Ed Sheeran’s ‘=’ album was released on Thursday 28th October 2021. Hannah Walton-Hughes discusses ‘=’, and comments on the distinctive melody, rhythm and themes of its hefty fourteen tracks.
The title of the album, equals, if nothing else, sets up what this album is primarily about; Sheeran’s devotion to the love of his life, who he clearly views as his equal. The continued use of family as a theme is what gives this album such emotional depth, starting with Sheeran’s wife, and then his daughter.
It kicks off with Tides, a strong introduction to the way Sheeran feels about his life, and how he has changed; change is a feature indicated by the abrupt changes in the musical texture and melody of the song. The album evolves from this point. It slides from themes of first love, to themes of grief, stress, subterfuge and the joy of a new child. So, quite a lot is covered in fourteen songs!
First Times is a complete contrast to the first two songs on the album, changing from repetitive drum syncopation, to a basic texture of guitar, strings, and humming. It is hard not to remember Sheeran’s previous release Perfect, when he talks about dancing with his love: “moonlight, in your parents’ garden”; as listeners, we are certainly not surprised when he goes on to describe his proposal to his wife. Most especially, I noticed how the introduction of strings at the end seemed to illustrate the multiplication of Sheeran’s memories, and the ‘first times’ he increasingly shares with his wife -how romantic!
this song [Visiting Hours] moved me to tears
Bad Habits, was, frankly, placed at a very shocking place within the album! After having talked about new beginnings, sensual love and a romantic proposal, Sheeran drops the bombshell that there is someone in his life who still seems to get him into bad habits. Despite this, I love the song with its building drum beats and jarring, abrupt ending – I don’t know why Shivers overtook it in ratings.
Without doubt, the real gem of this album is the heart-breaking ballad Visiting Hours. I think that anyone who has experienced the terrible pain of grief can relate to the lyrics; I know I can. This song moved me to tears. The echoing voices and almost underwater instrumental section really does seem like an other-wordly conversation with heaven.
repetitive and slightly monotonous could be applied to Collide and Stop the Rain
My description of the rest of the album would certainly not be negative; many other songs were memorable, but there were a small number that let the album down overall. Repetitive and slightly monotonous could be applied to Collide and Stop the Rain. And Be Right Now is just a bit of a disappointing ending to the album. Despite the important message of living in the moment, it drags in some places.
It is very hard to listen to ‘Equals’ without remembering past Ed Sheeran albums. The references to Photographs is blatant in Overpass Graffiti, for example, and the borderline rap genre of 2step basically screams New Man from Sheeran’s ‘Divide’ album (released 2017). On the topic of 2step, I did enjoy how Sheeran chose to beat it in two; I’m not sure if it was intentional, but it certainly worked!
Despite a few disappointments, I did enjoy this album, and would encourage readers to listen to it. It has the ability to move you, surprise you and energise you. We would expect nothing less from such a wonderful and accomplished artist.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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