Ed Sheeran – Divide
With his second album Multiply, Ed Sheeran went from quirky singer/songwriter to one of the biggest pop acts in the world. He’s one of the very few people dominating the charts that can claim to be an honest, down-to-Earth artist, with more integrity than most of the top 40 combined. So where do you go next when you have everything? After a year out of the spotlight and the world at his feet, I was expecting another big step up, instead Divide feels more like just a continuation of his previous album. The only moment here that can be considered as treading new ground, is the irish folk infused mash-up ‘Galway Girl’ which adds one hell of a loveable twist to Sheeran’s signature sound.
The rest of the record is likeable, yet predictable. ‘Dive’ is a slow-burning, bluesy ballad and ‘Castle on the Hill’ is one of the finest examples of his trademark storytelling. ‘Shape of You’, while not being one of the album’s strongest tracks, really stands out amongst the string of pleasant but interchangeable saccharine folk ballads. Make no mistakes, this is likely to be the finest pop album of the year by a wide margin, but when compared with his previous releases it feels like Ed is just coasting by in many places. His next album needs to remember the lesson learned from Multiply in that it’s when you push your boundaries as far as they go, that you get the best results. Making a great album isn’t meant to be easy. Divide is an eminently enjoyable listen, and it has it’s standout moments, but for the most part it’s not Ed at his best.