By IRENE PANIS
In the early hours of New Year’s Day, after a year-long hiatus and break from social media, Ed Sheeran sent the Internet into a frenzy. A short video was posted on Sheeran’s various social medias of him holding a piece of paper with the words “New Music Coming Friday” written on it. That Friday, “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” were released as singles to Sheeran’s third studio album, Divide, which would be released later that month.
Both songs proved to be hits and led Sheeran to become the first ever artist to have two songs simultaneously debut in the top 10 of the US Billboard Hot 100. “Castle on the Hill” boasts folk-pop influences and a booming chorus perfect for music festivals, while “Shape of You” has that half-acoustic, half-hip-hop sound that Sheeran fans know and love.
Nowadays, especially in mainstream pop music, it almost seems as if the single never sounds anything like the other tracks on the album. But in Divide’s case, “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” are accurate representations of what the rest of the album holds: pop and hip-hop.
When it comes to sound, Divide is incredibly consistent. Tracks like “Perfect” and “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” are classic Sheeran love songs, filled to the brim with soft guitar-strumming and sticky sweet lyrics. Other tracks, such as “Eraser” and “Galway Girl,” showcase Sheeran’s rapping skills over simple beats and acoustic instrumentals.
One song on the album that stands out is also one that is particularly hard to get through. “Supermarket Flowers” is a tribute to Sheeran’s late grandmother from the perspective of his mother. The song details the process of mourning a loved one while also remembering their impact (“So I’ll sing Hallelujah / You were an angel in the shape of my mum / When I fell down you’d be there holding me up.”) The emotionally charged lyrics combined with the simple piano instrumental and Sheeran’s raw, unaltered vocals make the track the most beautiful on the album but almost impossible to listen to.
While Sheeran is an immensely talented songwriter and producer, as he has proved once again with Divide, the one flaw of the album lies with its consistency. Divide is so consistent in its sound to the point where some of the songs start to sound alike to most people aside from diehard Sheeran fans who have listened to the album dozens of times.This does make the album cohesive, yes, but there needs to be balance between cohesiveness and variety; one should not be sacrificed for the other, which is unfortunately what Sheeran did with Divide. This is a first for Sheeran; however, his first two albums, Plus and Multiply, succeeded in creating this balance.
Divide has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars and is available on iTunes for $12.99.