Music

Ed Sheeran returns with “Divide” and it is full of unexpected surprises

The album the world has waited for is here. Ed Sheeran on Friday released his newest album, “Divide,” and it has exceeded expectations. “Welcome to the new show / I guess you know I’ve been away / But where I’m heading, who knows?” Sheeran sings on the first track, “Eraser,” which foreshadows that the other 15 songs on the album might not be what most anticipated from the 26-year-old singer.

The overall album is more upbeat and experimental than his others. However, you’ll still hear those emotional, often heart-wrenching lyrics that Sheeran is so good at producing. “Happier” is a powerful tearjerker that tells the familiar story of seeing an ex move on with someone new. It will be everyone’s favorite breakup anthem within the next month. “Perfect” is full of dreamy lyrics that any person could use for their wedding vows. The song that most resembles his old music is “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here,” packing intimate vocals, romance, calming acoustics — you know, the usual.

While I love Sheeran’s classic style, I was excited to listen to the variety of material on the album. When Sheeran first released, “Shape of You” and “Castle on a Hill” earlier this year, I knew from the juxtaposition of these singles that fans will be getting something they’re not used to. “Galway Girl” is my favorite song on the album. He did an excellent job using traditional Irish music characteristics, like the fiddle, while still telling a fun story. The song immediately puts the listener in a better mood with its upbeat rhythm and intricate lyrics. The fiddle makes a second appearance in “Nancy Mulligan,” another amusing track that will transport you to a rowdy pub in the middle of Ireland.

Ed Sheeran speaks some different languages on this album as well. At the end of the bubbly track, “Barcelona,” he sings in Spanish. This song will make people want to dance and dream of escaping to the streets of Barcelona. The next track “Bibia Be Ye Ye” translates to “all will be well” in Twi, a language mainly spoken in Ghana. The beat is similar to “Barcelona” but the message of the song is basically a “don’t worry be happy” vibe. I think these two songs show how Ed Sheeran is trying to push his musical limits, and it is working. At first, I had mixed feelings about these songs because I find that there is be a fine line between making good music and cultural appropriation, but Sheeran executed these decently.

To further add to this diverse mix of music, “Dive” reminds me of John Mayer’s classic song, “Gravity.” With more challenging vocals, emotionally charged lyrics, and sexy guitar solo, John Mayer is probably kicking himself for not producing that track. Sheeran’s “What Do I Know?” tackles politics, with lyrics like “The revolution’s coming, it’s a minute away / I saw people marching in the streets today.” This song is simple, catchy and almost like a “Kumbaya” for spreading love and positivity. Sheeran chose a safe way of making a political statement, but I appreciated it because I would never expect the lovable singer to get political.

He ends the album with “Save Myself,” a personal piano narrative that will definitely pull at your heartstrings. Though there is intensity and an overall inspirational message within this song, I wonder why he decided to put this sad tune last on the track list. It was a bit of a buzzkill since it followed the exciting and upbeat “Nancy Mulligan.”

“Divide” is a perfect combination of old and new. “New Man” has the sass and anger of Sheeran’s old song, “Don’t.” On the other hand, “How Would You Feel (Paean)” sounds almost like a country love ballad. It might sound like none of these tracks make sense together, but they do. I don’t know how, but Sheeran has arranged a beautiful assortment of songs in a way that balances the original Ed we all love and the brand new, experimental Ed.

Ed Sheeran took risks on this album, but they are paying off. He’s already smashing charts and records around the world. The entire album took me on an emotional journey, full of passionate sounds and extremely descriptive and intimate lyrics. Ed Sheeran continues to show his growth as an artist and songwriter by pushing his musical boundaries, and “Divide” is only the beginning.

Christine Chung is a senior communication and rhetorical studies major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached at chchun02@syr.edu.

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