Pop powerhouse Ed Sheeran has enjoyed a triumphant return with his third album ÷ (Divide) after a year’s break from social media and life in the limelight.
The hiatus seems to have served Sheeran well, with Divide breaking all kinds of different records.
And you will have had to be living under some kind of igneous formation to have not heard at least one of the 16 new tracks (on the deluxe version) which have been occupying numerous spots in the charts.
Divide opens with ‘Eraser’ and Sheeran rapping about money being ‘the root of all evil’ and what sounds like him explaining his hiatus and what makes him uncomfortable about the industry he’s in.
It sets up the album well, but whether a good thing or not, this is the one of the few instances of rapping.
Next up ‘Castle on the Hill’ is a particular highlight, as one of the first two singles released from the album, which tells a story about Sheeran’s upbringing in the Suffolk countryside.
This is when he is at his best, drawing on his own experiences which he is clearly very sentimental about.
As a side note - this track sounds almost identical to the kind of storytelling ballad which Deaf Havana, from nearby Norfolk, also do very well.
‘Shape of You’, which has now spent 10 weeks at number one in the UK charts, is one of the catchiest offerings and I can only assume has been stuck in the nation’s minds for pretty much that whole time.
This is without doubt one of the most memorable pieces on the album and an example of Sheeran’s genre diversity.
The album itself explores a variety of tempos, moods and themes, emphasising his undoubtable talent for songwriting.
And although I can’t find a fault with ballads like Dive, Happier and How Would You Feel (Paean), let’s just say I prefer his more up-beat tracks.
While I’m sure many wedding parties are already planning for Perfect and Hearts Don’t Break Around Here to appear on their playlists, they can feel a little repetitive.
When it comes to Galway Girl, Nancy Mulligan and What Do I Know? (where Sheeran points to changes he’d like to see in the world), this is the performer I - and clearly many thousands more - would pay to see.
His Irish roots are brought to life, just in time for St Patrick’s Day, in Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan, and it works well.
I heard rumours that his management weren’t sure about Galway Girl before it was released, but for me, it is one of Sheeran’s best songs of his career, and it suits his voice incredibly.
And the genre-hopping doesn’t stop here.
Supermarket Flowers hits you right in the heart, from his mother’s point of view after the death of his grandmother, describing her as an ‘angel’, and back at his storytelling which he does so well.
But there’s barely any time to wipe your tears from your chin before you’ll be up dancing to Barcelona and Bibia Be Ye Ye.
Maybe this was the intention, to pick the mood up again as a climax before the finale, but it is rather abrupt.
Divide might be what some would describe as “inoffensive” music, but it is punchy, emotional and memorable in many instances.
Sheeran has smashed a smattering of records with his third album, and I’m sure whatever he offers next (called ‘Minus’, I’m assuming?) will be no different.
The pop king’s crown is certainly not going anywhere soon.