Album Review: Ed Sheeran ‘+’

Ed Sheeran has taken the charts by storm this year, with a fan base who have been established since 2005. In the lead-up to Ed’s album release, the Guardian review compared a track on ‘+’ to the “grisly” Match.com adverts. Ed’s army of fans rushed to Twitter to defend him and the journalist involved with the review even made contact with Ed directly to acknowledge the overwhelming support that Sheeran has amassed  (see here). Read on to see if I agree with what he said…

After watching Ed perform live earlier this year (see here for my review), I was extremely anxious to hear this album.

It’s fair to say to Ed Sheeran has been something of a revelation in 2011, after his track ‘The A Team’ was featured on Radio 1’s Record of The Week in April. After being released in June, the unlikely single that tells the story of a heroin-addicted prostitute has stayed in the top 40, and has already become a recognisable anthem for the year.

Sheeran’s success seems to been the product of his considerable talent, an incredible drive to succeed, and impeccable timing. At a time when the vast majority of the charts are populated by vacuous dance tracks and posturing hip-hop, his songs certainly stand out.

Back in 2002, Ed was taken to see Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice play an intimate fan club gig (he was just 11 at the time), then happened to meet the singer and his band in a bar after the show.

“I had a little bit of a chat and kind of had an epiphany, like ’Wow, this is exactly what I want to do!’ I got home that night and wrote a whole bunch of songs. I remember one was called ’Typical Average Teen’. Yeah, I was one of those.”

After releasing a string of EPs, Ed toured extensively (in the last 12 months he has chalked up an incredible 300 gigs), and in 2010 headed to LA and entered an open mic night. One gig led to another before being invited to perform at Jamie Foxx’s Foxxhole night. Following this, Foxx allowed him free reign of his mansion and personal recording studio. Ed signed with Atlantic records earlier in 2011, and is now looked-after by Elton John’s management company. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Ed admits:

“Elton walked in and said, ’Where’s Ed Sheeran?’ I was I like, ’Fucking hell! He knows my name!’ Its surreal, growing up listening to his music and now he is one of the people who sings my praises and helps my career and rings me up and actually has an interest in me.”

Damien Rice’s influence is peppered throughout ‘+’, as Sheeran enters full troubadour mode in tracks like ‘This’, ‘Autumn Leaves’, ‘Sunburn’, and the heartfelt ‘Kiss Me’.

Elsewhere, Sheeran’s hip-hop influences help raise the pace, and he shifts into half-singing/rapping during ‘U.N.I’ and second single ‘You Need Me I Don’t Need You’.

“I’m real, I do it all, it’s all me

I’m not fake don’t ever call me lazy 

I won’t stay put, gimme the chance to be free

Suffolk sadly seemed to sort-of suffocate me”

‘+’ will surely do brilliantly when it charts this Sunday, and as I type it is occupying the #1 and 2 spots in the iTunes album chart. However, the simple truth is that the earlier EP-versions of many of these tracks are much, much better. Don’t believe me? Listen to ‘The City’ on Ed’s ‘Loose Change’ EP, before contrasting it with the ‘+’ version.

In producing his first full album, all the creativity and energy that Ed exudes during his live performances feel constrained, in favour of an ‘if it works, do more of it’ attitude. I was hoping to hear more along the lines of ‘You Need Me..’, not 6-7 attempts at replicating‘The A Team’. Hopefully Album #2 will arrive in 2012 and propel Ed to the kind of dizzy heights he surely deserves.

If you don’t buy the album, download Lego House, Small Bump, You Need Me I Don’t Need You.

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