Ed Sheeran is perhaps the most honest man in pop music. His music is raw, written solely from his own experiences and promises to make you feel those same emotions he sings of. His third album ÷ continues his exploration of his past, but homes in on some of Sheeran's fondest memories.
The beginning of the album sets a very clear picture and tone of the record. It begins with the epic guitar intro of 'Eraser,' ringing with an almost celtic vibe before Sheeran takes it back to his old-school sound of a pseudo-rap delivery above a punchy instrumental, accentuated by great little harmonies. This song builds lyrically and sonically, Ed Sheeran singing of his past, event by event, with the instrumental gaining more momentum as the song goes on. Single 'Castle On The Hill' follows through with less urgency, instead warmly recalling memories of his childhood home. The song builds with warm guitars, progressively becoming more and more driven as it goes on.
The poppier side to this record isn't half bad, either, still carrying the same emotional weight as other tracks. 'Castle On The Hill,' as mentioned before, has a driven and warm mood to it. The other single 'Shape Of You' isn't quite as optimistic as the previous track, but it does have a similar sense of longing. The way the synth line dances above Sheeran's vocals and harmonies really gives the song's story some sensuality. The chorus has some of the most direct lyrics Sheeran's ever delivered, clearly exclaiming "I'm in love with the shape of you / We push and pull like a magnet do / Although my heart is falling to / I'm in love with your body / And last night you were in my room / And now my bedsheets smell like you... I'm in love with your body." 'New Man' later on in the record has some swagger that you'd expect of his debut +, surprisingly sounding pretty cocky. He even goes so far as to reference Kanye West in the oddest way possible: "He's got his eyebrows plucked and his asshole bleached."
Combined with the sweet memories are some of the most heartwrenching ones, too. Closing track 'Supermarket Flowers' is not only the most beautiful track on the record, but also the most heartbreaking. The song is entirely just piano and Sheeran's voice, with a subtle synth playing behind it as it progresses. Sheeran sings about his fondest memories about his mother, who, if you go by the lyrics, has passed away. Such simple memories like "Packed up the photo album Matthew had made / Memories of a life that's been loved / Took the get well soon cards and stuffed animals" and "I fluffed the pillows, made the beds, stacked the chairs up / Folded your nightgowns neatly in a case" come off as some of the saddest. The simplicity of these actions paint a quiet scene of an aftermath of losing someone. The chorus is the most crushing thing on this record, the beautiful lines "You were an angel in the shape of my mum / You got to see the person I have become / Spread your wings / And I know when that when God took you back he said Hallelujah / You're home." If that didn't break you, you have no heart.
Despite the emotional power of this record, not every track on ÷ is a perfect hit. There's a particular run of songs that is full of sweet songs that serve their purpose as a story, but don't add much to the record. That run falls between 'Galway Girl' and 'What Do I Know?' - good songs, but don't really mean much. There are passionate and simple songs like 'Dive' that do what they all try to do a lot better. After the pretty orchestras and gravelly delivery of 'Perfect,' things do die down for a bit. Things pick up again at the sweet ballad 'How Would You Feel (Paean)' before the album ends, which is thematically the same as the others (though this one is about his current relationship), but finds moments to be sonically creative and have fun.
Ed Sheeran has put his heart out there time and time again so that he could deliver the most passionate messages that he could. In our review of his sophomore album X, we commented on how we defined what modern romance is. ÷ is similar and different in ways. It continues to epitomize love, but instead of speaking generally, Sheeran recalls his own life experiences. ÷ isn't about love, it's about being human, and celebrating all of the memories you've had, good and bad. The fondest memories will be the ones you remember, so be like Ed Sheeran and keep them close in your heart.
Share this review if you loved ÷!
Favorite Tracks: Supermarket Flowers, Castle On The Hill, Shape Of You, Eraser
Least Favorite Track: Galway Girl
Rating: 94 / 100
Buy or listen to ÷ here: