x review by Ed Sheeran

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  • Released: Jun 20, 2014
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7 Good
  • Users' score: 7.4 (71 votes)
Ed Sheeran: x
6

Sound — 7
Ed Sheeran started his musical career in 2008, but didn't release his first album, "+," until 2011. He had an amazing amount of success, having caught the attention of Jamie Foxx and Elton John. He ended up working with several other more established artists, including being featured on Taylor Swift's album, "Red." He's since made friends with some other prominent people, in a fairly genre-defying manner - naming Rick Rubin, the band Snow Patrol, Pharrell Williams and others amongst his friends and collaborators. The album "x" is just Sheeran's second full-length album, and the deluxe version has 16 tracks and clocks in at roughly 65 minutes. The Pharrell-produced track "Sing" was released as the first single from the album in April. "One" and "Don't" were released as singles later on through iTunes. The deluxe version of the album also contains the track "I See Fire," which was originally written for and included in the soundtrack of "Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," though "I See Fire" hasn't been listed as an official single for the album "x," and is only on the deluxe version. Ed wrote almost all of the songs himself, with the exception of 5 songs which were written in collaboration with other parties. 

According to legend, most of the songs on the album were initially recorded with just Ed Sheeran and his acoustic guitar, with him focusing on giving a good performance in the studio with a good mood for each of the songs he recorded. Much later the other instrumentation was added to the songs. The album opens up with the track "One," which is essentially stripped down and quiet compared to the rest of the album - basically this is just the acoustic guitar and vocals for the majority of the song. Even when the drums and keyboards come in, they are playing some fairly simplistic parts and used for the ambience of the track instead of muddying it up. The second track, "I'm a Mess," is a song about Sheeran's girlfriend while he was writing this song and is a very vocally driven track with some occasional percussive work on his guitar, as well as some muted strumming. The song builds up to a crescendo with backup vocals and hand-clapping and all that type of jazz. "Sing," which is the first and only single released on the album, was produced by Pharrell "Hit-maker" Williams which could be a positive or a negative, depending on your perspective. Theoretically, going once again into the mythology of Ed Sheeran, two tracks on this album (including "Sing") were produced by Pharrell Williams and were initially intended for a separate project with Pharrell, but at the last minute they were included on "x." In regards to Ed Sheeran's work with Pharrell he has stated he is striving to sound like Timberlake's debut release… which I can't really get behind, but the song in and of itself isn't bad. "Don't" (produced by Rick Rubin) is probably one of the most uncomfortable songs on the album to me, basically being about how Ed's "kind of" girlfriend slept with his friend. Honestly, though "Don't" is produced by Rick Rubin it sounds much more like hip-hop than anything else, with Ed's guitar work being drowned out by the "beat." "Nina" was co-written with Johnny McDaid (of Snow Patrol) and is another uncomfortable song, basically telling his girlfriend back home that he's not coming back for her. "Photograph" is another song co-written by Johnny McDaid and is a sad love song with piano and percussion drowning out the guitar. "Bloodstream" is another track produced by Rick Rubin, and personally is probably one of my favorite tracks from the album. It is a powerful track, with a powerful hook. "Tenerife Sea" was written at the 2013 Grammy's, which would probably mean the song is about Taylor Swift or Ellie Goulding as those are the two celebrity women who were present that he has been tied to via his work or rumors, etc. Which one has blue eyes? I can't bring myself to care quite enough to look it up. "Runaway" is another Pharrell Williams produced song, and you really can tell just from listening to it. It isn't a bad song, I think I'm just tired of hearing music with Pharrell's hands in it. "The Man" has already been compared by others to The Streets… but there is a reason for that - if I didn't know this was Ed Sheeran then I would assume it was new material from The Streets. The type of beat and the cadence of the rapping all sound like The Streets. "Thinking Out Loud" is a pretty hard left turn after "The Man," being very minimalistic and sweetly sung, with some serious "neo-soul" type of vibe going on with it. "Afire Love" is a song about Ed's grandfather's declining health and battle with Alzheimer's disease. Like a lot of the songs on the album, I get the impression that the songs would have more musical value if they were stripped down to simple acoustic guitar, bass and drums with the vocals without the keyboard and synths and extra instrumentation. "Take It Back" is almost completely rapped by Ed Sheeran, with only the choruses sang. This track grew on me, though. It probably is my second favorite track, and this is mostly because you have somebody rapping with only an acoustic guitar as their only accompaniment. "Shirtsleeves" is very neo-soul and hip-hop. "Even My Dad Does Sometimes" is a sad song which Ed co-wrote with Amy Wadge. The album closes out with "I See Fire," which we've all heard at this point, but honestly is a good song.

Lyrics — 7
Ed Sheeran is a pretty solid songwriter and vocalist - you can't find a lot of fault in what he does within the genre in which he does it. Mostly he provides some very melancholy and heartfelt delivery, but with some few lines rapped, or like the track "Take It Back" with full rapped verses. There are definitely a lot of moments with the vocals being rapped more than sung, and while Ed isn't "bad" at rapping, he doesn't really shine at it - it would have more impact as something he utilized very occasionally to add a tool to his arsenal as a vocalist instead of trying to make it a key part of what he's doing. As a sample of the vocals, here are some from the track "Tenerife Sea": "You look so wonderful in your dress/ I love your hair like that/ The way it falls on the side of your neck/ Down your shoulders and back/ We are surrounded by all of these lies/ And people who talk too much/ You've got that kind of look in your eyes/ As if no one knows anything but us/ And should this be the last thing I see/ I want you to know it's enough for me/ Cause all that you are is all that I'll ever need/ I'm so in love, so in love/ So in love, so in love." There are some songs with better lyrics, and some are worse, but mostly even on his more "pop" oriented songs, his lyrics seem honest and have my attention.

Overall Impression — 7
So, I have a hard time getting past the fact that Ed Sheeran kind of looks like a wilder and more elfin version of the comedian, Carrot Top. He seems to be flirting with a lot of genres in his music, which mostly works (somehow), and seems to be working with a diverse crowd of collaborators. At the end of the day he is a seriously good guitarist and when you strip down what he's doing to guitar and vocals, his songs stand up under that scrutiny. For the time being I have to give Ed Sheeran credit where it is due - he is an excellent singer/songwriter and he proves he's tapped into the muse. He is most obviously an excellent songwriter on some of his softer songs where he seems to drop the façade he seems to be wearing for this album. I'm still skeptical if he can keep this up for the long-term, because call me a pessimist but I can't feel completely positive towards somebody who is getting this amount of sudden attention in the media - I start to feel like he's a straw man being propped up to be the next "superstar." I can't help but think you could peel some of the layers from these songs and you would find something much better underneath them. I would love to hear Ed Sheeran working with more fundamental instrumentation and getting away from the producers and such who seem to be defining his sound for him sometimes… in effect ruining his art, which in its purest and best form seems to be acoustic guitar-driven ballads and folk-type songs.

49 comments sorted by best / new / date

    brehrhardt2303
    This is a guy who learns guitar at 11, leaves home at 16 to chase after a music career, and between then and now, has two chart topping albums and numerous loved EP's. This is a guy who is offered a spot in Jamie Foxx's recording studio- as well as a spot on his couch- his first time in America, and is recognized by Elton John, going on to perform with him at the Grammy's. Ed covers the spectrum of all music genres not only in both his full albums, but throughout his numerous EP's. From the acoustic love songs of Songs I Wrote With Amy to the songs performed with underground British grime artists on No. 5 Collaborations Project there's something for everyone to love. His unmistakable talent with guitar and vocals, as well as song writing, beat boxing, and rapping makes him a force to be reckoned with in the music world. All this could easily make him another arrogant artist who knows he's earned his place at the top, but Ed stays humble and continues to do multiple charity shows and display love and appreciation for his fans.
    doodlepicker
    2 chart topping albums... I think Justin Bieber has more but is JB better than Ed?
    Mack888
    Does Justin Bieber even know what a loop pedal is?
    doodlepicker
    Probably he knows it. He plays instruments too remember? But does the loop pedal make them great artists? IMHO hell no.
    LittleMartin549
    Ok, JB sucks. Just putting it out there. And one of his most famous songs, "Love Yourself", who was it written by again? Ed Sheeran. 
    what.you.doing.
    Everyone should stop ridiculing Ed Sheeran for his work. Honestly, I'm not a fan of his stuff, but come on, I've got to give him some respect considering that he's rich and famous and I'm stuck at home on a guitar website. People just have different tastes and even though he's not my favorite, he probably is to a lot of others, so even though I don't agree with that I'm not going to downgrade the people who enjoy his work just because I don't like it as much.
    iammclovin
    I had never really heard anything by him and saw him live and was pretty blown away with what he could do with the looper pedal. He has some creativity but this album was a bit too poppy for my tastes.
    dooncan
    Don't really like his music but saw him at a festival and he puts on a really good show. No massive production, just him and his guitar, which is really admirable in my opinion.
    Funnyname99
    ... unless that's the sales pitch? In which case you were just sold a donkey for a race horse...(?) - I wonder if his ticket prices are going to represent his minimalist one man show? £6 to see him at the Apollo?
    BenjaminBonJovi
    This guy earned his place more than any other musician out there! In 2009 he officially played 312 shows...think about it!
    Mainer
    I quite enjoy some Ed Sheeran every now and again! Can't wait to hear "x"
    theburgen
    I don't know why people still ridicule Ed Sheeran as a product of the music industry, it's insane, he's a guy who started out writing songs because he loved Damien Rice, Bon Iver and a whole range of hip hop from Eminem to really obscure stuff. He travelled for years sofa to sofa in friends houses and has been homeless because of his passion to make music. He's been influenced by people like Pharell yeah, but he's always produced a mix of hip hop and acoustic music. He's not a product, he's a genuine artist who's worked hard for sucess.
    dominicmorlan
    I'm a pretty big fan of Ed's, and I LOVE this new album. Caught him live last summer, and he's every bit as good on stage as he is in the studio, which is rare nowadays.
    ThatAndyGuy93
    Personally, I think he's just as dull as the likes of James Blunt.
    EpiExplorer
    I don't get what's so special about him either. His music is mostly gimmicky acoustic nonsense and the image they've given him is 'I'm a simple ginger bloke, give me your sympathy'.
    TheOnlyChance
    Maybe he is just a simple ginger bloke? Could that be impossible?
    Funnyname99
    Not impossible, but not many shy ginger blokes have been singing on stage for years and are so confident that they write their own songs and perform them with conviction. Those people are usually quite confident.
    kacie.brasher
    None of you have any respect for Ed and it actually disgusts me. He's worked hard for a long two years on this album and personally I thinks it's fantastic. Now I'm not sating you have to agree with me, but you need to respect him and how hard he's worked for everything he has. Now, if you don't have anything constructive to say, keep your opinions to yourself please.
    RED777
    I like Ed Sheeran but to say that people cant knock on him is retarded... people can choose what kinda music they like for them selves.
    Josh100_3
    Agreed about the image. It reeks of "I'm just your average bloke, I'm a bit shy"
    Hamburger89
    It's like he's playing it safe, I try to think that these artists actually do have creativity but the money making machine doesn't let them.
    Josh100_3
    Agreed about the image. It reeks of "I'm just your average bloke, I'm a bit shy" thought up by some balding 50 year old business man in a record company office.
    Nuclearcrayon
    I think he's a great artist with a great career in front of him. "I See Fire" really gave me a lot more respect for him but there are some good songs on this album as well like "Thinking Out Loud".
    telephonebear
    are all his albums going to be arithmetic symbols?
    UnknownLefty95
    I hope so. Before x there were rumors that it was going to be called = but nevertheless it's a creative idea, the double meaning of a lot of the words is interesting. + Plus, or positive X Multiply = Equals The title 'equals' just sounds so good, album #3 anyone? I could even see an album be called *
    Mack888
    It's real early days for him i reckon. Once he gets past the novelty of being able to get all these other rich famous guys to produce his work and put their stamp on it and hopefully IF he steps away from under the wings of major label influences, it'd pave the way for his own musical vision... Then again I could be wrong and he could just be another product of the industry...
    crazysam23_Atax
    Yeah, I'm definitely wait-and-see on this guy too. It's not my favorite type of music, I admit; but I can respect what he has done. I just want to see if he's one of those "few good albums" guys (read: a product of the industry), or if he's actually the genuine article, so to speak.
    folkguitar12345
    I got a lot of respect for Ed, his music gets a little diluted from all the production but none the less a great guitar player and songwriter with a lot of potential... will be interesting to see once he gets on an independent label and can really express himself.
    nlabra
    It's been a long time since I've loved an album backwards and forwards. I bought both the album and then the extended disc because I realized this is going in my collection as a lifer. I personally don't give a hoot what the lad looks like. He's a MUSICIAN, people. An incredibly gifted one at that.Enjoy the beautiful melodies he's shared with the world.
    Macejko
    I think he is amazingly talented musician and if the album didn't convinced you fully about that, try watching some live performances of him - that is where he truly shines. One man band. One of the few pop artist ever that I relate to 100 %. Plus he seems like a inteligent and down to earth guy.TRACKS YOU SHOULD CHECK: Bloodstream, I See Fire, Sing, Take it Back, Don't, Nina, Runaway, Photograph, Thinking Out Loud
    WACEY88
    Some of the grammar and punctuation in these reviews are absolutely ****ing awful.
    doodlepicker
    Says the guy who used "in" instead of "on".
    NABEF9
    If you're going to go around correcting peoples' grammar, at least catch the actual error. He should have written "is" instead of "are"
    Funnyname99
    A few friends of friends were round the other day and when they saw my guitars they started banging on about "Ed Sheeran", particularly a cover song with another guy (I forget). We found it on you tube and after ten seconds, I said "So, four chords?... So Em, G, D, C???" and started playing along to it...They were amazed and very impressed. (Much less impressed than when I was neatly picking the melodies to Iron Maiden songs) Point being... I think Ed Sheeran fans will mostly consist of people who have no idea how basic his music really is; like watching Saturday morning cartoons as though they're fkn Hamlet.
    RED777
    + i like his music and i like mumford and sons (and ABR and U0) but he and mumford have simple music...
    doodlepicker
    I believe he is an overrated artist that girls and guys with high estrogen levels love. He is just being sold out by the corporate media. Yeah... I'm a typing robot.
    RED777
    I wouldn't say those are the only ppl who like his music but to some extent I agree...even after your comment got -7..lol
    doodlepicker
    The thing is nowadays you can't rely on an artist's statistics (Record sales, Collaborations with famous artists, Etc.) Justin Bieber has a lot of awards, chart topping songs, albums, he also collaborated with different artists, but does that make me think that Justin is a musician worthy of praise? Hell no! Foster the people, Lake street dive, and so many bands, artists out there who are waaaaayyyy better, but does not get the recognition that they deserve and Ed Sheeran is not one of them. He is just a product of over exposure by the commercial media.