Sheeran revives originality with ‘Divide’

Sheeran revives originality with ‘Divide’

Jamie Glenn

Ed Sheeran has taken the music scene by storm with his latest album “Divide.” Writing songs mostly for other artists like One Direction, The Weeknd and Justin Bieber has made it time for Sheeran to use his creative freedom and make another album of his own.

In his third studio album titled “Divide,” he reflects on the importance of family, his disregard for fame and the evolution of his most recent relationship. Sheeran shut the world away after the success of sophomore album “X” in 2014. He returns after over a year of silence to mix and match tones that popularize the sounds of his Irish heritage.

He is sure not to fall flat by offering thought-out and precise lyrics for listeners. It’s in this third album he best interweaves his unique formula of quick-witted lyricism, fast acoustic strum and a steady loop pedal, leaving listeners with a romantic tone that lingers.

In 16 songs this UK native echoes the importance of character-driven narrative and storytelling in songwriting. This formula has always been unique but may stick out now more than ever in a music scene overflowing with sounds of electronic dance music and rap. It’s good to see the world still has room for Sheeran’s musicality.

Tracks like “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here,” “How Would You Feel,” “Drive” and “Happier” are songs that remind listeners that Sheeran can master a romantic tune much like the sounds previously heard on “X.”

It’s tracks like “What Do I Know?” and “Save Myself” where we hear a much deeper effort, in which Sheeran reflects on the meaning of life, politics and the importance of self-love. Listeners may put this record on when looking for 2 a.m songs that are deeper, philosophical and somber. The album overall is slow-burning and might just withstand the test of time.

Sheeran recalls sounds from his earlier days with faster romance songs like “Galway Girl.” The track gives its own bright, new folk twist to an old Irish favorite that has been covered by a number of grassroots folk artists.

“Eraser” is a catchy rap-esque style song much like sounds heard on an earlier album titled “5.” “New Man,” a track of similar style, is the ultimate burn thrown at an old love. This group of songs are quick-witted and offer loops that are left to linger in the ears of listeners.

With this album Sheeran states it’s all about where you come from, putting romance aside to stress the importance of family. “Nancy Mulligan” is a track that sounds as though we’re in an Irish pub and tells the story of an on-the-run, WW2-era couple who wed in borrowed clothes, chose to resist popular opinions, and continued to create a 60-year journey in Belfast. This track is a beautiful narrative of the decades leading up to the inspirations that now influence Sheeran.

With this song one might find themselves lost in the sounds of more dominant lyrics on the record, but it should not go unheard in the midst of more popular tracks like “Shape of You” or “Castle on the Hill.”

Another graceful bow to family can be heard in the track “Supermarket Flowers,” a song commemorating Sheeran’s late grandmother. It’s clear Sheeran took some time before constructing this record to decide what message he felt was most important to convey. It’s in these more bareboned songs of personal reflection that we hear his true value of family.

Though much of this album flows together as a strong collective story, the island sound of “Barcelona” along with the glazed ramblings of “Bibia Be Ye Ye” are a bit off-kilter and don’t seem to fit on “Divide.”

Regardless, a majority of the tracks on this album can be enjoyed no matter one’s mood or life chapter. It offers a unique experience and shows a tremendous amount of growth for Sheeran as an artist, but doesn’t leave behind the characteristics that make him unique and enjoyable as
an entertainer.

“Divide” is a strong turning point for Sheeran and will leave fans, both new and old, spinning this record for years to come.