This article was one I would've written weeks earlier, but there were more pressing matters to deal with. We have a new chart-topper, one that materialized weeks before. Ed Sheeran finally reached the top spot with one of two new singles released last month, that single being "The Shape Of You".
Sheeran's been one of the decade's biggest pop stars, racking up hits on both sides of the Atlantic. He achieved a true breakthrough with his X album, where he had a great run of singles. He grew as a musician, as well. His voice became more confident, and his range was markedly wider than on his + album. While nothing was as quietly devastating as "The A Team", Sheeran's star was never in doubt.
"The Shape Of You" is the relative jewel in the crown, but it's less compelling than his previous singles. The staccato music isn't as danceable as "Sing", but it's pleasant nonetheless. While he's able to make vocal harmonies like nobody's business, his voice isn't as blatantly impressive as on songs like "Sing". The music video is charming, which helps. Sheeran remains as likable as ever, but this song could've used more muscle.
Sadly, Sheeran continues the largely intact trend of first-time chart-toppers being weaker than previous singles and weak in general (the obvious exception being "Black Beatles"). Though, it must be said that this is Sheeran's first as an artist; as a writer, he already scored a chart-topper with "Love Yourself", which was a No. 1 for Justin Bieber (Sheeran also contributed backing vocals to the track). It's hard to think of what would come next. Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello (previously of Fifth Harmony) could get the top spot next with "Bad Things", but that song has none of the staying power that Fifth Harmony's best songs have. The contribution for the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever", wouldn't be the first chart-topper for either Taylor Swift or ZAYN, but it would be for the Fifty Shades franchise; while it's excellent, is it as outstanding as previous entries by Ellie Goulding and The Weeknd? If there's justice in the pop world, Alessia Cara's radio power ballad anthem "Scars To Your Beautiful" will take the top spot, and continue to show the world that the Canadian girl with the voice that channels Amy Winehouse and the force behind the hypnotic "Here" can take mainstream pop by storm as well.
Of course, releasing two singles at the same time is a good indicator that Sheeran will be releasing an album soon. What remains to be seen is how much of a reinvention we'll see. Sheeran is as versatile as any pop star today, proving that his songs can be equally compelling as haunting, Rick Rubin-helmed ballads and pummeling, drum-and-bass remixes. What will we see? Already, there's a fairly coy, playful pop number; and a nostalgic, rock-oriented number with "Castle On The Hill". Whatever the case, expect to see a lot of Ed Sheeran performances on TV sometime soon.