I have never been Ed Sheeran’s #1 fan.
That’s not to say I dislike him— I enjoyed plenty of his songs, I just never loved a whole album. But then he released ÷ and, for some reason, I had this quiet lingering excitement for the album and I couldn’t really understand why. I had this gut feeling that I was going to love the songs he was about to release, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with all sixteen tracks. This is an informal review of ÷ (Deluxe) where I’m going to unashamedly talk about myself and how I reacted and responded to the tracks. I won’t be discussing every song, because that would bore the butt off of all of you, but I’ll highlight the themes, lyrics, and compositions.
All sixteen tracks on this album are in the top sixteen places of Spotify’s UK Top 50, so I think it’s best to start with one of the singles released before prior to the album. Castle on the Hill is memoir to his childhood and teenage years where he reminisces the relationships he loved and lost during that time. By taking subtle sensory details like the smell of grass and the exact day of his first kiss, the listener is dragged head-first into his childhood. In the end of the first pre-chorus, there’s a sincere appreciation for the idea that adults can miss home. He sings ‘I know I’ve grown, but I can’t wait to go home’ and although it may be insignificant to some, it’s a comforting message to a home bird like me. He communicates messages in the song, like how people change and how missing aspects of your past doesn’t stop you from living in the present. That’s what I love about the album and this song in particular, he communicates strong messages (although I can’t say I support the idea of ‘driving at 90 down… country lanes’).
Any fan of Ed Sheeran will agree that his songwriting skills are fantastic, particularly when it’s a love song. So when ÷ was released, I personally was in my element. He includes raw and honest tracks of relationships like Dive, Perfect, How Would You Feel and more, with songs of heartbreak like Happier. He breaks up the theme of love and heartbreak with humorous songs like New Man, and upbeat tracks like Barcelona, Shape of You and Bibia Be Ye Ye.
One of Sheeran’s love songs on the record, Hearts Don’t Break Around Here, was a favourite of mine from the get-go. Maybe it’s just the relatable narcissistic idea, but I prefer to argue that the song is one of the best-written on the album along with Nancy Mulligan (which I’ll discuss at the end). There’s something so simple about the lyrics and the melody. He sings of such a ‘safe love’ that most fans of Sheeran people love to hear about. I think what’s so positive about this song is how it promotes a peaceful intimacy that isn’t often discussed in chart music where any form intimacy is usually of the explicit form.
Sheeran also introduces traditional Irish folk tones to it to celebrate his roots. Now when I saw Galway Girl on the discography, I was so excited. My family are all Irish, and holiday trips back have always included nights with cousins, aunts, and uncles playing music in the kitchen, so I was ecstatic to see him cover Galway Girl and bring it onto the charts. After clicking play, I was surprised to hear he’d picked the title for a self-written song where he portrays a pretty unrealistic view of a night at an Irish pub. However, I do think he captured the fun, upbeat vibe of a lot of Irish trad tunes. Although I don’t love this song, his other track with Irish folk undertones really captures Irish culture; it’s amazing to see this genre even briefly in the spotlight. In fact, in an article by The Guardian, Ed talks about his label and how ‘they were really, really against Galway Girl, because apparently folk music isn’t cool’. His argument in response was ‘well, the Corrs sold 20m records… but who’s tried it since the Corrs? There’s a huge gap in the market, and I promise you that in two years’ time there will be a big folk band that comes up that’s pop’. Maybe he was right, in fact as I write this article, Galway Girl is at the top of Spotify’s UK Top 50 with over 1 million plays.
Earlier I hinted that Nancy Mulligan is one of my favourites on the Deluxe album and who can blame me? The composition entirely absorbs traditional Irish music and is a ballad that tells the story of how his grandparents met and married. Not only does it focus on their relationship, but it also reflects Ireland’s political and religious friction of the time. It really is difficult to not adore this song with its fast pace, incredibly catchy melody, and beautiful storyline.
Overall, if it wasn’t already obvious, I really fell in love with this album. If you haven’t bothered to give it a listen yet, I urge you to give it one play through with your full attention. In my opinion, there’s at least one song on here for everyone.