x (pronounced: "multiply"), the new album by Ed Sheeran, is out now on Asylum Records and Atlantic. You can stream it above for free.
Ed Sheeran has had a busy couple of weeks leading up to the release of this album. He released five songs in five days last week and Zumic kept track of all of them. But the release date has finally come, and with a bunch tracks that we still haven't heard, x is essentially a full hour of pure gold.
Sheeran revealed earlier this month via Twitter that x would be void of all curse words after a cabbie convinced him to do so for his daughter. Don't let its cleanliness fool you, though. This album certainly showcases Sheeran's artistic growth.
x opens with Sheeran in his signature state: singing over an acoustic guitar. "One," a slow song about love "and where it goes wrong," seems like it would fit perfectly on his debut album, +. But things progress pretty quickly with the next two songs. "I'm A Mess" is still simply acoustic, but becomes more emotionally charged toward the end as a choir joins in. After a quick break from the norm with the Pharrell-produced "Sing," cool, bass-heavy songs like "Don't" and "Nina" prove that Sheeran still has a very colorful vocabulary even without all the swearing.
"Photograph," "Bloodstream," and "Tenerife Sea" all take us back to soft guitars and somber lyrics, while "Runaway" is more reminiscent of Sheeran's new sound. Then there's "The Man," on which we're treated to Sheeran's rap skills and a soulful chorus. The original version of x closes with two beautiful ballads, "Thinking Out Loud" and "Afire Love." Thankfully, however, the deluxe version features four additional songs, including "Take It Back," which is one my favorites, and "I See Fire" from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
In a Billboard interview Sheeran revealed that he worked with a worked with a few different people on x.
I recorded it about three different times with three different people; Then I picked the best songs. I did some with Rick Rubin. I did some with Jake [Gosling] who I did the first album with. And I did some with Pharrell.
Lyrically, the entire album acts as a sneak-peak into an emotional diary. Sheeran bares his soul in all of his songs, as evidenced in lines like "The irony is if my career and music didn't exist / In 6 years, yeah, you'd probably be my wife with a kid" and "Tell me that you turned down the man / Who asked for your hand / 'Cause you're waiting for me." Musically, x shows all of the risks that Sheeran has taken since +, as he experiments with more instruments and harmonies. Even with all of the risk-taking, however, he has never compromised the larger message and raw emotions which are ever-present in his work. Bravo, Ed Sheeran.