Ed Sheeran: Equals review – no more Mr Wild Guy

Despite keeping one foot in the club-pop groove, commitment and maturity set the tone for settled-down Sheeran’s latest outing

Within his relentless upward trajectory, there has always been tension between Ed Sheeran, the relatable and heartfelt balladeer, and a friskier musician partial to late nights out. The more playful Sheeran is represented by just two songs on the fourth album in the mathematical series (+, x, ÷). Maintaining his toehold in club pop are singles Bad Habits and Shivers: two effective, flirty bops. Other busy tracks such as Collide and 2Step, meanwhile, foreground the garage rattle of Sheeran’s early “grindie” (grime+indie) inspirations.

But a happy marriage, fatherhood and the loss of an industry mentor (on Visiting Hours) mean that Equals tilts heavily into contentment and maturity, including an obligatory lullaby – Sandman – for his little one.

Nice Ed gains the upper hand, with a commensurate loss in musical interest. If you wanted to know what pop star high jinks Sheeran got up to after one of his record-breaking solo Wembley Stadium runs, a song called First Times tells you: he kicked back with his other half and a couple of beers. In among these songs of devotion is one stylistic swerve of note: Overpass Graffiti borrows some of the bittersweet American gleam of 80s Bruce Springsteen or Don Henley.

Watch a video for Shivers by Ed Sheeran.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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