A First Glimpse at Ed Sheeran’s Newest Album

January 10, 2017

Photo: Flickr

In the early hours of New Year’s Day the Internet was buzzing with the news that Ed Sheeran had already saved 2017. He had posted a nine second video to his Facebook account announcing he would be releasing new music in the upcoming week. It wasn’t such a surprise as he had already signaled that something was in the works by changing all his social media profile pictures to a light blue background. He changed them exactly a year after announcing he was taking a hiatus from social media because in his words, “I find myself seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes.” 

As promised, on January 6th, Sheeran released two new singles from his upcoming third album, “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You.” Though Sheeran’s official reason for releasing two singles instead of one was “cause I’ve been away for a bit,” a more likely reason is each song caters to a distinct sector of his fan-base. What is most striking about Sheeran’s newest songs is how his sound has barely changed from previous albums + and X.

“Castle on the Hill” displays his ability as a storyteller-songwriter to craft lyrics from his life experiences. It is arguably his strongest skill, and caters to fans of his quieter, more story-based songs such as “The A Team” or “Even My Dad Does Sometimes.” The roots of “Castle on the Hill” come from Sheeran’s youth growing up in England. He nostalgically recalls making friends, driving down country lanes, getting his heart broken, and watching the sunset over the castle on the hill. The song is accompanied by an energetic, hopeful beat reminiscent of “Photograph” from his previous album X. As the opening beats swell, Sheeran sings “When I was 6 years old I broke my leg / I was running from my brother and his friends.” The next verse describes his adolescence: smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, screwing up his first kiss, and drinking cheap liquor. Finally, the bridge takes the listener to the present as Sheeran wistfully sings of his friends whose lives have progressed from the ease of their youth, “One left to sell clothes / One works down by the coast / One had two kids but lives alone / One’s brother overdosed.” With “Castle on the Hill” Sheeran offers a vulnerable reflection of his life and confesses a yearning to go back to a simpler time.

“Shape of You,” on the other hand, fits with the edgier style of songs like “Don’t” from his album X. Both songs feature an appealing beat and catchy lyrics, and include Ed Sheeran’s rhythmic style of rapping. However each strays from Sheeran’s sweet, romantic depiction of love heard in songs like “Afire Love” and “Thinking Out Loud.” “Shape of You” is best described as a song of desire with its sensual rhythm and lust-driven lyrics. Sheeran sings, “I’m in love with the shape of you / We push and pull like a magnet do,” as he describes dancing with a woman he meets at the bar. While some of Sheeran’s songs make the listener want to daydream about the object of their affection, when listening to “Shape of You” it’s hard to resist the urge to get up and dance.

A release date for Ed Sheeran’s third album has yet to be published, but new music is eagerly awaited after nearly a two-year break since his last album. “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” offer a taste of his latest music that while highly enjoyable, is very safe. Hopefully the rest of the album will include songs featuring bold choices and a new sound to reveal growth on Sheeran’s part as a singer and lyricist.

Julia Pinney
Host of Fresh Voices. Former Voices Editor. AMST major. Mediocre yet enthusiastic dancer. Will beat you at Scrabble. Ask me what I'm reading.


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