Artist: Ed Sheeran
Record Label: Atlantic Track
Highlight Tracks: "Castle on the Hill," "Dive," "Shape of You," "Supermarket Flowers"
Ed Sheeran has become somewhat of a Casanova with a guitar, so when “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” dropped in January 2017, there was much anticipation for Sheeran’s upcoming album. Despite topping iTunes charts with Divide, the singer-songwriter falls flat in his attempts to diversify himself in his third studio album.
Sheeran’s attempts to expand his sound become evident with the very first song “Eraser.” “Eraser” delves into Sheeran’s musings on fame. While Sheeran tries to showcase his multitude of skills, his mediocre rapping skills leave a dull impression that set the tone for the rest of the album.
The tracks, “Castle on the Hill,” “Dive,” “Shape of You” and “Supermarket Flowers” redeem the album after the initial disappointment. “Castle on the Hill,” an electronic pop anthem, evokes a rose-tinted sense of nostalgia and tempts listeners to sing along.
“Dive,” a love ballad, differentiates itself from songs on his previous albums but still pleases old fans. The track’s acoustic-sounding guitar riffs create the warm and intimate atmosphere that Sheeran fans have come to love.
“Shape of You” is a song that’s as catchy as it is audacious. Sheeran successfully diversifies himself as he sings a lustful song over dancehall beats.
Then, the powerful piano ballad “Supermarket Flowers” tugs on listeners' heartstrings as Sheeran opens up about his grandmother’s death. Sheeran’s poignant lyrics, like “you were an angel in the shape of my mum,” express the depth of the pain he feels, and this pain effortlessly resonates with the listeners.
Despite the many positives of the album, there were also songs that were disappointing. “Galway Girl,” “Barcelona,” “Bibia Be Ye Ye” and “Nancy Mulligan” did not feel coherent with the album; "Barcelona" and "Bibia Be Ye Ye" had tropical overtones that felt too different for the pop/ballad style of the album. “Nancy Mulligan” and “Galway Girl” had heavy elements of Irish rock that also did not blend well with other songs. Both the Irish and tropical tones fail to integrate themselves successfully with the overall sound of the album and create tension in the listening experience.
While Sheeran’s vocals remain swoon-worthy and easy to listen to, his album is overrated. Divide will undoubtedly sell millions of copies, but Sheeran can do better.
You can find Divide on iTunes and Spotify.