England’s national treasure, our ginger, down-to- earth, ordinary Joe turned global phenomenon Ed Sheeran has made his return to music after exactly one year off, after he found himself “seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes.” (If that’s not inspiration for us 21st century infatuated kids to do some soul searching, I don’t know what is.) His Instagram post of a simple blue square racked up a quarter of a million likes and glaring media attention, so when he released two brand new songs on the same day, the world listened and propelled him straight up to the number one spot in the charts.
The first song I personally heard was ‘Castle on the Hill,’ his homage to Framlingham, Suffolk, where he was born and grew up before he became a record breaker and Taylor Swift’s best friend. It boasts an arguably grittier tone than love songs like ‘Give Me Love’ and ‘Thinking Out Loud’, and reminds listeners that he was raised on Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. His vocals, as always, reverberate raw and natural tones, never straying from his familiar English accent, and the booming chorus is captivating and upbeat. The song doesn’t divulge the uttermost melodious maturity or smash musical boundaries, but it is definitely capable of making any listener miss Suffolk, even if they’ve never been… or at least miss those unwritten British rules of adolescence: ‘buying cheap spirits and drinking them straight.’
Later that day I heard ‘Shape of You’ on the radio, and instantaneously turned it up when hearing the tropical looped undercurrent, which reminds me of Sia’s ‘The Greatest’, Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean?’ or even The Weeknd’s ‘Starboy,’ a technique which seemed to blow up in 2016. It is Sheeran’s first attempt at an electronic vibe, but his characteristic singer-songwriter vocals inject it with the emotion he always manages to extract from a song. Occasionally when I hear certain lyrics in a song, I’ll step back to appreciate the creative gift required to write them, and lines like ‘we talk for hours and hours about the sweet and the sour’ bounce off the beat and verify that Sheeran possesses a genuinely remarkable talent. The last chorus includes his rhythmic bar chord guitar strumming, that we’ve heard formerly in songs like ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,’ and I challenge anyone to listen to it without tapping a foot, or some part of their body, as the beat is absolutely all-encompassing.
Honestly, I’m a bit dejected that he hasn’t released another ‘Photograph’ –style break-up anthem for girls to cry to and boys to pretend they don’t ‘get’ only to go home and cry to as well, but more power to him, these two are convincing comeback releases that have captured hearts everywhere (anything he releases will do that, to be fair,) and I think we’re all very happy to hear him on our radio again, so bring on the new album Ed.
By Daisy Leigh