New Ed, same result: the return of Ed Sheeran

June will mark 3 years since the release of Ed Sheeran’s latest album, X. Being the fastest-selling album of 2014, with rave reviews to match, Sheeran always had a lot to live up to. After a year of social media silence and an underwhelming announcement to the new album, there was always a sense of understatement surrounding the upcoming ÷.

If this was because Ed was feeling nervous about returning to the public eye, fans will be happy to know that the first two singles from the record, ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Castle on the Hill’, show that he had nothing to worry about.


Since his No. 5 Collaborations Project EP, Sheeran has proved that he is the modern chameleon of music, being able to adapt to a large variety of styles seemingly effortlessly. On ‘Shape of You’ he abandons the ‘sweet boy-crooning-over-acoustic-guitar’ vibe which propelled him into super-stardom completely. Sheeran channels instead his inner Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars in this mid-tempo soft club tune, based around percussion rather than the acoustic guitar the singer-songwriter’s fans have gotten to know.

While the lyrics may not be to everybody’s taste, as this is the sexier Sheeran from the seedier parts of X let loose, make no mistake, this is classic Sheeran, with an addictive, if buoyant, chorus based around sweet yet subtle vocal melodies. This is no straight-for-the-club song; devoid of repetitive synths, ‘Shape of You’ is a welcome change from the kinds of songs which dominated the club, pop, and even rap scenes for most of 2016. This is not only a promising introduction to the future of Ed Sheeran’s career, but a welcome taste of what to come for the sound of 2017.


If you thought ‘Shape of You’ hard to swallow, ‘Castle on the Hill’ is, at first, even more atypical, opening with a scarce and slight electric guitar, easing us softly into what becomes quite a complex pop song. Lyrically, this proves that ÷ will not be entirely devoid of the more sentimental Sheeran.

“If the ginger boy from Yorkshire can keep this up, ÷ may shape up to be Ed’s best record to date”

Built around a refrain of ‘I know I’ve grown but I can’t wait to go home’ (making this the perfect soundtrack for the next time you return home from university), this is Ed’s first venture into anthemic nostalgia territory; think Deaf Havana’s ‘Hunstanton Pier’ (if you don’t know it, it’s like a better version of Nickelback’s ‘Photograph’).

Anthemic is indeed the right word; when the chorus kicks in, it becomes evident that this is a perfect mid-set stadium soarer, with the sparse opening verse emphasising the chorus even further. Deceptively simple at first listen, musically this may be one of Ed’s most sophisticated song so far; he sings about ‘driving 90 down those country roads’, and as the guitar races toward the song’s end, you believe it, too.


There will always be those who complain about change any time their favourite artists release new material, but so far ÷ seems a natural evolution from X rather than a complete change of style. While some fans might take a while to adjust to these songs’ vibes, these are, quite simply, some of Ed’s best-sounding songs to date.

Make no mistake, these are pop songs, but Sheeran does pop as pop should be done, radio-friendly tunes which can appeal to a mass audience which nevertheless have a lot of depth, proof that Sheeran knows how to ever-expand his already humongous fan-base without alienating old fans or selling any values.

Make no mistake, just because these are pop songs doesn’t mean that Sheeran has declined in quality, and if the ginger boy from Yorkshire can keep this up, ÷ may shape up to be Ed’s best record to date.

Matteo Everett

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