- 22 Jan 15
Eamon Sweeney's review declared that the only way is up for the ginger hero.
Ed Sheeran appears to be partial to a bit of minimalism. His first album was called + and, now, his second lands, burdened only with the simple title X.
It fits. After all, Sheeran is also the only artist in recent times to have headlined multiple nights in the 02 armed with just an acoustic guitar, his songs and buckets full of charisma. Talk about travelling light...
And guess what? X proves that there is a lot more to Sheeran than cute and catchy songs like ‘The A Team’. Sure, there is plenty on offer here that fits that description – but there is a more serious lyrical style on display as well. In one of the album’s many highlights, the ginger cherub questions if he could lose it all to drink and spliff on ‘The Man’, successfully evoking a tender twist on Mike Skinner’s legendary hedonism. It is a theme to which he returns on ‘I’m A Mess’, which is carried by Sheeran’s extraordinary vocal performance.
Sheeran has an impressive back room team to call on, with Rick Rubin and Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol – who has co-writing credits on ’Nina’ and the highly impressive, stadium-friendly ‘Photograph’ – chipping in effectively. The omnipresent man with the Midas touch Pharrel Williams also pops up on the superb ‘Sing’, a great pop song on which Sheeran delivers his trademark falsetto to fine effect – and which gave him his first ever Australian No.1 as a single. ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is also a winner, a soul stirrer on which Sheeran delivers one of his most impressive vocal performances to date; in anticipation of his live shows, you just know that crowds will sing along to the gorgeous ‘One’ with gusto; and on ‘Bloodstream’ he fashions what may well be his best tune yet.
I’m not entirely convinced by the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, but for the most part, X is a major step forward for the Suffolk Irishman, revealing a complex character who is unafraid of confronting self-doubts. Ed Sheeran isn’t going anywhere soon – except up…