By Matt Reinstein
Rating: 2/4 stars
The highly anticipated Divide ends the shadow Ed Sheeran cast over himself after renouncing any tours, or any social media for the next few years in 2015. That time was probably spent writing songs for his then upcoming album, and writing songs for Justin Bieber and other industry behemoths. If he thinks this is a comeback, he’s right in the sense that it’ll be a popularity comeback because this is a shoe-in to make it on the “Billboard Hot 100 List” and to be one of the more successful albums of the year.
However, he’s surely wrong if he thinks this is a musical comeback, as he loses all of the qualities which we saw and heard on Add and Multiply (notice the math theme? Maybe this one should have been called Subtract). Most of the songs on the LP are sappy ballads that are for sure going to be at weddings and your cousin’s Bar Mitzvah and the more experimental pieces never get explored enough to be worth it.
Sheeran tries to elucidate that he’s a much different man since the release of his debut, Add, in which he was a man just being introduced into the game of love, whereas in Divide, he has exited the match and looks back on his experience, which can get tiresome and tedious because listening to roughly an hour of Sheeran testing how many he can say “I’d be perfect for you” can get boring quick.
He also never says these in any creative way at all, which is very frustrating because we all know what his singer/songwriter skills encompass, and Divide doesn’t bid at any of that. “She is the sweetest thing I know,” “I miss the way you make me feel,” “I was happier with you,” and “You are the one, girl.” Nothing prolific here, nothing fruitful. Just generic, blanketed lyrics that provide nothing to anything.
The starter track, “Eraser” for the LP starts off with a classic fast-paced guitar intro that increases your excitement for the album. ‘Yeah- Ed Sheeran is back!’ you’ll say until after the first 10 seconds of that riff he starts rapping. He starts “preaching” about his life and about how fame isn’t what it seems to be. So right off the bat, we hear how original this album is going to be lyrically, as his lyrics in this track don’t ignite anything, which is pretty much the sole reason many viewed Sheeran as a legitimate artist, which I still do, but contradictory lyrics such as “money is the root of all evil and fame is hell” don’t help the argument.
The problem with the song is that he spends so much time whining and speaking about himself that he forgets to entertain the fans who are listening to the song, which leads me to believe that the album isn’t for his fans or anyone else except himself, which I can respect, but doesn’t make for an interesting, thought-provoking, or sexy album. That being said, this does make for a more charismatic album than others, which is one of the few plus sides of the album.
One of the weirdest song decisions I’ve heard all year, “Galway Girl” brings hip hop and celtic folk together to make this song. I’m not even going to bother to speak about the lyrics, because all you need to know is that it’s about a girl, like every song on the LP, but this song is so muddled and cloudy towards what it wants to be. Either it wants to be a catchy-hip-hop song, or it wants to be an homage to celtic roots and folk. I’m a huge fan of both those genres, but this one just doesn’t feel right. I’m also a fan of weird, experimental songs, but I don’t know what this is. With a catchy chorus along with celtic fiddle and flute, this one just doesn’t work. However weird it may be, it is a risk, and risk-taking is essential in the music industry, especially today.
There are two good things about this album, one of them I already mentioned– the fact that this album is for him, and only him, which leads to a more charismatic piece, which we can see in songs such as “New Man,” “Shape of You,” and “What Do I Know?” Additionally, we hear songs like “Barcelona,” “Biblia Be Ye Ye” and “Nancy Mulligan” that show a genuine attempt on Sheeran’s part to grow as an artist. Now, however good or bad these songs may be, that’s besides the point. The point is that he’s trying, which Sheeran and his team certainly do with the production of this album. Sadly, this does lead to weird outcomes along with inept and dull lyrics that don’t provide anything we haven’t heard before.