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Album Review: “÷” by Ed Sheeran

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or if you aren’t friends with me on Facebook), you might not know about the glorious creation that is Ed Sheeran’s new album ÷, pronounced “divide”, which made its debut on March 3rd. ÷ is here to impress, as perhaps Ed’s most eclectic and personal batch of music yet. Each song on the album surrounds a different topic and no track sounds like the one prior. I would definitely suggest listening to the 59-minute masterpiece in full from start to finish. However, if you’re just in need of a couple new tunes, check below for my review of each individual song to figure out what will work best on your personal playlist.

“Eraser”

Ed’s back with his lyric game cranked up to 110%. “Eraser” might be one of Ed’s most though-provoking songs to date. This song is a raw reflection on Ed’s time in the industry and many of the regrets he has from his last 26 years. This song is definitely reminiscent of “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” from + back in 2011—and even has some direct references to it (like when he sings, “I hope Damien’s proud” in “Eraser” – relating back to his praise of Damien Rice in “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You”)

“Castle on the Hill”

If you’re a fan of classic, storytelling Ed, this is for you. This song is my JAM. “Castle on the Hill” takes you on a musical journey through Ed’s time growing up in Suffolk. This song would make a phenomenal addition to anyone’s road trip playlist (but perhaps don’t drive 90 down those country lanes?)

For further chill vibes, listen to “Castle on the Hill – Acoustic”

Ed Sheeran & an acoustic guitar—name a more iconic duo, I’ll wait.

“Dive”

“Dive” is probably one of the most vocally challenging songs Ed has released. I’m a huge fan of the raspy notes that he hits here—you even get to see a hint of that same tone quality in some of the phrases when “Castle on the Hill” is nearing the end. “Dive” is all about honesty, which makes total sense with the rawness Ed expresses in his tone quality throughout. Everyone wants to be reassured and told the truth before they fall head-over-heels and that’s exactly what this song touches on. The melody of this track is a bit jazzy, with a very simple background beat, which remains constant when Ed executes some challenging riffs. 

“Shape of You”

Every album has at least one radio song and this is Ed’s from ÷. “Shape of You” comes complete with: catchy lyrics that will be stuck in your head for days and a steady dance beat with serious club vibes. It’s not the most “Ed” of tunes, if you’re accustomed to his heartfelt ballads or the underlying singer/songwriter feel behind many of his tracks, but it’s worth giving a listen to form an opinion for yourself.

If you’re in love with “Shape of You”, check out “Shape of You – Stormzy Remix”

Because what’s a chart topper without a little rap feature? I had never heard of Stomzy prior to this feature, however, I was pleasantly surprised by how well his verse fit in with the original tune. Stormzy definitely adds some texture to this already-beloved pop hit.

“Perfect”

In Part II of Ed’s interview with Zane Lowe (which you can watch via on Youtube or on Apple Music), he does a song-by-song discussion of each track on the new record. He specifically addresses his prior fear that “Thinking Out Loud” would be the song that defines his career—and the goal of “Perfect” was to one-up that. “Perfect” is a sentimental ballad, which proves that through his year hiatus Ed has not lost touch with his dreamy, romantic side. To me, “Perfect” seems to have a bit more of a personal touch than “Thinking Out Loud”, as the lyrics are very specific to Ed’s current relationship with his girlfriend he seems head-over-heels for. 

“Galway Girl”

“Galway Girl” has to be one of the most toe-tapping, sing-a-long songs on this album. I really don’t know if you could listen to this one without wanting to belt all of the lyrics or get up and dance. Somehow Ed blends both Irish folk and hip-hop influences (yes, you read that combo right) to create a really unique pump-up tune. I could listen to “Galway Girl” on repeat for hours and be completely content, and I’ll bet you could probably do the same.

“Happier”

This is the song that you wish wasn’t true, but it is. “Happier” is Sheeran’s acknowledgement that maybe exes can move on to be happier, as horrible as that is to hear. Despite its title, “Happier” is a heart-wrenching plea about just how difficult it is to move on from love. This track feature some pretty sweet background vocals and the chorus picks up with a faster-paced beat, so although “Happier” isn’t terribly uplifting, the tune of this song is something to cheer you up!

“New Man”

Everyone knows at least one guy that fits the lyrics of this song perfectly. You know, that guy who “wears sunglasses indoors in winter at nighttime” and you just roll your eyes because really? Come on. This song is straight-up entertaining, because it is so relatable. It’s not the nicest of intended messages, but heck, it’s funny. Every time I listen to this song I laugh and shake my head because YES. I know that guy. We all do. Based off of this song, Ed seems to be quite the comedian, and I’m all for it.

“Hearts Don’t Break Around Here”

He’s back at it with another heartfelt ballad. At this point you might be thinking, “Another ballad?!”, but trust me, Ed is the king of sentimental music for a reason. This song’s lyrics use some exquisite imagery and it has a stuck-in-your-head kind of melody. “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” is just another glimpse into the adorable love Ed has for his girlfriend, which makes it that much sweeter. 

“What Do I Know?”

“What Do I Know?” is basically Ed’s commentary on all of the topics that are too “important” for musicians to touch—“politics, religions, and other people’s quarrels” because no one needs another Twitter fight happening nowadays. All in all, Ed’s a dude who’s pretty skilled with a guitar, and that’s what he’s planning on sticking to, because songwriting about love is a little bit more promising for him than publicly commenting on economic crises. My dad might have described this song in one word, and that one word may have been “cheesy”, and I suppose I do see his point. However, this song is pretty catchy, and you’ll probably want to whistle along to it, so don’t let the potential cheesiness deter you from discovering a new jam.

“How Would You Feel (Paean)”

For those who don’t know (a.k.a. me before I utilized the power of Google), a “paean” is defined as “a joyous song or hymn of praise, tribute, thanksgiving, or triumph”. I’d classify this song as both simple and sweet. The melody isn’t overly complex and the lyrics really do roll off of the tongue, which makes for a great additional ballad for ÷. I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many well written slow songs for Ed, though a lot of people would probably argue otherwise. In my opinion, creating a slow song that’s memorable and not-too-clichéd is more challenging than releasing the next club-ready dance beat, and that’s what “How Would You Feel (Paean) is for me. Give me all of the romantic ballads you’ve got, Ed—I’ll listen to them all happily.

“Supermarket Flowers”

Oh my. This song. Talk about personal—this song, in my opinion, showcases not only Ed’s range of talent, but also a truly tender side of him that we don’t often get to see from musical artists. “Supermarket Flowers” wasn’t originally planned for the album—Ed wrote it after his grandma passed away and after he performed it at her funeral, both his mom and grandpa told him that he had to put it on the album. Just the story behind the song makes me emotional; I dare you to listen to this track without wiping away some tears.

“Barcelona”

This song will give you serious vacation vibes—I got wanderlust just listening to it. It’s a pretty catchy get-up-and-dance-in-the-street type of song, so I highly doubt you’ll make it through this track without bobbing your head or whistling along. Ed even includes Spanish in the lyrics to add to the song’s texture. This song has me longing for summer and vacation, and I’ll bet it’ll have you doing the same.

“Bibia Be Ye Ye”

The phrase “bibia be ye ye” means “all will be well” in Twi. Ed wrote this song along with Fuse ODG while he was traveling in Ghana. I absolutely adore how carefree this song is; it’s really relaxed and chill, which is a nice contrast to some of the more produced songs, like “Shape of You” and “New Man”. Think of a more modern, less showtune-y version of “Hakuna Matata”. I would say that “Bibia Be Ye Ye” should definitely make its way onto your spring break playlist—I can just picture sun and sand making a great combo with this upbeat melody.

“Nancy Mulligan”

“Nancy Mulligan” is a super adorable account of Ed’s grandparents (Nancy Mulligan and William Sheeran) and is sung from the perspective of William. His grandparents grew up in Ireland but their union was frowned upon because they were of different faiths. Despite that, they chose to marry and the rest is history. “Nancy Mulligan” has major Irish folk influences, whereas “Galway Girl” utilizes both Irish folk and hip-hop. This song really impressed me, because I think in today’s music industry it’s a risk to put a more folksy song like this on a mainstream pop album. However, I think Ed really succeeded in staying true to his vision and his Irish roots by including this song on ÷!

“Save Myself”

What a way to end an album. I don’t know if a short little paragraph could ever do “Save Myself” justice as a review—it’s one you’ll need to hear for yourself. “Save Myself” is probably one of the most, if not the most, personal song on this record. This song proves that even celebrities like Ed Sheeran go through the realization that you need to prioritize yourself, before you prioritize others. If you listen to any song on this album, let this be the one. 

Kjersten is a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. She is pursuing a major in English and one day hopes to work in the exciting world of book publishing. When she's not reading books or taking pictures of them for her blog, she loves watching period dramas (Outlander, Victoria, and Downton Abbey, to name a few), playing with her beagle, Rocky, and listening to Ed Sheeran on repeat. Kjersten serves as Senior Editor for the Gustavus Chapter of Her Campus.
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