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Ed Sheeran in the sum of it all
Ed Sheeran in the sum of it all
Mark Surridge / Disney
Culture > Entertainment

Autumn Variations: How I Feel About Ed Sheeran’s Newest Album

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Stonehill chapter.

When many people hear the name Ed Sheeran, they remember “Thinking Out Loud” playing in the gym of a school dance. But aside from his popular hits, Sheeran’s recent music has a new depth to it. 

With the release of Subtract in May of 2023, Sheeran completed his mathematics suite of albums. So it was a bit of a surprise when I heard he would be releasing another album, Autumn Variations, in September. 

Subtract is an album that explores grief and deeply personal emotions, and Autumn Variations runs in the same vein. Working with Taylor Swift’s collaborator, Aaron Dessner, Autumn Variations is Sheeran’s first album under his own record label, and features both his own experiences and depicts stories of his friends. 

When the album first came out on September 29, I listened to it from beginning to end. In order of the album, here are some of my thoughts on each song:

“Magical” is a very soft way to begin the album. Sheeran sings at a medium tempo about quietly being in love. The tone of his voice and gentle lyrics makes it very pleasant to listen to.

The next song changes the mood. In “England,” Sheeran reflects on his home nation. He mentions small, everyday features of the country, and remarks that “this country of [his] gets a bad reputation / Of being cold and grey,” but he “finds[s] serenity.” I like how this song expresses appreciation in one’s home, and with a faster tempo than “Magical,” it is a great second addition to the album.

When I first saw the name “Amazing,” I thought this song would be optimistic. But despite its upbeat track, “Amazing” is more about addressing mental health. Sheeran sings: “I’m trying to feel amazing / Yeah, but I can’t get out of my way, and / Yeah, wish I could feel amazing / But this is all that I can feel today.” He encapsulates the struggle of wanting the same level of happiness as those around you and always being on the verge. But I appreciate how he presents the notion of not feeling your best as something that is okay to be dealing with.

I guess Sheeran decided to continue with a darker theme because “Plastic Bag” echoes themes of grief, depression, and a desire for numbness. It is reminiscent of many of the deeply emotional songs on Subtract that showed Sheeran working through the grief of his best friend passing away. It conveys a sort of desperation that comes with trying to escape pain. It is certainly a catchy song, though, despite such a serious subject matter.

“Blue” is a sweetly sad song, in which he sings about loneliness and failed romance. It is soft and melancholic, and a rather short song at only about two and a half minutes long. In all honesty, it is not my favorite song on the album, and I find it to be a little bit boring. 

Another change in pace comes with “American Town,” this time a song about being in love with an “English girl in an American town.” I love how the lines: “lost in love and we don’t wanna be found / It’s just you and me” in the chorus tell the story of two people exploring a country together. I think it is a very cute and fun song.

By far my favorite song on this album is “That’s On Me”. The rapid lyrics of the verses pair well with the more melodic chorus. This song also presents an internal struggle saying both: “this is not the end of our lives / this is just a bump in the ride” as well as “I can’t help myself but cry / Every time that I realise / Maybe I’ll never find my smile / Who’s to blame? Well, that’s on me.” Sheeran talks about dealing with feeling the need to blame yourself for the pain and pressure put on you by the world. I think the writing in this song is particularly fantastic. Lines like “is it new me, new year / Or just the same old blue sphere?” flow really well, and I think it is a cool song overall.

“Page” particularly appeals to me, because as an English major, I am a sucker for book metaphors. The song itself is another one expressing feelings of not being enough. The book analogy continues when Sheeran says: “I’m a half-read story / Better off in the fire” and “I’m stuck on the page.” It conveys a sense of insufficiency and lack of hope, but I like the song because I think it is something many people can relate to at some point in their lives.

“Midnight” is probably the most fast tempo and joyful song on the album. I love how it’s about that one person who makes your whole life better. Sheeran describes this in lines such as: “in this chaos, you’re my calm” and “in this darkness, you’re my sun.” I find this to be such a sweet sentiment and I like the way the song sends the message to the listener.

The quiet guitar intro to “Spring” permeates the whole song and makes it very calming to listen to. As a native New Englander, I can definitely relate to “holding out for spring” because “we can’t let winter win.” The song delves into the low mood that can come with the winter months, and could also be read as a metaphor for getting through any tough time in life. This is one of my favorite songs to listen to from the album.

I think the lyrics to “Punchline” are very well written, and it’s hard to pick any that represent the song in full because they all fit together so perfectly. But like with “Blue,” I am a bit bored by this song—that is until the bridge. Recorded voices overlap, and eventually the background vocals turn so raw that I nearly get chills. I would definitely recommend sticking it out until the end of the song to get the full effect.

“When Will I Be Alright” is another heartbreaking addition to the album. The composition uses both violin and guitar, which is the background to pleading lyrics that wonder over and over: “when will I be alright?” [.] There is such a soulful sadness to the song which is partially why I enjoy it.

The penultimate track on Autumn Variations is “The Day I Was Born.” It is another upbeat song that has a rather dismal mood. Lyrics bemoaning the fact that nobody wants to celebrate a birthday together are interspersed with sardonic verses of “la-la-lay-la-la-lay.” The contrast makes the song almost humorous.

I think “Head > Heels” is the perfect way to finish off the album. I am entirely obsessed with the choir in the background, it creates such a cool layering effect that makes it sound really rich. It’s a nice way to close out Autumn Variations.

Overall, I feel that Autumn Variations is a great addition to Ed Sheeran’s discography. This album contains songs that play to a multitude of emotions that I think will be enjoyed by a wide range of audiences.

Kailey Samarjian

Stonehill '26

Kailey is a sophomore at Stonehill College with a double major in English and Environmental Studies. She loves all things reading and writing, and some of her other hobbies include crocheting, going on walks, and dreaming about traveling the world.