Ed Sheeran - “=” Album Review

Story posted November 4, 2021 in

After a long hiatus, Ed Sheeran is back with his new album “=,” his highly anticipated project that fans have long waited for.

This marks Sheeran’s fifth studio album. Born and raised in England, he is one of the world’s best-selling music artists. Over the last decade, his music has primarily emphasized acoustics and minimal production sounds in his songs.

“=” marks his most production heavy album yet. The album is sparse with his traditionally acoustic tunes and is dominated by upbeat pop songs that are akin to his previous album, “No. 6 Collaborations Project.”

The central theme to the album is all about love. Some of the songs surround Sheeran’s love for his wife, while others are about loves of the past and love of the simple moments in life.

“Tides,” the opening song to the album, is about how the drastic changes one goes through in life while discussing his step into fatherhood as the primary example.

Additionally, “Sandman,” coming later in the album, completely surrounds his love for his child and includes heavy ukulele instrumentals that give off a much more youthful tone than his other songs.

“First Times” is one of the few songs on the album that are a reminder of Sheeran’s roots. The beautiful melody of this song successfully pairs with the lyrics that surround his unrequited love for his wife.

“Shivers,” “Bad Habits,” and “Overpass Graffiti” all have heavy production with little to no acoustics. Of the three, “Bad Habits” is the only one not mainly about any kind of love. It instead discusses how wrong and impulsive decisions can ruin great moments, hinting at the use of alcohol.

The two slowest songs on the album are “The Joker and the Queen” and “Visiting Hours.” Both minimize the production element to the music and also have incredible meanings behind each one.

“The Joker and the Queen” is entirely piano and touches upon the importance of love persevering despite one’s faults and shortcomings. “Visiting Hours,” a much more melancholic song, is about someone significant to Sheeran who passed away and how he left a significant impact on his life in more ways than one.

“Leave Your Life,” “Collide,” and “2step” are all similar lyrically and instrumentally. “Collide” is much more lyrically detailed than the others, but they all surround his romantic love for a woman and how it should never be doubted. Each one is very upbeat and pop-sounding.

“Stop the Rain” focuses more on how perseverance is essential whatever life brings you to your knees and works to make everything difficult. The remaining songs, “Love in Slow Motion” and “Be Right Now,” both are more generally about life and appreciating even the small moments.

Overall, “=” fails to produce anything lyrically unique. Most of the songs surround his abundance of love with few songs with different meanings or distinctive stories behind it. In comparison with his previous albums, this album lacks in that department.

While this depends on an individual’s taste in music, Sheeran’s shift from acoustic to pop through this album is not to his advantage. He has the perfect voice for slower and more meaningful songs, as seen by the success of his songs “The A Team” and “Photograph.”

Sheeran simply sounds better when there is an emphasis on acoustics in his albums. This is why “First Times” is one of the better songs on the record. However, it is important for artists to explore new sounds and techniques. It allows listeners to appreciate the best of their work.

“=” is a great new pop album for listeners who prefer that genre. However, for long-time fans that admire his early albums, this new album may not be as impressive as expected.

Rating: 6/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Track: “First Times”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite: “Be Right Now”

Madison Imber is a second-year majoring in public relations. To contact her, email mbi5065@psu.edu.