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One of Britain's hottest exports and best-loved singer-songwriters, Ed Sheeran, has returned with a new album. Originally from sleepy east Suffolk, Sheeran has achieved unprecedented success since the release of his debut album almost three years ago. With great success inevitably comes criticism, and this has become more prominent recently. Sheeran is often branded boring and 'beige', and it's not unusual to hear people criticizing him for being talentless.
I'm not sure whether any of the people saying these things actually listened to + properly, because to me, Ed Sheeran is one of the best songwriters of our generation. I'm not a fan of the other artists he is often lumped in with; I, as people claiming to have good music taste must, spend much of my time thinking negative thoughts about Harry Styles, and pretending I don't listen to Little Mix in the gym. Ed Sheeran is far above this ilk though, which is why I was so excited to see what he would do next.
The release of Pharrell-crafted 'Sing' was confusing to say the least. On first listen, I decided I hated it. On second listen, I still hated it, but couldn't get it out of my head for about two weeks. It creeps up on you like a rash, which has led me to conclude that it is physically impossible not to enjoy this song. His Vivienne Westwood-loving collaborator has his fingerprints all over this, and it signalled a strong change in Sheeran's standard fare. But this impression was misleading - there has not been any dramatic change and the chances are, if you enjoyed +, you will probably enjoy x.
'Sing' stands out a little from the album, but still somehow falls into line and makes sense in the tracklisting. This album provides enough variation to keep it interesting, with opener 'One' falling into familiar territory; an intensely emotional and powerful ballad. There are several songs which really stand out, one of which is 'Don't', which really should be the next single, but probably won't, as with lyrics such as 'I reckon she was only looking for a lover to burn' and 'me and her we make money the same way', rumours are probably true that it's about Ellie Goulding. It's clear though that Sheeran's lyrical themes have matured and developed in the three years he's been away. It's good to hear Sheeran exploring a new sound in 'Bloodstream', too. My favourite track by some distance is 'Nina', which is the best lyrically and sees Sheeran return to the storytelling devices he is well-known for.
The album doesn't quite reach perfection - 'I'm A Mess' is a very sneaky re-hash of 'Give Me Love' from his debut - but the rest of the LP is good enough that this offence is forgivable. I've only been scratching the surface though, and this is an album worth listening to all the way through.
Overall, the record is fantastic and possibly even tops the debut. Sheeran has proven himself again and lived up to the hype around the release, demonstrating that he can write intense and powerful songs that listeners will connect to immediately. Who knows, this may well become the album of the summer.