With two albums of similar articulate expertise in hand, Ed Sheeran is no stranger to crafting some of the most beautiful and impressionable songs. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that the British singer-songwriter is one of the most thoughtful and innovative songwriters of this generation. There’s a reason that this artist’s love ballads, break-up tunes, and self-revelations seem to ring so true to our own personal narratives. In his new album, Divide, Ed extracts the nitty-gritty depths of human emotion, reminding us that music is poeticism in the broadest, most easily digested form.
Love, above, and beyond
Whether it’s hopeless devotion or heartbreak, Ed hits the nail on the head. A manipulation of language like no other is the unique way Divide touches on all aspects of the deep and personal subject in order to make it communally and tangibly understood. The careful lyricism of “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” and “Castle on the Hill” capture detailed accounts of emotional intimacy with others in order to make exclusive moments inclusive through the relatability of a song. This specificity is particularly loveable in upbeat numbers like “Galway Girl” and “Barcelona”, which serve as an instant transport to the emotion of the moment in their lyrical authenticity. A track like “Perfect” would sound cheesy and too sweet if it weren’t for Ed’s ability to use storytelling poetics in a way that makes a love too good to be true feel believable on all levels.
In a similar vein is Ed’s tendency to tap into the painful sphere of loss and relay that particular realm of heavy emptiness. In his first album, this was narrowed in on the sadness of the loss of an unborn child “Small Bump”, and in his second album it was “Afire Love” and the life of an elder withering away. This time around, Ed gifts his audience with the heart-wrenching reality of the grieving process in “Supermarket Flowers”. Effective as the delicate instrumentals may be in provoking mournfulness in the song, the technique of specificity and angelic diction is what pulls your heart into your gut when he sings of the loss of a mother.
Hard-hitting introspective realities
Not only is Ed capable of zeroing in on the many angles of love, Divide tackles the privatized territory of self-worth and moral purpose. Every lyric of the album’s opening song “Eraser”, about the grave dangers a person’s character faces when surrounded by the corruptive temptations of the fame industry, is saturated with intent and honesty. There is a similar nakedness and raw exploitation of one’s vulnerability in “Save Myself” that rings so loud and clear to its larger audience. Leaving the album on a resonating note of “before I love someone else, I’ve got to love myself” is what leaves such a lasting ache.
To say Ed Sheeran is skilled in the formulation of addictive and impactful verse is an understatement, and Divide is just the third installment to prove that. While many artists that fall into the popular music sphere can fall susceptible to sacrificing quality for radio play, Ed continues to inspire with the hard-hitting lyrics he began with.
Amongst his poetic words that imprint on anyone who lends an ear, he sings “love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?” And to answer that: perhaps how to formulate a relatable connection with a broad audience in the most unconventional, but simplistic of ways. Or how to evoke a memory someone never experienced through the authenticity in your words. Or how to repurpose the beauty of the anciently pure poet in the emotional context of the 21st century. Or how to command the attention of the world through lyrical prominence.
But what do I know?