “Castle On The Hill” — 10/10

Sheeran suffers from a healthy bout of nostalgia as he reminisces about his childhood home. This rolling track is stunning, especially the bridge — the piano accompaniment on is beautiful, and you can hear the powerful, raw emotion in Sheeran’s voice.

3. “Dive” — 9/10

This slow, bluesy number features Sheeran pleading with a new love not to play with his emotions. This song is catchy and unique, showing off Sheeran’s jazzier side and his smooth vocals — the riff at 3:09 is particularly impressive.

4. “Shape Of You” — 7/10

This percussive pop number is currently ruling the airwaves, with its catchy melodies and infectious rhythm. While the song is pretty simple and a bit derivative as far as pop numbers go, its minimalistic, subdued approach only enhances its appeal and it crescendos nicely. The repeated “mmm” is a brilliant touch, and the guitar accent at 2:10 is gorgeous.

5. “Perfect” — 10/10

“Perfect” is sure to become one of the most popular wedding songs of 2017. With a slow-dance-ready rhythm and beautiful, romantic lyrics, even those of us not due for a walk down the aisle are going to start swooning. This track reminds me of Charice’s “As Long As You’re There,” at times, both in their similar melodies and in their romantic messages.

6. “Galway Girl” — 6/10

This is a simple, fun track about a night out spent with a “Galway Girl.” Sheeran incorporates Celtic rhythms in this ode to an Irishwoman, tipping his hat not only to this woman, but also to the music of Galway itself.

7. “Happier”– 9/10

“Happier” is a melancholy ballad ruminating on love lost, as Sheeran realizes his ex is happier without him and wonders when he’ll feel the same. Accompanied by quiet guitar picking and deep piano chords. Sheeran’s vocals are clear and strong. The crescendos building into the choruses are stunning, and the final chorus is heart-rending as Sheeran sings, “if he breaks your heart, like lovers do / just know that I’ll be waiting here for you.”

8. “New Man” — 6.5/10

Sheeran brings a sassy vibe to this track as he describes his ex’s new high maintenance lover and questions if she is really being true to herself when she’s with him. “New Man” is a nice track, but it isn’t too unique, and in fact resembles “Don’t” off of 2015’s x — Sheeran even revives his famous swearword hiding breaths, first heard on “Don’t.”

9. “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” — 8/10

Sheeran seems set on breaking hearts on this record, with yet another beautiful love song. “She is the lighthouse in the night that will safely guide me home,” Sheeran sings, accompanied by warm guitars and rich harmonies.

10. “What Do I Know?” — 7/10

This feel-good track discusses the world’s distractions — the economy, beauty, etc. — before concluding that we should focus instead on love. “What Do I Know?” is perfectly minimalistic, featuring a guitar and a steady bassline with a simple melody and quiet harmonies. Yet while it features a nice message, Sheeran perhaps plays up the peace-loving-musician trope a bit too much.

11. “How Would You Feel (Paean)” — 9/10

With yet another love song, Sheeran brings in the strings and piano to create a rich, sentimental tone. “How Would You Feel (Paean)” seems like the perfect track to accompany a movie montage about people falling in love, especially when John Mayer’s stunning guitar solo comes in.

12. “Supermarket Flowers” — 8/10

Written about the death of Sheeran’s grandmother, “Supermarket Flowers” is a tearjerker. Akin to x‘s “Afire Love,” Sheeran sings, “A heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved,” over quiet piano, memorializing his grandmother in song.

13. “Barcelona” — 3/10

After a quiet track about his grandmother’s death, Sheeran transitions into this track, which begins with odd gasping breaths. Interesting choice, although perhaps an overlooked one given that “Barcelona” marks the beginning of the bonus tracks, only available on the deluxe version of ÷. This silly track was a bit too campy for my taste, as Sheeran imagines he and his dance partner are transported to Barcelona as they boogie the night away. Featuring excessive references to Barcelona’s attractions, Spanish phrases, and whistling, this track fell short.

14. “Bibia Be Ye Ye” — 3/10

Again, Sheeran seems to have caught the travel bug, first stopping in Spain and now heading on to Ghana. After Sheeran wakes up after a disastrous night out, hungover and lost, he suddenly breaks into philosophical musings via Ghanaian phrases, reassuring us that when things aren’t going right they’ll work out in the end. This song is random and absurd, and Sheeran seems to be running out of styles so quickly that he resorts to country- and culture-hopping for inspiration

15. “Nancy Mulligan” — 6/10

Now we’re back to Ireland, ending our tour of countries featured in the bonus track of this album. On this jaunty track, Sheeran places himself in his grandfather’s footsteps, imagining his courtship with his grandmother, “Nancy Mulligan.” Again featuring a heavy Irish influence, Sheeran seems to get in touch with his Irish roots on this track. While Sheeran butchers the pronunciation of “religion,” this track is not as tawdry as its predecessors.

16. “Save Myself” — 9/10

This brutally honest song ruminates on the pain of giving too much of yourself away and getting nothing back in return. Sheeran decides he has to save himself before he can save anyone else, singing over a beautiful, interesting piano arrangement. This track is a complete departure from its predecessors, as Sheeran is miraculously able to end the album on a high note.

Ultimately: 7/10

While Sheeran creates some truly impressive tracks, the album really doesn’t flow as a whole and includes a handful of incredibly bizarre numbers. The bonus tracks would in fact be better left off the album entirely, save for “Save Myself.”

While Sheeran proves his talent on such tracks as “Dive,” “Castle on the Hill,” and “Perfect,” the majority often sound a bit derivative or contrived.

Sheeran thrives when he sticks with what he knows — warm instrumentation on cozy love songs — but when he strays too far, the gamble didn’t pay out.

You can learn more about Ed Sheeran here, and you can find his music on iTunes or Spotify.