By Briana Fields
After a yearlong hiatus from new music and all social media, Ed Sheeran is coming back strong in 2017. When he announced on January 1 that new music would be coming five days later, many fans and media outlets assumed a full album would be released – probably because that’s what we’re now prone to expecting, thanks to the rising popularity of Beyoncé-style surprise drops. Instead, Ed dropped two singles both belonging to the track list of his upcoming album, ÷ (Divide), which follows the mathematical trend of his last two albums, + (Plus) and × (Multiply).
First up was “Shape of You,” which proves that even on a typical upbeat pop track, Ed Sheeran has serious lyrical chops. Right from the opening beat and its accompanying lyric, “The club isn’t the best place to find a lover / so the bar is where I go,” Sheeran and his cowriters Steve McCutchon and Johnny McDaid, along with producer Steve Mac, create a song that hooks listeners whether they like it or not. The song functions well as a hypnotic dance-pop track that’s similar to music from artists like Drake and Rihanna, but with a lyrical spin that’s more typical of Ed. Whether you’re just listening to the repetitive beat or taking in the “boy meets girl” love story of the lyrics as well, the song is thoroughly enjoyable. I wouldn’t be surprised if a remix of “Shape of You” takes off and becomes popular among DJs at the local bars in the next few months.
The second song released was “Castle on the Hill,” which feels like nostalgia in a bottle. With heartfelt lyrics about childhood friends, memories, and returning home, this one feels extra personal. Some writers stay vague when they want to evoke nostalgia–they think it’ll help everyone relate easier, but often it just leads to the words feeling meaningless. Ed Sheeran takes the opposite approach and listeners are rewarded with specific details of how he and his friends spent their time growing up and how those friends’ lives have turned out. Whether the details are real or fictional doesn’t matter–they’ll still make anyone want to call up an old friend or first love. The official music video for the track does the same as a young Ed look-alike explores the countryside with friends, dances, drinks and falls in love.
The two singles showcase two very different sides of Sheeran’s capabilities, and if they’re any indication the album, which officially drops on March 3, will be worth the wait.