Authenticity. It’s a word that is all too often published during the emergence of a new artist. The latest victim to encounter this outbreak of scrutiny is the russet locked, hoodie clad, boy about Suffolk; Ed Sheeran. Shielded by his 350,000+ Facebook followers and legions of teenage girls, Sheeran has certainly since signing to Atlantic earlier in the year. His first major-release single flew straight into the Top 3, but the mistaken overnight success has spent the past 6 years amassing fans as a result of out-of-rucksack, independent E.P’s and ceaseless touring.
Logically, Sheeran’s debut ‘+’ opens with single ‘A Team,’ a sensitive saga of addiction and prostitution. Sheeran’s vocals dart from folk huskiness to RnB runs, giving his at times acoustic; David Gray setup some added edge. ‘Drunk’ introduces Sheeran’s own brand of speak-singing, which impressively sets a foot-tapping rhythm over infectious layers of processed drumming. It’s one of the album’s better and more restrained tracks, minus the wailings of “All by myself...” that sail a little too close to Eric Carmen and Bridget Jones.
The self-proclaimed ode to failed university relationships ‘U.N.I’ adds 90’s white guy rapping and witty quips to Ed Sheeran’s bow, but it’s novelty wears as soon as ‘Grade 8’ begins. With lyrics like “Your mind is my new best friend... I’ll never let you down...” not even his lofty RnB guitaring and vocal ripples can rescue it from a dangerous trek into near-boyband territory. Although still undeniably melodic, Sheeran lyrically tends to sway between astute comparisons and an immature namedropping. The prime example being the ironically nonconformist single ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.’ With crammed lines like “use V05 for my ginger hair,” it highlights a lack of subtly and; grip of less being more. ‘Small Bump’ is the albums hidden heart. As a solo entity, it’s a truly moving and mature Damien Rice take on lost parenthood.
A blessed vocal ability and inarguably talented, it’s clear to anyone listening to ‘+’ that the British Bieber jibes are unfairly degrading, as are the obvious attacks on his presumably comfortable East Anglian upbringing. However, it’s also doubtful that older listeners won’t find fault that tales of ill-fated prostitutes and miscarriages are laced between 10 tracks that resemble a Hollyoaks synopsis. The album’s biggest deterrent is that Sheeran never tries, or simply doesn’t want to; make his listeners work a bit harder. His conversational style and clear cut cross-references will make some clap, but leave others cringing.
Whilst Ed may be a little too overenthusiastic for some palates, ‘+’ is the perfect fresher’s album and may we all salute him for doing his bit for gingers the world over.