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‘Divide’ and Conquer: A Review of Ed Sheeran’s New Album

After a year-long hiatus of releasing music and abstaining from social media use, singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran released two new songs as a preview for his upcoming album, “÷”  (pronounced “divide”), which followed Sheeran’s theme of albums titled after mathematical function. His singles “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill” were extremely successful, immediately reaching No. 1 on the iTunes charts and getting lots of airplay on the radio and Spotify since. I have been an avid Ed Sheeran fan since high school when I heard “The A Team” for the first time. I’ve always loved how passionate Ed is about the music he writes and the way that the performs. I have since seen him in concert four times. After listening to “÷” on repeat since its release on March 3, I am already planning on saving up money for his summer tour. Every song on “÷” tells a different story, even from the perspectives of Sheeran’s friends and family members, and dabbles into various genres of music, such as rock, rap, and Irish traditional music. He is not afraid to take risks or to get personal in his lyrics and that is something that I, and many other fans admire about him. To really capture my feelings about the album, I sat down and intently listened to every song.

1. “Eraser”

The album opener is reminiscent of Sheeran’s earlier works like “You Don’t Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” where he both sings and raps about events in his life that have influenced his overall success and road to fame. “Eraser” makes references to his year-long hiatus and how fame isn’t always the easiest to deal with, even for the most lowkey of celebrities like Sheeran. 

Best line: “Welcome to the new show, I guess you know I’ve been away, but where I’m heading, who knows? But my heart will stay the same.”

2.  “Castle on the Hill”

As one of the promotional singles for the new album, “Castle on the Hill” really succeeded in reeling in new fans and old to get excited for what was to come. I really loved how this song touched on the nostalgia that people feel about growing up in a small-town. As much as we always complain about our hometowns, our experiences there really do shape how we are today as adults. This is definitely one of my favorite songs to blast while driving in the car, especially singing at the top of my lung with my friends. 

Best line: “Found my heart and broke it here, made friends and lost them through the years, and I’ve not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I’ve grown, but I can’t wait to go home.”

3. “Dive”

“Dive” is easily one of my favorite songs on the album, even though it is a little on the slow side, mostly due to the relatable lyrics. It touches on the concerns you have when you are first starting a relationship with someone and determining whether or not you should let yourself fall for them and risk getting hurt in the end. You can definitely expect a decent amount of acoustic covers coming your way of this song on YouTube. 

Best line: “So don’t call baby, unless you mean it. Don’t tell me you need me if you don’t believe it, so let me know the truth before I dive right into you.”

4. “Shape of You”

With its island-fused beats and catchy lyrics, “Shape of You” is definitely a great song to jam out to while getting ready for a fun night out with friends. I also really love how Ed is able to sing about both his physical and emotional relationship with the girl in the song without objectifying her.

Best line: “Girl, I know I want your love, your love was handmade for somebody like me.”

5. “Perfect”

I can already see “Perfect” becoming the next big “first dance” song at weddings. With Sheeran’s smooth vocals and heart melting lyrics about his relationship with his high-school sweetheart, Cherry Seaborn, you’ll find yourself reminiscing and thinking about old-fashioned romances.

Best line: “I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms, barefoot in the grass, listening to our favorite song, when you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath, but you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight.”

6. “Galway Girl”

“Galway Girl” is one of two Irish-inspired songs on the album and it’s extremely catchy. I’ve actually had this song in my head for about a week now, but I’m perfectly fine with it. “Galway Girl” tells the fun story of an Irish girl that Ed meets in a bar.

Best line: “She played the fiddle in an Irish band, but she fell in love with an Englishman.”

7. “Happier”

“Happier” is definitely a tearjerker and explores the feelings of seeing an ex with a new significant other and reminiscing on your past relationship with them.

Best line: “Baby, you look happier, you do. I know one day you’d fall for someone new, but if he breaks your heart like lovers do, just know that I’ll be waiting here for you.”

8. “New Man”

“New Man” is another one of my favorites on the album. With clever lyrics about his ex-girlfriend’s jerky, new boyfriend, who sounds like a stereotypical “bro” and a catchy hook, you’ll definitely be jamming out with this song blasting in the background while you drive around late at night.

Best line: “I heard he spent five houndred pounds on jeans, goes to the gym at least six times a week, wears boat shoes with no socks on his feet, and I hear he’s on a new diet and watches what he eats. He’s got his eyebrows washed and his arsehole bleached.”

9. “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here”

This is another heartfelt, slow song, characteristic of Sheeran’s classic hits like “Kiss Me” and “Lego House”

Best line: “I feel safe when you’re holding me near, love the way that you conquer your fear, you know hearts don’t break around here.”

10. “What Do I Know?”

In “What Do I Know?,” Ed sings about how he’s not afraid to sing or talk about controversial topics in order to make positive change in the world. I think that this song spreads a powerful message while also allowing Ed to do so passively. 

Best line: “We cold change this whole world with a piano, add a bass, some guitar, grab a beat, and away we go.”

11. “How Would You Feel (Paean)”

This song is dedicated to Ed’s girlfriend, Cherry. While the word “paean” refers to works that is used to give praise to who it is about, it is also Cherry’s middle name.

Best line: “How would you feel if I told you I loved you? It’s just something that I would do. I’ll be taking my time, spending my life, falling deeper in love with you.”

12. “Supermarket Flowers”

This tearjerker of a song is a tribute to Ed’s late maternal grandmother and is told from the perspective of his mother and her feelings at the time of her death. “Supermarket Flowers” is a perfect example of how up, close, and personal Ed allows us, his fans and listeners, to get to the intimate details of his life. 

Best line: “A heart that’s been broke is a heart that’s been loved. 

13. “Barcelona”

I LOVE this song! It makes me want to dance around the room, drink sangria, and travel to Spain! Ed sings an entire verse in Spanish in an ode to this beautiful city and references other popular monuments and landmarks found in Barcelona. The verses and danceable beat really show Ed’s zest for life and exploration.

Best line: “We’re going somewhere where the sun is shining bright, just close your eyes, and let’s pretend we’re dancing in the street in Barcelona!”

14. “Bibia Be Ye Ye”

One of the things that I realy loved about this album is Ed’s ability to recreate and experiment with typical pop songs by combining them with elements of other genres of music. “Bibia Be Ye Ye” was inspired by Ghanian music and written with musician Fuse ODG in Twi, a language spoken in Ghana. The Twi phrase means, “All will be well.”

Best line: “Se enioma enko ye, bibia be ye ye.” (Translation: If things aren’t going well, all will be well.)

15. “Nancy Mulligan”

“Nancy Mulligan” is told through the perspective of Ed’s grandfather, William Sheeran, who met his wife, Nancy, in Ireland during World War II. The two had to run away in order to get married because he was a Protestant and she was Catholic as there was and still is a large religious diide in Ireland. This song makes me want to learn how to Irish dance and came out right in time for St. Patrick’s Day! “Nancy Mulligan” is written and performed in the style of a traditional Irish song in tribute to his grandparent’s love story and roots.

Best line: “She and I went on the run, don’t care about religion, I’m gonna marry the woman I love down by the Wexford border.”

16. “Save Myself”

“Save Myself” is easily the most heartbreaking and deeply personal song on the album as it talks about how it is so easy for you to forget to take care of yourself in favor of putting your all into helping others. It’s important to maintain your own mental health and put yourself first in some situations.

Best line: “So before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself.”

Although his album is called “÷,” there is clearly no division in the fanbase’s love and support for Sheeran and his music. Sheeran is touring this summer and tickets go on sale to hear all of these amazing songs and more March 13. 

Images/GIFs: 1, 23

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

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Emma Sinclair

U Mass Amherst

Lover of Game of Thrones, musicals, Chipotle, and all things Disney.
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