Ed Sheeran's = - What You Need To Know
After the colossal success of ÷, Ed Sheeran has taken his time putting together a follow-up, but it finally arrives this week. Here is everything you need to know about =...
A little background?
After the staggering success of X, you could have forgiven Ed Sheeran for coasting a little on its follow-up ÷, but instead, he went harder. By the end of the tour in support of that album, he'd played 255 shows and grossed almost $776 million in receipts.
That made it the most successful tour of all time, beating U2, Guns N’ Roses, the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Roger Waters, AC/DC, Madonna and P!nk.
Touring in support of that album didn't wrap up until the end of August in 2019, by which time Sheeran had already put out a new LP of sorts, No. 6 Collaborations Project, his album of collaborations with the likes of Justin Bieber, Camila Cabello, Travis Scott, Eminem, 50 Cent, Cardi B, Paulo Londra, Young Thug, Skrillex, Bruno Mars, Stormzy, J Hus and Dave.
After completing his extensive touring commitments, Sheeran spent most of 2020 working on new material, taking some time out to co-write country music singer Kenny Chesney's single 'Tip of My Tongue'. He also welcomed his first child with wife Cherry Seaborn in August of that year.
Eventually, after sessions in London, Los Angeles and plenty at his vast estate in Suffolk, work on this new album was complete. Thus far, he's announced a casual 54 stadium shows in support of it. But there's always room for more...
Who's producing it?
As with all Sheeran's recent outings, the array of production and writing talent is extensive.
He's called back a few trusted collaborators, with Snow Patrol guitarist Johnny McDaid plays a key role once again, while veteran hitmaker Steve Mac and Sheeran favourites Amy Wadge and Foy Vance are all back.
Benny Blanco, who was on almost half of ÷, doesn't return, nor does OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, with new faces coming in.
Fred Gibson, better known as Fred Again, is all over the album and is named Executive Producer alongside Sheeran and McDaid.
Sheeran also turned to RØMANS, whose credits include AlunaGeorge and Disclosure, singer-songwriter Ben Kweller and Andrew Watt, who oversaw the majority of Elton John's recent output.
Any special guests?
Aside from the army of producers, there are a few select guests, Sheeran’s brother, Matthew, a composer, has contributed string arrangements to the album, while on 'Visiting Hours', a tribute Australian music promoter Michael Gudinski, a close friend of Sheeran's, Kylie Minogue and Cold Chisel mainman Jimmy Barnes provide backing vocals.
What does it sound like?
With every passing release, Sheeran seems to care less and less about pinning by genre. You've got the Weeknd esque throb of 'Bad Habits', you've got 'Collide', which is built around skittery beats and 'Stop The Rain', which could have easily been given to a rising boyband with its ginormous chorus.
'Tides' is Sheeran's attempt at Bruce Springsteen's esque power-pop, anchored around a driving riff and big drums, '2Step', with its hip-hop verses and angular acoustic strings, feels like a throwback to his earliest days and 'Love In Slow Motion' channels Mumford & Sons at their most arm aloft.
There are still some big ballads, 'First Times' could easily come to rival 'Thinking Out Loud' when couples come to choose their first dances, 'The Joker And The Queen' is a delicate piece, held up by his brother's string arrangements, while 'Visiting Hours', his tender tribute to Gudinski, is a top-notch tearjerker.
Does it deliver?
+ took him from pub rooms to arenas, X took him from arenas and into stadiums, ÷ took him into stadiums around the world and broke all records. What's left to achieve for Ed Sheeran with =? Well, does that matter? This is a diverse collection and one that will satisfy fans new and old. The relentless drive of the superstar singer-songwriter continues.