Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran: Divide and conquer

Ed Sheeran | ÷

Blame Michael Jackson. With ‘Thriller’ he created the ultimate crossover album, its something-for-everyone approach – the R&B of ‘PYT’, the rock of ‘Beat It’, the adult contemporary schmaltz of ‘The Girl Is Mine’ – helping seven of the nine tracks reach the US Top 10.

Over 30 years later, in an increasingly fractured music scene, pop stars are finding the approach more essential than ever. Why else would Beyonce put a country song on ‘Lemonade’? Or Ed Sheeran shift from hip-hop folk (‘Eraser’) to rousing AOR singalong (‘Castle On The Hill’) to blue-eyed soul (‘Dive’) to gyrating club anthem (‘Shape Of You’) to smooth piano-and-acoustic-guitar ballad (‘Perfect’) to Irish jig (‘Galway Girl’) to classic ‘70s singer-songwriter confessional complete with gospel backing vocals (‘Happier’) on ‘÷’?

It’s certainly paid off. Nine songs from the LP entered the UK Top 10 simultaneously; all 16 landed in the Top 20. But such success can’t just be down to umpteen board meetings, consumer surveys, and compilation by committee. Sheeran and his collaborators – Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid, Perry/Bieber/Rihanna hitmaker Benny Blanco, One Republic’s Ryan Tedder, Foy Vance, et al – know how to create irresistible melodies and instantly memorable lyrics, no matter the genre. Listen to any of the tracks just once and it’s guaranteed to be lodged in your head – at least until the next one ends. It’s the Rag’n’Bone Man ‘Human’ effect, but Sheeran’s no one-hit wonder – he repeats the feat over and over and over again.

The effect’s so intoxicating that you’ll think nothing of listening to a fiddle solo – repeatedly. You’ll probably even catch yourself humming along.

  • Ed Sheeran plays The O2 on 1 & 2 May and 22 June 2017.
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