Since getting my vinyl player at Christmas, there are times when I listen to a record and it sounds like it was made to be played on vinyl (Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die!). Here’s what I thought of Ed Sheeran’s Divide, on my first spin.
The Story of Ed and I
I’ve been a fan of Ed for years. I hate to use this stereotype but I was mostly there before everyone else. I first became aware of him in early 2011, shortly after the release of his No.5 Collaborations Project album – the first song I ever heard featuring him was “You”, a track he recorded with Wiley. It holds a special place in my heart, as will Ed, because it was around the same time I met Liam and happily ever after happened.
It was not long after that that he debuted the A Team to the mainstream, and the whole nation began to hold a special place in their hearts for him, too. I’ll never forget scrambling through YouTube in the early part of 2011 trying to piece together a playlist from scraps of him singing unreleased songs, covers, and silly medleys. By the time + came out and I’d graduated to my third year of university, I was already familiar with all of the songs but they still formed the soundtrack of my first year as a couple with Liam.
We were able to go and see him at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2012, and I’m so glad I did. I’ll probably never see him play live again. Since then, I’ve not been such an avid fan. I’ve purchased all of his records on the day they’ve released, granted – but to like an Ed Sheeran song now is just the done thing. I don’t need to shout about it.
The First Spin: Divide
Well, this was a bit of a mishap because I put my turntable on at the wrong speed rendering Ed’s voice demonic! My initial thought was that they’d sent the wrong vinyl inside the Ed Sheeran packaging and then d’oh! I remembered how vinyl players work. This was one of my favourite songs, and it felt more personal to Ed. I wrote that it felt like a mellowed out version of You Need Me, I Don’t Need You. Lyrics are very important to me in songs, and I took a specific note on my favourite one: “I chased the picture perfect life, I think they painted it wrong.”
Castle on the Hill
I don’t think I can shed any new light on this one, so lets move on swiftly to the songs that are new to us all!
My first note: “Ew, I would never call anyone baby.” Personal preference, I guess! I thought this song was kindof cheesy, perhaps the genre middle ages ladies up and down the country have come to hope for from Ed. Interestingly, my initial impression was also that it would sound better and suit a female singer – I wonder if it was ever written with someone else in mind?
Shape of You
You’ve all heard it, you all love it, I don’t really need to say anything here!
Well, at the start of this song I forced Liam to stop browsing on the kindle and listen exclusively to the music. I had heard this was supposed to be the new Thinking Out Loud. As such, it was traditional wedding fair. I thought this one sounded as though it was influenced heavily by the music of the 1950s, and then I started thinking about a potential music video with vintage cars. Hmmm. Anyway, all of the songs so far, bar Shape of You, have been quite slow. (Edited to add: I just had my second listen of this and I may have welled up a little at the final “I don’t deserve this, you look perfect tonight.”)
Well this certainly did divide us. I thought it was folksy, and more ‘true Ed’. I wrote that this is the sort of music he should release, rather than the songs the mass public want to hear. But Liam said “This is the worst Ed Sheeran song I’ve ever heard.” So I guess that’s pretty damning. The chant at the end was pretty horrible, atleast to my ears. (Edited to add: On second listen I really enjoyed this, and I stick by my original review!)
This was much more my jam. A sad love song. Yes, sad love songs are my jam. This is kindof hard to describe to someone outside of my own head, but it really touches me when lyrics touch upon being happy to let the person you love go because you know they’re not happy with you – I never knew that feeling until I loved Liam – mainly because before that I was a selfish teenager. One of my all time favourite lyrics is from Ed’s U.N.I – “But I know that god made another one of me to love you better than I ever will”.
This is my favourite. I tapped Liam immediately to listen as it sounded like old Ed. We chuckled childishly at the ‘bleached arsehole’ line, and laughed throughout. It sums up pretty much all young guys. I can see myself singing along to this in the car home from work, it feels like a revenge track.
Hearts Don’t Break Around Here
We smiled at eachother when we listened to this. Liam said “This is a nice song.” and it made me feel like cuddling up to him. I even made us listen to it twice. It gives you a warm, agreeable feeling, like you’re saying, “Yeah, I know what you mean Ed.” I like the references to flowers.
What Do I Know?
This was not what I was expecting from the song title, for some reason. I reckon it sounds like Elton John, with a hint of Justin Timberlake. I’m not gonna lie, I talked over a lot of this song, so I guess I didn’t enjoy it too much.
How Would You Feel?
I had heard this one before the album came out, so I zoned out a little. At this point some of the slower songs are feeling a little samey. During this song I couldn’t help but think about the fact they held a live album streaming party on radio 1 – that must have been a bit of a downer.
First thought, “Ew, day old tea.” I like this. I was struggling to work out whether he was describing a failed relationship or the death of a loved one, until it got more obvious in the chorus. I guess that’s the point – perhaps he wanted it to be ambiguous in the beginning as it’s a different subject for him but relatable for many people.
This sounds more like my kindof wedding song! It makes me want to bop my head. I also wrote: “Ooh, another language – cultured Ed!”. It really speaks to the forever feeling in my heart and stomach of wanting to be on a holiday – “I just want to be in Barcelona.”
Bibia Be Ye Ye
It sounds Hawaiian! At this point I realised the songs on the deluxe CD are the ones that sound most like Ed, so its a shame they wouldn’t come as standard. The rhythm of this song makes me think of my upcoming Floridian wedding.
Ed, why are you putting all the upbeat songs on the deluxe album?! Very celtic. I could take it or leave it.
Very depressing lyrics, and normally I like that, but there was nothing here that grabbed me and pulled me into it. My favourite line was “I’m not like my mum cause she’d just smile and I’m complaining in a song.”, I thought it was fun in an otherwise sad song. I thought it was Elton John inspired again. Oh, and the last line. Oh Ed. When it got to the last few lines I knew where he was going, I was begging him not to end on that cliched line but noooo – he did it. “And before I love someone else, I’ve got to love myself.”
On first listen, I felt most of the songs fell flat. My favourites were New Man, Eraser, Barcelona and Hearts Don’t Break Around Here. On my second listen I have been listening through Spotify rather than vinyl and sadly I think the album is not suited to vinyl at all. My second listen has been much more enjoyable, which leads me to believe the album will grow on me.
Perhaps what I liked most about Ed Sheeran back in the day was that he was an enigma – he hadn’t released an album, but I could piece together the scraps of one, and in parallel, him, online.
What did you think on your first listen of Divide? And your second? And third?!
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