Following the huge success of his debut album ‘+’, Ed Sheeran was under a lot of pressure to release another album as stunning and as creative as the first one. His career has escalated since it was released; supporting Taylor Swift on her global Red tour as well as co-writing and appearing on single ‘Everything Has Changed’; performing Grammy-nominated debut single ‘The A Team’ at the Grammy Awards with Sir Elton John and releasing ‘I See Fire’ for the soundtrack of ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’. To top the last two years off, he has finally got a number one single with x’s debut single ‘Sing’. Despite the pressure for ‘x’ to be a success, Ed has managed to write another album full of beautiful lyrics, great beats and easy listening.
Although ‘+’ was written maturely, Ed’s second offering shows how much his writing has evolved and how many creative influences have gone into it. Opening track ‘One’ is a love song, but unlike many love songs today, it is without cliché and is seen as a continuation of the love story told on +, with the song being written on a guitar made out of a whisky bottle whilst on tour two years ago. The acoustic guitar brings us comfortably back into the world of Sheeran and is similar to ‘Kiss Me’. ‘Tenerife Sea’ and ‘Photograph’ also have a similar acoustic feel, with Sheeran saying the latter is a ‘timeless ballad’ which was co-written with Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid and was said to be the song that would sell the album. With lyrics like ‘So you can keep me inside the pocket of your ripped jeans/Holding me close until our eyes meet you won’t ever be alone’, it’s understandable why Sheeran would make such a statement.
The album’s debut single ‘Sing’ shows how producers have influenced his sound. With man of the moment Pharrell Williams producing it, it has an early Justin Timberlake sound and almost goes against everything associated with Ed Sheeran. Yet Pharrell knows music gold when he hears it and the great riff and lyrics describe a night out in Vegas, so we know the fun loving Ed is still in there somewhere. ‘Sing’ shows that he has broken free of the genre he was in and is as diverse as musicians double his age.
Highlights on the album include the rather aggressive ‘Don’t’ which was rumoured to be written about supposed loves Taylor Swift and Ellie Goulding. It almost didn’t make the cut with fears of being too personal but the anger is refreshing for Sheeran and with the topic being a girl who cheated on him with a friend, it’s clear to say she got her comeuppance with great low blows like ‘I reckon she was only looking for a lover to burn’. The most heartfelt on the album is final track ‘Afire Love’, as it was written about Sheeran’s grandfather who suffered with Alzheimers and was completed at his funeral. It brought a tear to my eye upon hearing it, as you hear the heartbreak in his lyrics ‘My father told me son it’s not his fault he doesn’t know your face’.
‘X’ is a refreshing album as it shows how Sheeran’s heartbreak and personal life has affected his songwriting. I believe if his music is as great as his second album, his music will be embracing our ears for a long time yet.