The time has come for another release by the superstar Ed Sheeran. Given the successes, he has had in the past, does his musical future hold up well? Released with a flurry of hype and excitement, this is a good indication of whether or not he still has it in him to create music after some huge previous successes musically. Let’s see if the new decade can indeed hold up well for the singer/songwriter.

The first song is Tides which begins with reversed piano and sounds very Coldplay ish. Ed Sheeran sings from a personal place, but this sounds way too Pop oriented, even for Ed Sheeran. It’s a good song but sounds rather disappointing all the same. The midsection has Ed Sheeran singing on his own before the rush of piano-led instrumentation follows. Yes, he is sadly using autotune here as well, unlike on previous albums. It’s a good song, but the fact is that Ed Sheeran is making some fairly formulaic sounds on this track. It’s good but nowhere near as good as his previous offerings. It ends with clanging piano chords. It’s okay, provided you want to hear Ed Sheeran doing Coldplay.

Following is Shivers which begins with some electronic textures and beats that sound really typical of the sounds of 2021. That is the issue so far with this record, one can admire Ed Sheeran’s talent, yet this is not exactly the best representative of that talent. It sounds so commercial, although there is an element of catchiness about it. The songcraft and writing isn’t really an exploration of different topics and moods. Instead, it is Ed Sheeran making music about himself and his wife. That is a narrow-minded frame of mind here. Plus, his vocals are drenched in autotune, which is very disappointing. This is very ordinary.

First Times finally has some acoustic guitar and vocals to match. It is a self-conscious listen about Ed Sheeran and his life, yet again. If these songs had less production-based instrumentation, even on this song, then this album would be far better. Instead, even this piece has some dreary strings and melancholy piano. It’s quite emotionally moving, but aside from the fact that this piece is an improvement on the earlier songs on this album, it is very formulaic. A good song, but not overly memorable.

Bad Habits is the hit single from this album, and it is a huge exercise in autotune and production-based values, right from the start. It’s rather catchy but is going to be forgotten in the near future. A danceable piece of music, but nothing like musical superstars in the past have done which have been applauded. It’s barely passable and is more about sound effects than the structure of this song. Anyway, it seems like Ed Sheeran is struggling to find his musical soul in a world of postmodern digital mediocrity. This song is nothing special, and brings Ed Sheeran is brought back down to earth in terms of musical value. Good effort, but could have been better.

The next song is Overpass Graffiti which begins with more EDM styled beats and similarly based sounds, with Ed Sheeran singing over the top of it. It is very clear to many listeners that Ed Sheeran has sold out on this album, and it doesn’t sound good at all. Singing about his love life, there is no real range of subject matter and musicality and is fairly disappointing listening. This is the sort of music that people like the American Idol judges would dig, and nobody else. This is not a good or well thought out listening experience, even the Electronic textures do little to impress. Very ordinary song.

Following up is The Joker And The Queen begins with more Coldplay styled piano and autotuned vocals. It is more love song based musically, which is overly dramatic and really selfish as a result. Sure, love is a great emotion, but there seems to be an overt emphasis on Ed Sheeran’s own life, which is rather unnecessary. Plus, it’s only a single emotion. The string and keyboard solo section is nice and even somewhat moving, but one gets the feeling that this album is quite a failure in comparison to previous efforts. Beautiful, but really soppy.

Leave Your Life which begins with some looped beatboxing textures and electronic loops. Just to be aware, this is the new and less beneficial Ed Sheeran to hear. Sure, one’s love is extremely important, but all the same, Ed Sheeran seems to be not very bothered with anything else at this point. In any case, this studio-based soundscape of his does disappoint deeply. No doubt some fans will be disappointed listening back through his earlier work and comparing it with this. An okay song, but definitely lacks magic. It seems Ed Sheeran is now self-obsessed, a really sad fact. This song is average, but nothing special.

Collide begins with some salsa/samba beats, quickly launching into another very Electronic and commercial piece of music. This is a very meh piece of music, and Ed Sheeran is putting his heart on his sleeve, but not in the best way possible. It’s got a good chorus melody, but otherwise, not really something people really can connect with. It’s good but by this point, you’ll want to hit the stop button and go and listen to Shape Of You on repeat instead. It’s okay, but sadly a failure. The final lyrics are abysmal.

Next up is 2step which begins with some multitracked acoustic guitar parts with a better vocal from Ed Sheeran. This piece of music is actually okay, but this album is still a major disappointment. The chorus is very much like the sort of music made on the previous collaboration album released in 2019 and sounds better for it. A better piece of music, more minimalism should have been done on this album, not less. Rather catchy, a better listen from this song.

Following is Stop The Rain comes straight back into Electronic mediocrity and doesn’t sound really fantastic. It seems that the slightly better songs are on the second half of the album, but even so, this music is ordinary and very much here today, gone tomorrow. A good and improved listening experience, but all the same, this is a real disappointment for a guy who began as an acoustic guitarist and singer. Rewriting one’s musical style won’t simply put one into the history books, sadly. This is a clear example of that, unfortunately. It is a little catchy, but mostly forgettable. It ends rather suddenly after three minutes long.

Love In Slow Motion begins with some ukelele sounds, a lot like The Beach Boys. This sounds really ordinary from the start, and although Ed Sheeran is an amazing performer, he has forgotten why he was here in the first instance: to make great music. To be frank, who really needs a compromise of musical quality for one’s wife? Perhaps Ed Sheeran should make a point here and write and create a wider variety of songs. There is a very Bono from U2 styled harmony section towards the end of the song, but once again, this is not that good. Could have been better, yet again.

Visiting Hours begins with some weird electronic sounds, before singing and acoustic guitars enter. It’s a rather sad and touching ballad that actually sounds quite moving. Again, it is a more minimal piece that sounds a lot better, but it borrows the melody from Ed Sheeran’s earlier hit Perfect to some extent. Really imaginative, not. The song itself is quite good, but Ed Sheeran needs to make more minimal songs from now on, not an album with a huge bunch of textures on it as much. He is not a DJ, he is a singer/songwriter/guitarist. A good piece, but once again, rather disappointing. It ends with a lone vocal.

Next along is Sandman begins with some assorted instrumentation, including xylophone. Very weird, it launches into a children’s lullaby sort of tune, but not along the lines of what Ed Sheeran should be doing. It’s a really laughable piece, to be fair. Ed Sheeran is obsessed with himself and his life now, quite clearly. The album couldn’t get any more ordinary, to be fair. This is a really disappointing song, and Ed Sheeran may regret this sort of song in years to come. If you played this piece in public, you’d likely be laughed at. It is that appalling, nothing special on this four-minute drag of a song. You’ll be glad when it is over. Sure, Ed Sheeran is a father and husband, but do we really hear top tunes on this album? The answer is no. Appalling.

The last song on this album is Be Right Now which begins with 4/4 drum beats, some odd piano and Ed Sheeran launching straight into it. There are some ordinary lyrics and a sense that we have wasted a good 45 minutes or so listening to this album. This song especially sounds right out of the book of Coldplay’s worst songs, there is nothing overly special about this piece of music. It’s very bleak and depressing, unnecessarily so. There is little else to be said about these songs, hit the stop button and go and enjoy something else that life has to offer. This album is not good at all. It ends with autotuned and layered vocals, a deeply disappointing way to finish this album.

This is a huge letdown of an album and shows that Ed Sheeran has become self-obsessed with himself and his family, and has let his musical talent be replaced with Electronic textures. It puts all his previous efforts as really inspiring musical tunes, and this album should be avoided. Let’s hope that the next Ed Sheeran album is a better one, yet it is difficult to see how. Only recommended if you are a huge Ed Sheeran fan, otherwise don’t bother.

The golden era of Ed Sheeran’s music is gone.



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