Well, after taking a year long hiatus from both music and social media in 2016 to travel and explore different parts of the world, Ed Sheeran is back with his third studio effort fittingly titled Divide (÷) which of course follows up his last two albums based on mathematical symbols titled Plus (+) and Multiply (X). Right after I kept hearing the news of Sheeran changing his social media accounts to the light blue color used on the cover of Divide (÷) and posting a video on New Year's Day of himself holding up a sheet of paper to the camera announcing that he was releasing new music, this album without a doubt became one of my most anticipated albums of 2017. However, while I did enjoy a good majority of this new record from Sheeran, there were certain spots in the track listing that made me feel a bit mixed and "divided" with the album as a whole, especially towards the end of it but we'll get to that a little later.
Now, I thought the beginning of this album was absolutely fabulous as it kicks off with the hard-hitting acoustic track titled "Eraser" which has Sheeran singing about the handling of fame and how it should always be fun when in actuality it has created a number of negatives and struggles throughout his life as he sings lines such as "I think that money is the root of evil and fame is hell/ Relationships and hearts you fixed, they break as well." Next came the U2-inspired song "Castle on the Hill" which in my opinion is by far the best song Sheeran has released in his career, therefore making it my favorite song on the entire record, as I love Sheeran's passionate and raspy vocal performance on the chorus of the song, as well as the lyrics which describe him yearning to go back to his hometown to see old friends and reminisce about his younger days. Other songs that were highlights to me on this album were the lead single and number one smash hit "Shape of You," "Perfect" (which is a sweet and touching orchestrated and guitar driven ballad intended for his girlfriend), and "Galway Girl" (that while sounds a little off-putting with Sheeran rapping the verses, works, as I love it's chorus and Irish pub sounds with fiddles being played in the background). Overall, the first six tracks on this record were great and gave me high hopes for the second batch of songs to close it out on a high note.
However, sadly that did not happen as tracks seven through nine were absolutely lackluster and weak, especially from a lyrical standpoint, as they seemed like they were put in the track listing for filler in my opinion. One example is the song titled "New Man," which I first thought was going to be Sheeran singing about how he changed throughout the year that he took off, which as a result has made him a new man or something along those lines. Instead, it is actually a tune in which he reconnects with an ex-lover after hearing about the struggles of a relationship she is in with another man who while well-fit and attractive, has flaws.
While I love its instrumental, The main problem I have with this song is how Sheeran states that he doesn't want to hear about his ex's new man, yet he mentions things that he knows about him such as when he sings "I heard he spent five hundred pounds on jeans/ Goes to the gym at least six times a week/ He's got his eyebrows plucked and his asshole bleached" and "Your new man rents a house in the 'burbs." To me, these lyrics just sound like they weren't put together that well and seem a bit creepy, especially since Sheeran knows that much about his ex's new guy. However, the lyric that made this song uncomfortable for me the most was when Sheeran sings "But still, I'm just keeping it real, still looking at your Instagram and I'll be creeping a little." What the hell Ed Sheeran? I know this song is centered around your ex wanting to end her relationship with this new man by having a fling with you, but these lyrics seem a bit unrealistic and couldn't you both just move on from each other and stop getting involved in both of your new lives?I think he was trying to produce another song along the lines of "Don't" from Multiply (X) but it didn't work as well this time around. Here are just a few other lyrical flaws on some of my other least favorites on this new record:
"Ain't nobody hurt you like I hurt you/ But ain't nobody love you like I do"- from "Happier"
Now I know that this song describes how Sheeran sees an ex-lover with another man who is making her feel happier than when she was with him, and while he is glad to see her happy, he admits that he was happier with her, wants her back, and we'll be there if her relationship with the other guy ends. Now, I understand that writing songs about maintaining feelings and affections for an ex can sometimes be meaningful, but at the end of the day, why can't Sheeran just move on from this girl and find someone else that will open up a new chapter in his life? Also, how can you say that you still show affection for this former lover of yours if you hurt her in the past which ended it between the two of you in the first place? You really think she would want to get back together with you when she knows what you did to her in the past? I don't know, this song just confused me and while it might be showing how Sheeran has become a new, changed man for this girl, I just think the lyrics in this song like this one make it seem a bit silly and implausible. But feel free to disagree, that's just what I think.
"Hands in your hair, fingers and thumbs baby"- from "Hearts Don't Break Around Here"
"Shakes my soul like a pot hole, every time"- from "Hearts Don't Break Around Here"
This song, while not unlistenable, is still a bland track that adds nothing new to the album with Sheeran singing about a girl he is in involved with and that they will never face heartbreak while their together. In addition, I think that the track's sound is very simple and doesn't bring anything thoughtful or creative to its instrumentation as is it is just centered around a simple acoustic guitar melody. To me it's your typical love song. However, these two lyrics in particular made me chuckle a bit and cringe therefore ruining my chances to try and like the song at all. Ed, when you say a line like "Hands in your hair" I think everyone knows what you mean when you say something like that. Adding the fingers and thumbs part just really made that lyric way more cheesy than it already was, not trying to personally offend you but c'mon. Also, I'm sorry but comparing how a girl makes you feel to a freaking pot hole, yeah that's not attractive or cute at all either. This song, along with "New Man" and "Happier" were just hard for me to sit through while listening to this record, but hey, every album has its flaws.
Thankfully, after these extremely mediocre songs in the middle, Sheeran ends the album on a high note with the track "Supermarket Flowers," which is an emotional tearjerker that is a tribute to his grandmother who passed away while Sheeran was recording this very album. I have to admit that I did shed a tear while listening to this song as it is carried by a beautiful piano melody and contains incredibly moving lyrics describing how he has dealt with the aftermath of his grandmother's death and how she is now finally home with God. As someone who recently lost a grandparent back in January, I related so much to this song and it made me remember the memories I had with my great-grandmother throughout my life. What makes this song so impactful the most is while hearing Sheeran perform this song, there are parts of the recording where it sounds like he is choking up while he's singing the verses and that really gets me since it shows how much emotion he has towards this tune and this saddening event that has happened in his life. A superb way to end the album Mr. Sheeran,well done!
As a whole, despite its few flaws that made me feel somewhat "divided" towards it from time to time, I thought "Divide" (÷) was a well-rounded album from Sheeran and a satisfying listen overall. I loved the different sounds that the songs contained as most of the tracks didn't feel similar from a sonical standpoint, and I appreciated the amount of ambition that Sheeran showed on this record as he strives to continue to be the "boy with a one-man show" who carries no college degree but wants to make an impact on the world with his music and personality. While I didn't think this album was a step up from Multiply (X), which is my favorite album in his discography, Sheeran is definitely showing improvement and developing his skills as a songwriter and vocalist on every album he has put out so far and I will for sure see myself coming back to this album throughout the year, no matter how "divided" I am about it.
Favorite tracks: "Castle on the Hill," "Eraser," "Shape of You," "Galway Girl," "Supermarket Flowers"
Least favorite tracks: "New Man," "Hearts Don't Break Around Here," "Happier"
Album rating: 3.5/5