5, x, +, ÷. Although this list may seem like miscellaneous math terms, they are much more for anyone familiar with the works of Ed Sheeran. Beginning with his 2015 EP, the list includes his other, intentionally math-themed, albums. On March 3, Sheeran released his most recent album, “÷” (pronounced “Divide”), his first since 2014.
Following in the footsteps of Sheeran’s previous album, “x,” “Divide” has achieved unprecedented success, breaking records and topping charts. It was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and Rolling Stone reports that 451,000 copies were sold in the first week. Unsurprisingly, Sheeran continues to grow in popularity and success.
The 16 songs are all their own style yet distinctly Sheeran. “Castle on a Hill” and “Shape of You” were pre-released as singles. The album includes slow, heartwarming ballads such as “Perfect,” uplifting pop songs like the aforementioned singles, and even a meaningful tribute to Sheeran’s late grandmother, “Supermarket Flowers.” The singer/songwriter’s ability to venture into new styles is demonstrated on “Bibia Be Ye Ye.” The song was recorded in Ghana and some lyrics are in Twi, an offshoot of the Niger-Congo language. “Divide” displays Sheeran’s talent as a vocalist, musician, and lyricist without belonging to a single genre or conforming to the expected.
Sheeran’s success is largely linked to his profound, ingenious lyrics. Whether they are about love in “What Do I Know?” (“Love could change the world in a moment, but what do I know?”) or “Eraser,” which chronicles Sheeran’s struggles with fame (“I used to think that nothing could be better than touring the world with my songs. I chased the picture-perfect life; I think they painted it wrong. I think that money is the root of all evil, and fame is hell”), Sheeran reaches deep into the souls of his audience.
“Nancy Mulligan” is inspired by the story of Sheeran’s grandparents’ relationship, “Castle on the Hill” reminisces on his childhood in Framlingham, Suffolk, and “Eraser” discusses Sheeran’s growth from small-town choir member to worldwide phenomenon. It is impossible for a single artist to appeal to every single listener, however, Sheeran is certainly able to captivate many.
As a steadfast fan, I eagerly awaited the arrival of Sheeran’s most recent album. His work has always impressed me with its genuine expression, and I knew “Divide” would not be any different. Every song, regardless of style or concept, is new and a change from the mundane pop and electronic music played non-stop on the radio. In my opinion, “What Do I Know?” and the heartfelt ballad “Happier” best encapsulate the characteristics that have become essential to Sheeran’s music.
“Divide” proves once again that Ed Sheeran is a musical force to be reckoned with. The excellence displayed in this album leaves only one question: How will he manage to top this?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.