by Ruby Parsons
Ed Sheeran has done it again.
Divide, the third album from the ginger-and-proud chart topping sensation, see’s Sheeran doing what he does best; acoustic romantic ballads (and some sporadic rapping).
Ed knows how to use his fan’s dedication to his advantage; news of his new work was only announced on the first day of the year and he followed this by releasing not one but two singles – ‘Castle on the Hill’ and ‘Shape of You’.
‘Castle on the Hill’ is a typical acoustic story-telling ballad, much like what we’ve previously heard from him. ‘Shape of you’, however is a different sound, bassier and more upbeat telling a much sexier story than the sweet romance we’re used to hearing. A clearly successful strategy Sheeran has used before (Multiply‘s ‘Sing’).
The rest of Divide is a well performed and clearly personal collection of work; hearing stories of childhood, love and family. “We were just kids when we fell in love” and “I know I was happier with you” are examples of the heartfelt lyrics contained within the album, set to put his songs right back at the top of a lot of “first dance at my wedding” lists. His casual and shy appearance should never fool you into thinking he’s going to release an indie-rock album; Ed is a romantic at heart with a lot of stories to tell.
His very publicised connection with rap and grime artists shines through in various tracks, acoustic guitar layered with rap verses and slightly more trap-like back beats. His performance at the Brits featured popular grime artist Stormzy, causing speculation over a collaboration on Divide which sadly isn’t anywhere to be seen. The influence artists and friends like Stormzy has is clearly audible however and is a creative change of pace within the softer acoustic tracks.
Third albums often see artists veer away from their usual sound, sometimes benefitting them but often not. Divide is exactly what you would expect to hear from Ed Sheeran. Previous successes show he is well established as an artist and knows exactly what his fans want to hear; a personalised sound which has kept him at the top of the charts for the past few years. This album will be no different. Expect to see Divide at the summit of the charts for a while.
Divide is out now on Atlantic.