Ed Sheeran “=” Album Review

Ben Drago

On October 29, Ed Sheeran released his highly anticipated album “=.” After months of promotion and a 2-year hiatus, fans were eager to hear what he had created. The success of this album has already begun. Spawning two top 10 singles with Bad Habits and Shivers, Ed Sheeran proves that he can still effortlessly produce music for the times. Ed Sheeran says, “I feel like my life has changed so much since the end of the last tour.” In these 2 years, he has matured and started a family. Beginning with “Tides,” he discusses the heightened accountability he faces, now having a child. The evolution of life is presented similarly to a change in tides. The perfect analogy gives way to showcase the effect of fame and the ebbing and flowing of his music career. His all too common approach of working on a single album for years forces his fame to recede and then come right back again. Similar to these same tides. 

In “First times” he talks about getting to the top of the mountain of fame and rather than feeling a sense of accomplishment, he remains underwhelmed. He becomes unphased of the fame, which allows him to be one of the few celebrities that fans feel similar to. Through the chorus, he becomes reminiscent of the first moments with his longtime lover, good and bad. He finishes the song by looking ahead at the life and family he is building, and promises to make “a million more first times.” The upbeat, poppy “Overpass Graffiti” is an earworm from the minute it is turned on. The haunting echoes in the chorus are reminiscent of early 2000s pop. With common themes of love and love lost, Ed Sheeran threads the needle between singer-songwriter to full-blown pop star. The slowed “Visiting Hours” develops the love lost aspect of this album, including heartbreak and grief. He shares a similar sentiment to the song “Supermarket Flowers” from his previous album. However, this version is vividly personal and reflective of a life lived and lost. He sings, “I wish that heaven had visiting hours.” The imaginative sentiment demonstrates the deeply personal grief felt. The beginning of “Collide” teleports the listener to the classic “Bust a move” by Young MC. The combination of a timeless beat and echoes of his ghostly voice set the stage for a recount of weathering the storm of life. Getting through this storm would have been impossible without the collision of him and his wife. 

As quickly as the beginning captivates your attention, Ed Sheeran begins to desperately fit the mold of pop stars in the 21st century rather than creating a league of his own. Despite the catchy bops and stripped-down ballads, he attempts to incorporate a beat similar to that of Drake or Kendrick Lamar. While it’s great that an artist can experiment with their music, the fans have a certain comfort with the music that has already been produced by that same artist. In this case, Ed Sheeran escapes into a world that he has never ventured into and in most songs, it’s clear that this does not work well. The mesh of rap beats with acoustic sounds does not work well together as a cohesive album. However, the stripped-down elements with the singer-songwriter and pop beats resonate with the listener. Simply put, there’s nothing that sets it apart from his previous work or anyone else’s work of this time. 

While maintaining an un-revolutionary sound, he updates the public on the new chapter in his life. He prioritizes family, safety, and the present. Despite not surpassing that of his peers, he remains at the top of his game. He juxtaposes the themes of escapism and living in the moment. This is pertinent while he maintains the balance of his family and his career. Finally, he completes the body of work with “Be right now.” It is the perfect cap on the album. He describes wasting away all the worries of life and remaining present in the moment. For “=”, the matured version proves to be as powerful as his past work. However, it strikes a more nostalgic cord that connects the reader to this album in a way that was never previously felt. The album takes us on a journey of reminiscing on the past and understanding the complexities of human interaction. Learning to capitalize on every moment because as he says “It’s all that we got.”