Ed Sheeran “+”

12 Feb

When I was first deciding whether or not to do an experiment where I bought everything the billboard opposite my kitchen told me to, I figured I should see what a couple of the ads were and judge how realistic and indeed affordable the challenge would be. The ad that made me decide it was doable back in January last year was Tinie Tempah’s “Disc-overy,” but strangely enough there hasn’t been an album advertised since – until now.

After a couple of well received EP’s that got ‘those in the know’ dribbling with anticipation, Ed Sheeran’s full length debut “+” was released to much fanfare in September 2011. Having read about him on an almost daily basis in Metro each morning last summer, I was curious to hear if he would live up to the hype of being able to deliver a mix of troubadour-esque folk and grimy British hip hop that was worthy of this critical acclaim.

Based on that description, I was expecting something similar to early Plan B material (you remember, before he was good).

The first time I heard Ed Sheeran was actually seeing him live. Digital Spy had very kindly invited me to the BT Digital Music Awards 2011 and at the end of the ceremony he had played what seemed like a never ending rendition of “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” (turns out the recorded version is just as long and repetitive). Perhaps it was due to the copious amounts of champagne, wine and Jägerbombs I’d consumed throughout the evening, but I was impressed. Here we had a 20 year old with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and microphone, yet he was keeping a room full of drunken industry hangers-on such as myself positively enthralled with his half spoken, half sung lyrics of… well, doing exactly that.

Me arriving on the red carpet. None of the paparazzi seemed overly bothered, if I'm honest.

So, having been impressed by his live performance I put “+” on my Christmas wish-list and sure enough there it was waiting for me on Christmas morning. Having been given other essential albums by artists including Angels and Airwaves and New Found Glory that same day, I’ll admit I was in no rush to give Ed Sheeran the honour of gracing my iTunes library. However, when the billboard shortly changed over from Mont Blanc Legend to show his orange-tinted face I knew what I had to do.

Putting the CD into my laptop, iTunes describes it as “Indie Rock” so I was instantly excited. However, 5 seconds into “The A Team” (which I’d never previously heard) it was sounding worryingly folky and I felt compelled to change it to “Indie” at the very least, not ruling out the potential to soon label the album as “Folk.” Hey, iTunes once described Natasha Bedingfield as “Alternative/Punk” which, given my OCD, had to be changed immediately (I only know this because she was on a Radio One Live Lounge compilation I got given for Christmas by a family friend who assumed a teenage boy would like that sort of thing… she got lucky).

There is little to nothing “Indie Rock” about this song.

I first listened to the album on a weekday morning whilst getting ready for work and an important client meeting. Normally I would listen to something loud and/or energetic to get myself ready for the day ahead, so Sheeran’s bittersweet melodies and everyman lyrics came as quite a shock to the system. 5 tracks in and after hearing the softly sung line “I know you love Shrek cos we’ve watched it 12 times,” I had to take the CD out and instead listen to some Bring Me The Horizon to get ready for the day.

With such a false start to my relationship with the album, I was sure that this post would only be negative. However, at the time of writing it’s a wet, lazy Sunday morning, I’m drinking a cup of coffee whilst writing a blog post and the songs suddenly fit beautifully.

The A Team is instantly catchy and I daresay the subject of prostitution hasn’t been delivered so confidently and vividly through mainstream song since Arctic Monkeys’ “When The Sun Goes Down.” The introduction of a drum in “Drunk” brings some energy to Sheeran’s sound and combining this extra instrumentation with his confident sing/rap style help make “Lego House” and “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” album highlights.

Whilst I do like Sheeran’s rapping style, it does remind me of this TV ad.

That’s not to say “+” is consistently strong though. The aforementioned lyrics of “Wake Me Up” make me cringe every time and the “You and I ended at U.N.I.” chorus to the song “UNI” isn’t as clever as he appears to think. Other tracks such as “This” and “Small Bump” are also forgettable and dangerously close to James Blunt territory.

Finally, its worth mentioning the ridiculous hoops fans must jump through in order to access the bonus tracks promised when buying the Special Edition version of the album. Rather than simply including them on the CD, you must instead put it in your computer, go online and enter 8 personally identifiable details such as your name and address to unlock the bonus tracks. Quite how this makes the album a Special Edition that is sold for more than the regular version is beyond me, particularly as the bonus tracks could easily be disseminated via his official website or Facebook page. I suddenly felt massively guilty about insisting my mum bought me the Special Edition version for Christmas.

Whilst I wouldn’t buy tickets to his show or Like him on Facebook, I can’t deny that Ed Sheeran has some beautifully crafted songs that are perfectly suited to lazy weekends, bike rides in the summer or late night listening after a night out. The 16 year old me would have loved this and there’s certainly huge potential here from an artist who still isn’t even old enough to drink in America. Despite some misses, the are enough hits on Sheeran’s “+” to make this worth checking out.


2 Responses to “Ed Sheeran “+””

  1. Martyn February 13, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Nice blog William.

  2. Grace February 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Love Ed. Love the blog Bill. ❤

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