When a young, chubby, ginger kid came on stage and quickly flummoxed the music industry with fast paced lyricism and emotional balladry, Ed Sheeran quickly became a household name around the world. Counting Pharrell Williams, Taylor Swift, Elton John and Rick Rubin as fans (two of which produced parts of his album) simply adds to his musical credentials within the industry, but no matter what, it is often the second album that can make or break an artist.
Ed Sheeran’s new album “X” or “Multiply” is a bit of a mixed bag of genres. While Sheeran’s debut album “+” was quite predominately folk/hip-hop, it seems that the influences of Pharrell for example, has morphed his music into a more fluid monster. The most obvious song being hit single, Sing, with almost Timberlake falsetto impersonations punctuating lyrics about meeting and hooking up with a “keeper”. He adds elements of folk and rap-singing but much more strongly, R&B which is certainly a departure from his usual sound. While the song itself has been divisive for many of his acoustic guitar loving fans, it sets itself apart from his album and keeps things generally refreshing. His song topics have vastly expanded as well, ranging from love and heartbreak to Alzheimers and mortality, which offers more on the table for many people.
Ed Sheeran at times however, can be quite selfish when writing his songs, they can often be an uncomfortable trawl through a teenager’s angst-ridden diary but perfect for heartbroken girls accompanied with ice cream and movies. Songs like Nina, which is blatantly about former flame Nina Nesbitt, came across as overly cheesy with lyrics such as “time is the only reason we could break up” but this honesty is often rarely found and required some courage to tackle the issue head on. Thinking Out Loud reverts back to stripped back balladry, announcing his undying love when his “hair is all but gone and his memory fades” to another muse and this is where he often shines, where he can intimately croon over little than his lyrics.
For the majority of the album, his emotional outpour can often clog ones ears as they vie for your attention, the album can become too dense to listen to in one sitting. Songs like Don’t – about a cheating ex – stand out doubly more due to the drastically different production by Rick Rubin, so much so that it felt like it didn’t belong on the tracklist amongst the often slow and methodical guitar playing.
Ed Sheeran is back. This album will very likely be a hit and he very much deserves it. Maybe in the next album we will see even more of an evolution from his acoustic tendencies, but overall this album avoids becoming a Plus (2.0) and that must be applauded. Ed clearly takes a lot of risks on the album and some pay off and others don’t but he still leaves room to astonish with his musicianship.