June 20, 2014 11:15 am

Ed Sheeran: x – review

  • Share
  • Print
  • Clip
  • Gift Article
  • Comments
 

The scruff from Suffolk who hit the road with his acoustic guitar to build up a fan base the old-fashioned way now has a clutch of Brit awards and a US top five album to his name. Taylor Swift is a pal, Elton John offers career advice, Rick Rubin produces him and Pharrell Williams co-writes songs with him. Has it all gone to Ed Sheeran’s head?

The attempt to channel Justin Timberlake on the Pharrell-assisted “Sing” might suggest so – but actually the song turns out to be charming and unforced, a natural blend of Sheeran’s acoustic pop and Williams’ precisely syncopated funk. Elsewhere the boyish balladeer of old returns, bigger and slicker (Johnny McDaid of Snow Patrol’s co-writing fingerprints are all over “Photograph”) but without compromising Sheeran’s open manner. “Sorry for the honesty, but I had to get this off my chest,” he semi-raps in “The Man”, addressing an ex-girlfriend left behind by fame: the song’s sentiments are a peculiar mix of insecurity, arrogance and neediness, as ambivalent about celebrity as about the ex.

The Van Morrison-goes-Jack Johnson blandishments of “Thinking Out Loud” show how fame might yet bland out Sheeran, but “Don’t” is the antidote: an R&B hand-clapper about being cuckolded in a relationship with a fellow pop star (“Me and her, we make money the same way/Four cities, two planes, the same day”), catchy as anything but with a streak of steel.


Ed Sheeran

x

(Asylum Records)

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

  • Share
  • Print
  • Clip
  • Gift Article
  • Comments

Life & Arts on Twitter

More FT Twitter accounts