*published for State Magazine, 8/3/2017 – http://state.ie/album-reviews/ed-sheeran-divide *
Earlier this year, Ed Sheeran released his follow up to 2014’s ‘Multiply’. The hype train has been well and truly barrelling down the tracks the past few months with the anticipation only increasing as the red-headed crooner graciously released more and more singles onto the starving masses. The Sheeranites quickly devoured this new music with the overall reaction being that this new album may in fact stop world hunger, save the polar bears AND cure cancer. However, Divide is a wholly underwhelming effort and undoubtedly Sheeran’s poorest release to date.
There’s an overwhelming stench of marketability and artistic complacency lurking amongst the majority of the tracks. The curtain raiser ‘Eraser’ is forgetful, Sheeran’s ‘rapping’ is cringy at best, the chorus is disappointing and monotonous, nothing special here. What immediately follows is Sheeran frustratingly going through the motions, ‘Castle on The Hill’ is bearable yet plain, remarkably plain. ‘Dive’ is unabashedly ‘Thinking Out Loud 2.0’ the similarities are uncanny, the trebly, isolated guitar riff and trademark raw vocals building into a dramatic chorus – it’s formulaic and lazy.
‘Perfect’ is bound to get teenage girls AND your mother all in a tizzy, it’s more of a boyband track at its core. With both strings and a choir prevalent during the 4:23 minutes of cheesiness, this track has received the full on Louis Walsh treatment. ‘How Would You Feel (Paean)’ is another rehash of already worn out ideas, again this track harks back to 2014’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’
‘Galway Girl’ shares its name with the wonderful Mundy track you simply insist on belting out at 2am after one too many pints of Heino, however, Sheeran’s effort is far more comparable to the inevitably horrific hangover you suffer from the following day. Allegedly, Sheeran’s record label attempted to prevent this track appearing on the release, unfortunately for us their efforts were in vain. The Irish people are famed for their support, we cannot control ourselves when a hugely famous public figure acknowledges our green isle. This song, complete with its uilleann pipes, nod, wink and sure how are ya Mary, is the most blatant attempt capitalising on the millions of those around the world who claim to have an uncle Mick in Sligo. And it’s worked, ‘Galway Girl’ rocketed to #1 on the Irish charts the day of its release.
Despite this, there is one bright point, ‘Shape of You’ is an absolutely great pop track and the utter definition of an ear worm, you will without fail be humming it for days. Regardless of the criticism, this album will inevitably be the highest selling release of the year and Sheeran knows it, herein lies the problem. The Yorkshire man has become overly comfortable and instead of building upon his already extremely solid foundations he has now entered into a well-financed period of creative stagnation.