Barring some unexpected upset, or a new Adele record, Ed Sheeran‘s ÷ will be the biggest album of the year.
Pronounced Divide (after Plus + and Multiply X), ÷ sold 672,000 copies in the UK in its first week of availability, the third highest opening week sales of all time there. In the US, it sold 451,000, the highest single-week sales total in 2017 with enough to also make it the biggest selling album of the year so far. And with 14 of the top 15 singles in the UK on release-week, ÷ can be qualified as an Event.
But is ÷ deserving of Event status and the inevitable title of the top album of 2017?
Ed’s star has been rising since his entry on the music scene in 2011. He’s known as much for his touring stamina and partying as he is for his crooning guitar ballads and rhymes, yet his soft-spoken introverted personality doesn’t lend itself to biggest pop star in the world – yet here he is, half a decade later and he’s carved a niche for himself on the music landscape.
÷ satisfies that niche to a T. It’s X-extended, with Shape Of You acting as this album’s Sing – the easy-sell that isn’t indicative of the rest of the record but works as the obvious first single, New Man fills in as this album’s Don’t, while Perfect is the direct descendant of Thinking Out Loud.
There is a lean on that particular hit as ÷ is heavy with ballads, which begin to weigh the album down just after the halfway point. Luckily there’s enough variety elsewhere to offset those as Ed sticks to his own formula of blending styles and genres for a good mix of music.
He opens with his familiar brand of rap on Eraser, a style he revisits a couple other times throughout. On the stadium-ready Castle On The Hill, he reminisces about home and his youth, capturing perfectly that sense of yearning for days gone by, while he acknowledges his own ignorance on politics as he daydreams about the power music has on bringing world peace on What Do I Know, but it’s when Ed ventures beyond his own borders that he keeps the record above water.
Barcelona and Bibia Be Ye Ye are both predictable ventures into Spanish and African (Ghanian)-inspired pop respectively, while he goes full-on Irish with Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan. Complete with a fiddle, tin whistle, and jig in perhaps the first time traditional Irish folk music has been present on a major record since The Corrs were big 15 years ago. They’re fun! The latter of those two is an ode to his grandparents lifelong relationship. His grandmother is the focus of another album highlight, the tear-jerker Supermarket Flowers, a gentle piano ballad in which Ed sings about the days immediately following her passing.
How does ÷ stack up? It does everything it set out to do. If you’re of the belief that Ed is a talented musician, songwriter and performer, ÷ is made for you. It covers all his bases while expanding on his sound just enough to keep him likeable. If you’re looking for something that pushes the envelope, breaks new ground, or defies the odds, you won’t find it here. ÷ is a reliable record that appeals to the masses without fully succumbing to tired trends. It’s not UNdeserving of the year’s Top Album title – but that will depend on what it’s up against come December.
2. Castle On The Hill
4. Shape Of You
6. Galway Girl
8. New Man
9. Hearts Don’t Break Around Here
10. What Do I Know?
11. How Would You Feel (Paean)
12. Supermarket Flowers
14. Bibia Be Ye Ye
15. Nancy Mulligan
16. Save Myself