It’s rare that an artist can encompass so many different styles and have them all still work.
Ed Sheeran’s new album, “÷” (Divide), is an experiment of rhythms with no consistent sound, but that isn’t to his detriment.
In fact, there’s something for everyone on this album, which released online at midnight on March 3.
Without any new music to tide fans over since his previous album, “x” (Multiply), the release of “÷” has been one of the most highly-anticipated album releases for 2017. Sheeran gave audiences a taste of what was to come with the releases of singles “Shape of You,” “Castle on the Hill” and “How Would You Feel (Paean)” earlier this year.
The 16-track album boasts a myriad of different sounds, from fast-paced folksy hip-hop to Sheeran’s trademark moody ballads.
“÷” also introduces fans to Sheeran’s Irish heritage through cleverly catchy tunes like “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan.”
With a lively fiddle bowing behind both songs, the tracks tell vibrant stories akin to traditional Irish folk songs. “Galway Girl” spins the tale of an Irish fiddle player and an Englishman who fell in love in one night, while “Nancy Mulligan” details the love story of Sheeran’s grandparents, William and Nancy Sheeran.
The spirited fiddle and acoustic guitar accompaniment, along with the vivid storytelling, create a toe-tapping, cheeky beat that takes listeners to another world.
The track “Eraser,” a fantastic opener to the album, throws it back to “x,” delivering the smooth, pop-fueled sound that was so present on the previous album.
The song shows off Sheeran’s hip-hop chops, with a touch of folk rhythm that reminds listeners that Sheeran is not your average artist.
He has managed to cultivate a very original, fresh sound that is difficult to replicate in the unique way he blends different musical styles together.
An Ed Sheeran album wouldn’t be complete, of course, without the ballads of first kisses and lost love, and “÷” doesn’t disappoint.
“Perfect,” the fifth track on the album, is a romantic, pensive song practically tailor-made for a first dance at a wedding — Sheeran’s voice is at its peak here, trembling and sweet as he murmurs melodic affections.
Sheeran does a complete 180 with the song “Happier” — a song that is decidedly not happy.
Sheeran pours his heart into the painful memories the track brings to the surface, lamenting a lost love who has found happiness with someone else.
“Happier” is the quiet showstopper of the album, reminiscent of a simpler time when “The A Team” played repeatedly on the radio and the world fell in love with a red-haired Brit who just wanted to get the girl.
“÷” is a risk, but it’s a triumphant one. Sheeran is evolving; a very satisfying evolution.
With such a diverse track list, the new album is a love letter to Sheeran’s roots and another to his fans, letting the world know that, though things are changing, he’s still the Ed Sheeran everyone came to know and love.