Ed Sheeran has a mind like an algorithm, itching to give us more of what we already like… it works, but it doesn’t make for great music
Ed Sheeran = Out now
The Million Things That Never Happened
Out now, touring until November 27
Every generation, Paul Simon said, throws a hero up the pop charts. He might have added every generation puts a clever salesman up there too. For millennials, it’s Ed Sheeran.
His song Bad Habits stayed at No 1 for months on end, bringing flashbacks to the summer of 1991, when Bryan Adams sat there for 16 주. Bad Habits was eventually toppled after 11 weeks – but only by Sheeran’s next single, Shivers.
Now comes his new album, =. Never has a pop star drawn so much inspiration from his pocket calculator. 후 +, x and ÷, only – remains. Take it away, Ed!
Every generation, Paul Simon said, throws a hero up the pop charts. He might have added every generation puts a clever salesman up there too. For millennials, it’s Ed Sheeran (위)
This curious, cuddly, calculating phenomenon has now been with us for ten years. Since releasing his last album, he has become a father and turned 30. ‘Everything has changed,’ he sings, ‘but I am still the same somehow.’
The line is typical: amiable, chatty and doggedly unoriginal. It’s the sentiment of ‘plus ça change’ without the sparkle.
The music is mostly typical too. The two smash hits are joined by 12 more songs – all highly commercial, and nearly all mediocre.
Two tracks are quite good, and both are love letters to Sheeran’s wife Cherry. On First Times and The Joker And The Queen, his voice, which can be screechy, goes soft and intimate.
For someone so desperate to be big, Sheeran is at his best when he stays small.
One track is truly awful. Sandman, inspired by his daughter Lyra, is this album’s Galway Girl. There’s nothing wrong with being a doting dad – as long as it doesn’t lead you to put together a flat-pack lullaby, all tinkly marimbas and tin-eared earnestness.
‘Loving you is easy,’ he sings. ‘Life will not always be.’
The credits are revealing. On stage, Sheeran is a one-man band, but in the studio he heads an army. One track here required the services of six engineers, five programmers, five keyboard players, four guitarists and three drummers.
그리고 아직, when he opened his mouth and sang ‘I need to change my perspective and prioritise’, there was nobody to point out that those words are just not music.
The influences are telling, 너무. A few tracks mimic the scudding synths of The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights, Britain’s biggest song of 2020. One is written with Sam Roman, co-author of Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved, Britain’s biggest song of 2019.
Sheeran has a mind like an algorithm, studying our tastes, itching to give us more of what we already like. It works – but it doesn’t make for great music.
Anyone tempted to buy = would do better to seek out Billy Bragg’s new album, 어느, 그는 말한다, is ‘about empathy – the real currency of music.’
Anyone tempted to buy = would do better to seek out Billy Bragg’s (위) new album, 어느, 그는 말한다, is ‘about empathy – the real currency of music.’
He puts politics to one side, looking to strike a chord rather than bang a drum, and waxes lyrical about everything from the pandemic t the internet (‘heroin for autodidacts’).
The accompanying live show is strikingly simple: it’s basically guitar, keyboards and jokes. The new songs fit in easily with old favourites like Sexuality and Tank Park Salute.
Bragg exudes a genial warmth, along with flickers of the firebrand her once was. ‘The revolution,’그는 말한다, ‘is only a booster jab away.’