Ed Sheeran, who has a new album, x (multiply), coming out on June 23rd, seems to have escaped the let down many times felt by an artist on their sophomore effort. While there may be a great many reasons for this, it is safe to believe that the main reason behind this ability is that Sheeran, who has been writing and recording his own original music since 2005, has already safely found his voice, and that this album is a sophomore effort in name only.
Coming some three years after his major label debut, +, x (multiply) delivers on a good many promises made in that debut album. The singer/songwriter, who had made a great many of his fans swoon with his vivid lyrics, sweet voice, and skills on the guitar, still exists and seems to be stronger than ever in his talents. Yet, seemingly wanting to further prove himself, Sheeran moves deeper into the pop and hip hop genres.
Sing, his collaboration with award-winning producer and songwriter Pharrell, seems to be destined to be a breakout hit for Sheeran, and is likely to receive prominent airplay throughout the summer, with the distinct likelihood of making it this summer’s anthem. With a sound that some may not be familiar with from Sheeran, Sing is bound to attract new followers without alienating those that have already made Sheeran their own.
Sing, along with Don’t, Nina, Runaway, The Man, and the bonus track Take It Back, cultivate a more commercial Top-40 sound for the young Sheeran, who seems eager to stretch his wings, if not for his love of the genres, for the ability to prove that he is no one trick pony. A mix of upbeat pop/twee tracks and attempts at spoken word/rap deliveries, Sheeran sometimes stretches beyond his ample abilities, and leaves the listener wondering for whose benefit is this being done. For those looking for the man and his guitar, the remaining eleven tracks are for you.
Of these more traditional ballad offerings, I’m a Mess, One, and Tenerife Sea standout as the most successful. Beautifully written and sung, they bring a centering to an album that at times can feel as though it is going in too many directions at once. This may happen because of Sheeran’s ambitious undertaking with x (multiply), or it may be a result of the myriad of strong voices that get a hand at producing on the album. As already mentioned, Pharrell produced Sheeran’s already successful single, Sing, and also was at the helm for Runaway. Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid produced the singles, Thinking Out Loud, Nina, and Photograph. And last, but not least, legendary producer Rick Rubin lent a hand with Bloodstream, Don’t, and Tenerife Sea.
Also found on the various extended editions of x (multiply) are two songs that Sheeran performed for movie soundtracks. The first being I See Fire, which was part of the soundtrack to Peter Jackson’s hit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and the second being All of Our Stars, from the film adaptation of John Green’s successful YA novel the Fault in Our Stars. The latter sure to endear Sheeran to an ever-growing legion of young fans.
For all of its possible missteps, Ed Sheeran’s x (multiply) delivers on enough of its promises to prove to make this new album just as successful as Sheeran’s last. It is certain that some of these singles will be inescapable by summer’s end, and that may very well be a good thing.
David Giver is an adjunct professor at Armstrong State University in Savannah, GA. David is a graduate of Goddard College with an MFA in Poetry, and is the author of the recently published poetry collection, A Slow Education. David is also an aspiring novelist.