There's just a week left until Ed Sheeran drops on of the most anticipated records of 2017: Divide. While we wait anxiously for this new record, we can't forget about the legacy Sheeran has left behind him. Divide is his third record, and it's following up what may be one of the defining albums of 2010s pop.
Sheeran's sophomore album, X (or Multiply), was released in 2014 and made Sheeran's career skyrocket. You can't describe his career as annoying or underserved like a number of other artists. All the songs he has released have very genuine cores, their messages inspired from his most personal memories and wishes. X in particular was anchored in ideas of love and intimacy, and is ends up being a perfect representation of modern love from all angles.
There are a lot of different perspectives of love tackled on this record. Everything from spending sweet time with a loved one to self-destruction spawning from the result of memories is tackled in this record. The album's big hit single 'Thinking Out Loud' stands out as one of the only positive songs on the record, it's optimistic nature pairing sweetly with its infectious vibe. There's a strong sense of longing in this track, made fun above the almost reggae flow it follows. The affectionate first verse begins with the lines "When your legs don't work like they used to before / And I can't sweep you off of your feet / Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love? / Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks," expressing the notion of lifelong love. The chorus celebrates in an even sweeter fashion, lovingly chanting "So honey, now, take me into your loving arms / Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars / Place your head on my beating heart, I'm thinking out loud / And maybe we found love right where we are."
There are songs that are almost downright depressing, however. 'I'm A Mess' is an example of such, even though on the surface it may seem otherwise. The song is rooted in self-destruction, with damning lyrics found within it's driven instrumental. The lyrics claim "I messed up this time, late last night / Drinking to suppress devotion, with fingers intertwined / I can't shake this feeling" to express the destructive results of losing a relationship. 'Runaway' expressed a similarly dark connotation, Sheeran singing about running away from home from a problematic father. This is just what he experienced when he launched his career when he was sixteen.
Meaning and connotation aside, X definitely has a very loving and moody atmosphere to it. Songs like 'One,' the record's opening track, have a very bright, raw feeling. 'One' is the real conclusion to the themes of his debut album +, discussing a specific relationship. Poppier themes are channeled in songs like 'Sing' with its Spanish and dance infused sound and 'Don't' with its bluesier tones and great flow. The badass groove of 'Nina' is perhaps the high point of all of these ideas, it's really smooth and bright sound epitomizing the poppy side of the record. Another side to this is seen in 'The Man,' which is fairly polarizing in the context of the rest of the record. It's more of a spoken word poem to the sound of acoustic guitars. It serves its purpose but does feel like it could have been done differently to be more effective.
The rawer numbers on X are definitely some of the strongest. You can truly feel the nostalgia and longing love in 'Photograph' in every element of its being: Sheeran's retrospective delivery, the gentle acoustic guitars and pianos, and the way the song climaxes. You'll be thinking of your fondest memories of a relationship you've had and watching them all fly by. 'Bloodstream' follows up with its excellent sense of melody and space. The guitar work is phenomenal on this track, and the lyrics are something else entirely: the cry of "This is how it ends, I feel the chemicals burn in my bloodstream" in the chorus or the pre-choruses teasing of "If you loved me how'd you never learn / Colored crimson in my eyes / One or two could free my mind" are some of the most brilliantly delivered words on the entire record.
Ed Sheeran doesn't forget to bring things back home, though. The album's conclusion is the sobering 'Afire Love,' an almost tragic track about Sheeran's grandfather. The track is brought in by enveloping strings and piano, before Sheeran enters the track as he recalls his last days. The first verse already delivers some powerful lines: "Things were all good yesterday / And then the devil took your memory / And if you fell to your death today / I hope that heaven is your resting place... And now you're lying in the bed again / Either way I'll cry with the rest of them." The chorus delivers a truly heartbreaking set of words that his grandmother recalled him singing to her when they were younger: "Darling, hold me in your arms the way you did last night... I could look into your eyes until the sun comes up... Put your open lips on mine and slowly let them shut / For they're designed to be together / With your body next to mine, our hearts will beat as one / And we're set alight, we're afire love." While overall a simple track, something about how all of these memories come together in this final farewell really bring a beautiful sense of thankfulness and love together to bring the record to a close.
It's easy to see why Ed Sheeran's X is the perfect representation of modern love. It goes full circle, from an isolated relationship to appreciating the memories of the most perfect one to bidding a loved one farewell. Everything a person could experience today in their lives as far as love is concerned is told in this record. There isn't a word on this record that doesn't come from the bottom of Sheeran's heart, and it's reflected perfectly in the music. So far, Divide has sounded promising, but it has big shoes to fill. We'll see how it bodes against this powerful record.
Share this review if you're excited for Divide!
Favorite Tracks: Bloodstream, Thinking Out Loud, Photograph, Afire Love
Least Favorite Track: The Man
Rating: 93 / 100
Buy or listen to X here: