By Kristen Cloyed, Entertainment Editor
Guitar in hand, Ed Sheeran has crossed the pond with a splash. The British singer-songwriter’s first major label endeavor, “+,” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Folk albums chart. “+” isn’t specifically folk, rock, pop or acoustic. Sheeran’s chameleon writing and performance style varies so greatly that it’s hard not to be impressed.
The album opens with its first single, “The A Team,” a forlorn tune about a young teen with a drug addiction. The heart-wrenching lyrics are matched with Sheeran’s steady strumming and gentle voice. The album picks up the pace with “Drunk,” a song with a pretty self-explanatory title. The pity party tune would be a little depressing if not for its hilarious music video of Sheeran clubbing with his cat.
“U.N.I.” starts out slow, until the second verse when Sheeran shows off his M.C. skills. The breakup ballad is spiked with quick wit and charm, something Sheeran displays throughout the album. The acoustic-driven “Grade 8” picks up the pace, but it slows again when Sheeran opts for the ivories on “Wake Me Up.” The love song is nearly a cappella, littered with the occasional piano chord.
“+” takes a serious tone with “Small Bump,” where Sheeran sings about the loss of an unborn child. The gloomy track is followed by “This,” a hushed tune about the thrill of a new relationship, and “The City,” a song about not having a place to call home.
Next up is “Lego House,” a song made popular by its music video, starring “Harry Potter” redhead Rupert Grint. The song is about building a future with someone, but the video pokes fun at Sheeran’s fiery coif and quick rise to fame. In the video, Grint spends his time stalking Sheeran, dressed in his clothes and messing with his things.
The best song on this album is “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.” Saturated with quick lyrics and even quicker snark, this tune epitomizes exactly what makes Sheeran’s music so unique. The song kicks off with a beat boxing loop as Sheeran sings about his newfound fame. The lyrics suggest Sheeran’s reluctance to succumb to pressure as he sings, “I won’t be a product of my genre / My mind will always be stronger than my songs are.” He also pokes fun at his ginger hair, living on his friend’s couch and selling self-made CDs to people on the streets.
The regular album wraps up with “Kiss Me” and “Give Me Love,” two slower love songs. The “+” deluxe version includes four additional tracks that are well worth the extra few dollars. “Autumn Leaves” and “Sunburn” are relaxed tunes, while “Little Bird” and “Gold Rush” are more upbeat.
If Sheeran had to be compared to other artists, it might be Jason Mraz, Damien Rice or James Blunt, but with a dash of R&B. Sheeran has definitely made his mark with “+.” The majority of this album is folk, but he clearly isn’t about to settle into one genre.