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DIVIDE. ED SHEERAN. NO WORDS. (track-by-track review)

(sorry this is so long, I’m clearly just over-excited/obsessed/mentally unnerved by Divide’s brilliance – feel free to ignore everything I’m saying and just look at the pretty blue graphics)

 tenor

Can we just all take a minute to let all other comparatively inane thoughts fade into insignificance, and devote our deserved attention on Divide, Ed Sheeran’s third full length album.

Now, I’ve always been an Ed Sheeran fan. Super-fan, even. I’d go so far as to describe him as my favourite artist of all time. However, at the risk of sounding like one of those ‘I-liked-this-artist-first-everybody-else-envy-me’ caricatures, I will admit that I only really discovered his work after hearing The A Team on the radio a historic 6 years ago. Whilst I clearly wasn’t present to witness the origins of Ed’s career (presumably the main reason being that I was 4 when he technically ‘started’, and just 10 when he began causing heads to turn), I have backdated and filled myself in with all of his smaller EP’s and little known youtube songs. So I’m not jumping into this album on a “oh I heard that song on the radio maybe I should give Divide a listen” basis, but more of a “ohmygodthishasbeenalongtimecomingI’msoanxiousbutalsoexcited” one.

Also, just to put it out there that I have no musical skill whatsoever, and I’m not qualified at all to be judging someone else’s, but y’know I’ll roll with it. So buckle in because this is going to be a long blog *boos/woos*. 

(sidenote: thanks Ed for releasing an album cover with a colour scheme that matches my blog aesthetic; is there anything he can ever do wrong? No.)

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divide-line

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eraser

“Welcome to the new show
I guess you know I’ve been away
Where I’m heading who knows
My heart will stay the same”

Now, I’m just going to boldly jump into my track-by-track review, to mirror Eraser’s confident introduction to Ed’s album with a brief recapping of his life, position as an artist, and personal views. The hip-hop beats marry with his ability to seamlessly transition from rapping to singing in order to create a cohesive masterclass.

If you haven’t already seen, Ed released an extended version on SBTV last week, and it’s left me very unsure with which I prefer: I like the instrument heavy Eraser (on the album itself), but the acoustic extra verse in the extended version is too good to sacrifice.

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Castle on the Hill and Shape of You are now removed and distant in my mind. I don’t know if everyone’s brains do this, but as soon as an artist releases a song as a single (and it is played non stop 24/7), it doesn’t fit with the album anymore? Like obviously melodically it’s unchanged, but something in my brain refuses to provide any sort of continuity between album tracks and singles. Hmph.

I won’t lie, I do skip these songs on the album run-through.

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It’s not that I dislike them per say, but they’ve been playing on repeat for the past 8 weeks now, and I’m more interested in the darker, grittier depths of Ed’s album.

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dive

“What’s your history?
Do you have a tendency to lead some people on?”

Dive is definitely a grower for me. On my friends’ first listen, 90% of them pinpointed it as their immediate favourite, and I must admit I’d completely forgotten which one it was. However, through the hours on hours I’ve listened to the album, it’s beginning to work its way up my personal favourites. It’s a pop ballad in its prime, and is unafraid to shy away from the title. Me-likey.

(especially when he does the screaming/straining/growling thing with his voice)

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perfect

“and she looks perfect, no I don’t deserve this
you look perfect tonight”

When Ed advertised ‘Perfect’ as a song which overshadows Thinking Out Loud, I think the general reception was “prepare to be let down”. How can Ed outdo a song which outdid all other love songs in the past decade? I was pretty oblivious (even though Thinking Out Loud isn’t my favourite on Multiply, I can appreciate it for what a stunning proposal of love it is).

However, like always, Ed delivers on his word – ‘Perfect’ is an unassailable ballad like no other which mixes all the best tropes of every love song into one super-machine-mutated-evolved-magical track.

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galway-girl

“she played the fiddle in an Irish band
but she fell in love with an English man”

GALWAY. GIRL.
GIVE ME A MINUTE.

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While Dive was all of my friends’ immediate favourite, ‘Galway Girl’ was mine, and still unashamedly is. The irish-folklore-medieval-cotton eyed joe-vibe is so refreshing to see on a MAINSTREAM album. Sheeran includes this track as an ode to his Irish heritage (with it being about his grandparents’ love story = HOW CUTE), and it sets up the diverse roots that underpin the heart of Divide.

While songs 1-5 are all quite expect-ed (pun) of Ed; with Eraser being almost like a Take it Back evolution, and Perfect a new and improved Thinking Out Loud (although all are still appreciated), Galway Girl gave me my first genuine shock and excitement at this new era of Ed.

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happier

“nursing an empty bottle and telling myself you’re happier,
aren’t you?”

While the title declares positivity, the song is hallowing and perversely bittersweet? I love a song that takes a few listens to truly understand its angle because it’s so well constructed and deep, and ‘Happier’ fits the brief. I’d describe it as a melodic ballad with an overlying happiness that Ed’s “one that got away” is doing better without him, but a penetrative latent cry of pain for why Ed’s not feeling the same. #rElaTablE no?

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new-man

“he wears sunglasses indoors in winter at nighttime”

While I was hopeful that this song would be a continuation of ‘The Man’, Ed’s hip-hop exploration on Multiply, ‘New Man’ spills over more into ‘Don’t’ territory, with very similar beats. This diss track about an ex’s aptly titled ‘new man’ is an example of a constant and reliable ‘classic-Ed-vibe’ he brings on every album. While it’s not a stand out for me, it definitely is a solid inclusion.

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hearts-dont-break-around-here

“she is the lighthouse in the night that will safely guide me home”

This track is possibly the most unsuspecting in my mind. While in any other circumstances this song would be the melodic love track that’d have people swooning left/right/centre/up/down/all around, in juxtaposition with songs like Perfect, I feel like this is hiding in the shadows a little. However, on Ed’s mainstream albums, I tend to like the ones that are usually skimmed over, purely for the fact that they are less well known.

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what-do-i-know

“you know we are made up of love and hate
but both of them are balanced on a razor blade”

With the immediacy of its opening, and its catchy and accessible chorus, ‘What Do I Know?’ is an unassuming but appreciated attempt for Ed to get involved in the political scene (albeit through peaceful and unspecific means). He talks about the ability of music, and artists, to make a wave in the contentious social waters, and pacify any harmful situation.

Apparently he was told by his record label to get rid of the lyric about “exponential growth” but decided to keep it in anyway, and I’m so glad he did because it’s true testament to how he could sing about ANYTHING and make it sound good.

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how-would-you-feel-paean

“I had both of my arms round you
watching the sunrise replace the moon”

I’m not overly keen on “How Would You Feel”, much like Hearts Don’t Break Around Here, it’s a pretty run-in-the-mill Ed love ballad with sweet lyrics and a catchy tune. Don’t get me wrong it’s incredibly polished and carefully composed, and I still like it (and will belt it out), but I just favour Ed’s grittier songs.

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supermarket-flowers

“so I’ll sing Hallelujah, you were an angel in the shape of my mum”

While I didn’t physically produce tears like most of the fandom (even though I’m literally the biggest cry-baby ever?) this song is truly beautiful. Not only does his vulnerability come through, but it’s gentle and comfortable – it makes us align ourselves with Ed (and his mother who’s perspective the song is told in (why, I’m not sure)) to truly move anyone from the core.

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~ Deluxe Tracks ~

barcelona

“and dance like they do in the Mediterranean
spin you around me again and again”

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bibia-be-ye-ye

“and in the pocket of my jeans, are only coins and broken dreams,
my heart is breaking at the seams”

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nancy-mulligan

“Nancy was my yellow rose, and we got married wearing borrowed clothes”

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save-myself

“cause human beings are destined to radiate or drain”

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What may be even more compelling than the album’s tracklist, are the deluxe inclusions of “Barcelona”, “Bibia Be Ye Ye”, “Nancy Mulligan” and “Save Yourself”. Not only does glorious track 13, ‘Barcelona’, transport us into sunny summer Spanish streets in a carefree ode to all things bright, but along with Bibia Be Ye Ye and Nancy Mulligan, the three extras serve to diversify the album and truly provide a suggestion of Ed letting loose and properly enjoying his eclectic travel and musical inspirations. I think while some critics are arguing that Ed approached the album formulaically (which I take deference to because doesn’t every artist have an approach to their work?), his deluxe tracks serve to shatter this opinion.

‘Save Myself’ requires some time and deciphering to really appreciate in my opinion. On my first listen, this was my least favourite song on the album with what I thought was a slow and melancholic drawl as a beat. I had originally reviewed it (exact-wording) as “I don’t hate the song, I just don’t really see it’s purpose” but boy oh boy did I make a mistake. Like 98% of Ed’s work, the lyrics are stunning and are only enhanced by his choice of tempo, and it furthers the underpinning vulnerability of his album. It’s a realisation track that tackles the cliché that before you can love someone else, you truly have to love yourself.

While Divide is focussed on appealing to a mass audience, and covering any genre under the sun, Ed hides his more provocative and grittier songs alongside overt singing about Doritos, and the Barcelona sunshine. And that’s why I truly love him as an artist, he has an ability to force connections between his audience and any particular song on the album but refrains to let go of his roots. 

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Ultimately, Divide is everything that could be wanted in Ed’s third album; he refrains from abandoning his roots, but still progresses lyrically and diversely to create an album to please 99.9% of walking breathing humans through one track or another.

Thanks for doing you, Ed.

Have you listened to Divide yet? What (is/are) your favourite(s) so far? (because we all know it’s near impossible to choose just one)

Is there anything you’d want to change on the album? Have you always been an Ed fan, or never listened to him before, or still don’t want to? Let me know in the comments below!

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7 thoughts on “DIVIDE. ED SHEERAN. NO WORDS. (track-by-track review)

  1. Wow this is one of the best and most in depth reviews I’ve read yet, great job! Would you be interested in sharing this in our Facebook community of music fans and bloggers? I think they’d love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, I enjoyed your post. I found your blog after searching for a track by track review of Divide to send to a friend. Just thought I would throw my 2 cents in. The album is amazing. I haven’t bought a cd in 14 years (Speakerboxx / The Love Below) and I don’t even own a cd player, but I ordered this album from the Ed Sheeran website Friday morning after hearing it on YouTube, just because I wanted to support it…though it’s clear that this is not an album that will need extra support.

    I see why Ed has been so confident about this album. I cannot imagine this time next year he won’t be walking out with at least 4 or 5 Grammys, possibly more. That’s how good I think it is. The crazy thing is, and the reason I’ve never purchased an album before now, he is better live. I can’t fathom how good some of these songs are going to be when arranged for the live show. Speaking of…I will be in London the week of Glastonbury. I don’t think I can afford a ticket, but I really want to take my 9 year old daughter to see him. Glastonbury would be the ultimate, but will probably just wait until he comes back to DC. Probably not the best place to take a kid. We saw him last time he was here, Sept 2015.

    Anyway, back to the album…I think someone would have to release a record as big as Thriller to keep this from winning a Grammy for best album. In order of how they appear on the album, not counting Caste and Shape (which have already topped the charts), I think Dive, Perfect, Happier, Galway Girl, Hearts Don’t Break Around Here, How Would you Feel, and What Do I Know could all possibly hit Number 1. They may not all get there, but mostly because they have to compete with one another. Another thing is, they won’t all get released as singles in this Grammy cycle. It will take 2 Grammy cycles to release all of these songs, so he could possibly win several from this album each of the next 2 years.

    Personally, I love Barcelona (the 2nd verse is probably the best verse on the album) and Bibia Be Ye Ye (possibly my favorite track). I’m sure they will hit #1 in parts of the world, just maybe not in the US. I’ve been blasting them all weekend. Ed gives a lot of props to Van Morrison, but particularly in those songs, I get a really strong Paul Simon vibe. They are both fantastic.

    That is 11 songs out of a 16 track album with a serious shot at number 1 on charts around the world. I couldn’t be happier with the album. It was a long wait, but so worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Firstly, thanks for even stopping by, let alone leaving such a lengthy and in depth comment. It’s awesome to see people getting involved, and I guess that’s ode to Ed’s music!

      I definitely can see him sweeping quite a few of the awards in all of the mainstream categories next awards season; and credit where credit’s due, unless a surprise artist comes out with a killer album, he’ll definitely deserve them!

      It’s so true what you said about how there’s like 11 out of 16 album tracks that have the potential to reach number one on the charts (if they weren’t competing against eachother!) and it’s definitely looking likely (in the UK at least) that all 16 are going to place within the top 20-ish chart positions which is just crazy. He’s even the top 16 positions in the streaming charts (with Galway Girl even topping Shape of You) which is just testament to his talent. Not many other artists could have their album tracks overtake other artists’ singles that they’ve poured advertising, and financing, in.

      Hope you manage to see him in DC! (and Glastonbury would have been amazing; it’s a shame it sells out so quickly!) Once again, thanks for dropping by 🙂

      Like

  3. Welcome back!

    Great reviews of each song. I’ve been following his music since I started hearing his music on the radio years ago and he definitely just keeps getting better. I haven’t picked up a copy for myself yet, but I hope to soon. The local radio stations haven’t been playing the two singles like crazy yet – I can count on one hand how many times I’ve heard them get airplay. My favorite of the two is definitely Castle on the Hill. From your reviews, I’m most interested in hearing Galway Girl with its “irish-folklore-medieval-cotton eyed joe-vibe”. 🙂

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    1. Heya; thank you very much! Glad to know they were okay (and not completely and utterly incomprehensible … I’m still not convinced xD)

      I completely agree; old-school Ed will always have a special place in my heart, but I love how he can adapt to the time and still retain that core lyrical quality.

      How have you escaped Castle and Shape?! Here in Ol’ Blighty they’re pretty much on consecutively, and on repeat! I agree with you though; Castle is leagues superior to Shape.

      Galway Girl is definitely my go-to when I open the album up; closely followed by Happier. I’m excited to hear what you think of them!! Let me know 🙂

      Like

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