Ed Sheeran is fully aware he’s an unlikely pop star. He uses this to his advantage on his latest album ‘X’. An album that tries to fix many of the flaws that were present on the sloppy but sweet debut album from Ed Sheeran ‘+’. Sheeran knows that being sweet and thoughtful can have a great appeal rather than being the typical pretty pop star. On his first album Ed showed off his ability for melody and his talents still lie in these areas. Except now he also has A-list producers such as Pharrell and Rick Rubin to help him out. Although there are many of the same ideas that were present on his previous works they now seem more fleshed out and executed better.
Ed Sheeran’s talent has always been hard to deny. His sweet voice is extremely strong in that it’s able to sound in place on both soft ballad’s and when laying down folky-rap verses. Although his rap verses aren’t going to win him any respect in the hip-hop world, it’s far from bad in terms of flow and delivery. The opening song ‘One’ is the best example of the former. His airy falsetto is extremely endearing and while it’s nothing new to his style it’s executed in a way that is much better than the over produced ballads off of his first album. The song only features a bass drum and very subtle use of strings that only come into play half way through the song. Though his lyrics are extremely gooey on these songs, they’re much more focused than on his debut and they’re delivered in a way that sounds completely believable. Equally the song ’I’m a Mess’ features some of the strongest vocal deliveries on the album as he sings with fiery passion. ‘The Man’ has him rapping over a slightly grimy beat about how his relationship might have panned out if he hadn’t pursued a career in music.
The entire album is very inoffensive and the Hip-Hop/Folk songs aren’t edgy, but they aren’t intended to be. What Sheeran has done is taken influences from other genres and used them to create simply great pop songs. This is best done on the songs such as the debut single for the album ‘Sing’ which have been produced by his new friend Pharrell. The song takes a lot of influence from Justin Timberlake and the production is great. It keeps Sheeran’s guitar in the backdrop while allowing the production in the percussion and other areas to shine through. Another one of the more upbeat songs ’Don’t’ has a big buzzy bass line in the chorus that gives it that bit of oomph Ed needs. All of the old elements are still there, he simply changes the dynamics of it all to make it work in a way that feels more authentic than before. That’s not to say it’s 100% full proof though such as the song ‘Nina’ which features a piano piece that sounds awkwardly out of place but ultimately doesn’t go as far as to ruin the song.
Ed Sheeran’s new album is simply put, a collection of great pop songs. I think the word ’Collection’ is the best way to describe it. It’s not a cohesive album or a work of art and it doesn’t need to be. It’s a collection of all of the styles he has done before thrown together showing some of his best work. Ed has proved himself to be a pop star in 2014 that is actually worth your time.