by / September 14th, 2011 /

Ed Sheeran – +

 3/5 Rating

(Atlantic)

He makes an unlikely pop star does Ed Sheeran. In an age where ‘real’ musicians are supposed to be fighting a losing battle to reality TV stars he has snuck his way into the mainstream. Much has been made of his appearance but in truth it’s his music that has made him such an odd guest at the chart party. Here was an artist who chose to do a cover of Jamie Woon doing a cover on his live TV debut, turned up to beatbox for cousin Laura at a State gig and took an eloquently empathetic song about the homeless into the top ten. As we said, an unlikely pop star.

It’s a shame then that + seems to settle so much for the centre ground. ‘The A Team’ is still a startling song and opens his debut in fine fashion, but you do get an awful lot of Sheeran alone with his guitar. unfortunately these are the less interesting moments, perfectly pleasant but drifting by on a wave of silky smooth vocals and often awkwardly adolescent lyrics, particularly when he tries to tackle emotional issues. ‘Small Bump’ is especially mawkish, a sickly sweet ode to an unborn child that would fail to strike a chord with even the most devoted parent.

“I’ll never be anything but a singer songwriter”, he claims at one point yet the truth is he can be so much more and it’s when he does that + really shines. The adventurous spirit of his Collaborations Project EP does rear its head on occasions and ‘Grade 8’ and ‘This City’ display a beat led swagger and semi-rapping style that suits him far better. His lyrics too are far more effective when he adds a bit of spice to the mix, it all coming together on the brilliant ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’. Here Sheeran really does have it all – a great song, great words (including an Irish approved Damien Rice reference) and the feeling that, when he cuts loose, Ed Sheeran deserves all he has achieved and more. The frustrating thing is that + only offers glimpses of what he can do, but they are there (closer ‘Give Me Love’ finally offers the drama that is missing elsewhere). Now he needs to go on and build from this solid start. That he will is most likely.

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  • Eilismwalsh

    I actually think Small Bump is a good song and Ed is very interesting. The fact he does have songs purely on guitar IS interesting. Some of the points you’ve made aren’t true.

  • Kevin

    “He makes an unlikely pop star does Ed Sheeran. In an age where ‘real’ musicians are supposed to be fighting a losing battle to reality TV stars he has snuck his way into the mainstream.”

    This is a really tired view of pop music at the moment. It’s not really the case either – reality shows are hugely popular, but the acts rarely make too much of a splash thereafter. Granted, Girls Aloud, Will Young, Alexandra Burke, Leona Lewis and a handful of others (JLS, Olly Murs) have made a big impact in the charts, but the vast majority of pop acts that dominate the mainstream did not come through the likes of these.

    For example, among the biggest sellers of the year so far are Adele, the Wanted, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Katy Perry, etc. – no reality stars in there.

    I understand the point you are trying to make that it is more difficult for so-called “real” musicians to make waves in the mainstream next to all the pop music out there, though I don’t think it’s fair to claim that reality tv shows are the problem.

    As for Ed Sheeran, he is largely uninspired from what I have heard. The music and lyrics sound hugely similar to Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, which is a real shame because he is obviously quite talented – the videos of him rapping, covering Jamie Woon, etc. are proof of this. Perhaps if the album is as successful as that horrendous “A Team” song, he might return with a more dynamic album that reflects his true talents, rather than more mediocre singer songwriter stuff.

  • Ollie

    He did not choose Wayfaring Stranger for Jools Holland. He was told to.

    What you have to appreciate with Ed is that he had bundles of talent. His live shows and reworking of tracks quite obviously prove this. I am a huge fan of his, and although the album was disappointing in parts to me, you cannot take anything away from him.

    If you think he is ‘talentless’ or just another ‘pop star’, go and see him live. You will not be disappointed.