Ed Sheeran Bears It All On New Album – (“subtract)

When he debuted with his first album + (“plus”) in 2011, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran was the unlikely story of an upcoming rock star. Describing himself in his latest documentary The Sum of It All, as someone with “fiery ginger hair, is really short, and stutters,” he didn’t have the typical rock star formula, but he had the musical skills and a voice to blow all of that out of the water. With hits such as “The A-Team,” and fan favorites such as “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” Sheeran shot to the top of the charts, and accomplished everything you can in music by the time his third album ÷ (“divide”) came out in 2017. Now, with his latest album (“subtract”), we hear his most reflective and singer-songwriter record to date, pushing things in a more emotional and somber direction than his fans are used to. Writing the record over the course of a decade, the 14-song LP was inspired by losing his best friend Jamal to a drug overdose and learning that his wife Cherry Seaborn had a cancerous tumor while she was pregnant. With a heartbreaking loss and an uncertain future ahead of him, Sheeran bears his soul, rather acutely, for the very first time. The result is striking, and while the album is more emotional than his past work, it works. Obviously, the goal is not to sell records, but to allow Sheeran to express himself openly and honestly, letting the entire world in on his thought process and pain.

Opening with the track “Boat,” we hear an entirely acoustic track that illustrates just how good Sheeran has gotten at his craft. Speaking about resilience in the face of horrible tragedies Sheeran knows how to pull at the heartstrings of his listeners, and “Boat” is perhaps one of the best tracks he has ever written. We can’t get his voice out of our heads, and the acoustic sounds that we have come to strongly associate with Sheeran accompany his vocals beautifully.

Eyes Closed,” is the record’s lead single and it’s the only song on – that gives a nod to his past tunes that were immediate hits. While it doesn’t have the hard-hitting appeal of cuts such as “Shape of You,” on ÷ , “Eyes Closed,” is a delicately done song that treats listeners to both Sheeran’s musical and writing abilities. “Dusty,” could become known as a sleeper hit on -, as it has a much more positive and uplifting message to bring to fans. Sandwiched between tracks where Sheeran mourns his late friend Jamal and worries for his wife Cherry, on “Dusty,” he reflects on his mornings with his two-year daughter Lyra as they listen to vinyl over breakfast – most notably listening to Dusty Springfield, an old-timey vocalist that his parents and grandparents would be familiar with. While the music video for “Dusty” features Sheeran cooking with a young girl who is supposed to resemble his daughter, it’s a nice breather from the heavier themes of this body of work. “Colourblind” is a piano-laden track with Sheeran’s voice sitting on top of it, once again giving listeners a good listen to Sheeran’s raw talent, which isn’t heard of as often these days.While it could be argued that the rest of – is full of filler tunes due to not being as memorable, the album does end with a real gem, “The Hills of Aberfeldy,” a tribute to spending time in Scotland, and hints that this is where he fell in love with Cherry. A song full of acoustic guitars, plenty of strings, and piano, it’s clear the song is about spending time with Cherry, and it’s too bad that the song was not placed somewhere else in the – track list, though it does wrap it up with a nice bow. While – won’t go down as one of Sheeran’s better albums as far as more casual fans are concerned, for any diehards – is the epitome of great work and is the next stepping stone in Sheeran’s legacy as a musician.


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