He has now used all the basic mathematical symbols available. After , x, ÷ and =, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran releases –, an album where acoustic simplicity rhymes with production excellence.
You don’t hear any rhythm machines on this latest Ed Sheeran album (with one exception). We never lose the texture of the piano, of the acoustic guitar. Better still, this refined quality is highlighted throughout the disc by strings, sometimes discreet, sometimes abundant, but always present and relevant.
For this album, where he is more vulnerable than ever after having gone through difficult personal trials, Ed Sheeran has teamed up with Aaron Dessner, producer, composer and musician extraordinaire as well as a member of The National. The two artists have succeeded in developing Sheeran’s work while encapsulating what has always been his strong point, an approach without too many artifices and burning with sincerity. Ed Sheeran speaks of death, grief, addiction and depression on wonderfully produced compositions.
A few downsides remain, here and there. Life Goes On, from its chorus, immediately recalls Thinking Out Loud, released in 2014. A little too much, in fact. Ed Sheeran can at least be reassured that he will not be prosecuted for plagiarizing his own song. Remember that the Briton has just won his case in a plagiarism case. The heirs of Marvin Gaye accused him of having copied the piece Let’s Get It On to create his success… Thinking Out Loud. The single Eyes Closed, which announced the release of this new disc, was rather disappointing, clearly intended for radio waves, but very unambitious. Fortunately, he is far from a worthy representative of the work as a whole.
On Curtains, Ed Sheeran’s assumed pop approach, which had somewhat invaded some of his previous releases, is obvious. This time, perhaps thanks to the more modest songs with which it cohabits, this proposal works rather well. Just after her, for example, we come across the very beautiful Borderline, on which Sheeran skillfully sings about the intense emotions that he struggles to control. This follows a piano line embellished by the strings, without any other instrumental artifice. This is where Ed Sheeran is the most touching, the most capable of captivating us. Dusty, the only one where you totally lose the acoustic leg, convinces us all the same by its slightly offbeat side. End of Youth allows him to return to a song that approaches rap, embellished with a catchy chorus.
If we had no doubt that the Briton, who conquered us with his first album, in 2011, is overflowing with talent, he had not recently succeeded in convincing us that this talent was put to good use. His music seemed to lack soul. But now Ed Sheeran comes to remind us in the most beautiful way that he really knows how to compose sumptuous pop songs.
The superb The Hills of Aberfeldy will delight those who loved the folk-tinged pieces that Ed Sheeran offered when he started out.
The latest installment in Ed Sheeran’s math series is a perfect conclusion. The culmination of years of work, after great musical achievements and a few misadventures which we do not hold too harshly to him. Here, Ed Sheeran is at the top of his game.