Ed Sheeran’s newest album “Divide” is a deeply personal and heart-wrenching collection of songs that show Ed coming to terms with his current self as well as his past demons.
The album kicks off with a track called “Eraser,” a folk-ish track that begins with a spoken-word/rap which serves as a letter to all of the pain in Ed’s life. Ed thanks the pain in his life for making him who he is, and characterizes his feeling with the hook: “And I find comfort in my pain, Eraser.” The track is a mixture of Ed’s signature guitar playing as well as his ability to blend genres.
The next track is “Castle On a Hill,” a country-style song that uses old-school storytelling. With extremely visual lyrics Ed talks about his youth in a nostalgic fashion: “Take me back to when we found weekend jobs and when we got paid we’d buy cheap spirits and drink them straight.” Ed seems to be reminiscing a simpler time, when the only thing that mattered was the moment. He then talks about all of friends’ current lives, one overdosed, one is in his second marriage, but Ed admits that these are the people that raised him, it doesn’t matter where they are now or what they are doing, but what they did.
The next song “Dive,” is an absolutely beautiful ballad that sings to a lover, asking her to please: “Don’t call me baby, unless you mean it.” I hate to jump to conclusions, but I think someone might have been leading Ed on at a certain point. The song “Dive,” strikes a chord with all those whose love has not been reciprocated.
Then there’s “Shape of You,” a fun song seemingly crafted specifically for the radio. This track is sure to have a few club remixes soon enough. “Perfect,” is the next song, and it a song that characterizes the feeling one is hugged with after finding the perfect person. The song is complete with romantic strings reminiscent of a Parisian evening, as well expressive plucking by Ed on the guitar. The vibe of the album takes a sharp turn as “Galway Girl,” comes on, a song with a hip-hop base and very interesting instrumentation. The fiddle in the song has a fun sound to it that makes the listener want to run, jump, or dance.
“Happier,” is a sad song that expresses the emotions of seeing your ex-lover in the arms of someone else. The song is self-reflective as well, and it explores the idea of having an inner conflict of either leaving your ex alone if they look happier without you, or going after them because you were happier when you were with them. “New Man,” is the same topic with a completely different style, it talks about the “new man” Ed’s ex-girl is with, he’s a dashing, rich, got-his-stuff-together type dude, and Ed might be a little jealous. Even though Ed says he doesn’t want to know about him, he clearly knows a bit.
The next track is “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here,” a song chockfull of visual poetry like: “She is the flint of the lighter, the fuel of the fire.” “What do I know,” for me is the most interesting song on the album, it toys with the idea that music and love can change the world in ways that religion and politics cannot. In this divided world, perhaps the force that can bring us together is as simple as the keys on a piano. Then comes “How Would You Feel,” a song with a repetitive piano tune that allows for a comfortable and peaceful sound. The love song eases into an expressive guitar solo that allows Ed to sing through the strings of his guitar. The song seems to be a preemptive wondering of the words “I love you” and what the effect of articulating those words would be. “Supermarket Flowers,” is definitely a tear-jerker, as Ed sings about how even though his father told him not to cry, every time he blinks there’s a tear for his mother. Ed’s use of the piano is expressive of an empty church, and it has an air of finality to it.
“Barcelona” and “Bibia Be Ye Ye” are sounds of different and fun places, as if they are Ed’s experience partying in a different country with new and exciting people. “Nancy Mulligan” reminds me of a pirate song, with beautiful storytelling and bagpipes. The song is exceptionally fresh, and it tells the story of Nancy Mulligan, the love of his life. The album ends with “Save Myself,” a final ballad that shows Ed reflecting on himself, he admits that before he can be capable of loving someone else, he must love himself. On the whole the album is varied, it has many different emotions and feels and sounds. It does not come from a single idea, rather it jumps around like the emotions of a moody person. Perhaps that it why Ed called it “Divide,” as its entire feeling is divided between the tracks like a wheel of different colors. The album is a joy to listen to, but if you’re going to do it in one shot, be wary that it will be an emotional roller coaster.