It was hinted with two singles. The Cheap Thrills-sounding Shape of You was Ed Sheeran’s contribution to the tropical club scene which has taken over the pop world, whilst Castle on the Hill was the singer-songwriter’s soulful ode to his childhood. It was this guitar-heavy track which was the most promising of the two – hinting at some strong development in The A Team singer’s style.
After all, there’s a sense of repetitiveness that comes with Sheeran’s music – and that’s not just the loop pedal. For fans who are in to the mellow tone of his music, then that’s understandable. Yet, with rumours that he’ll be playing the Sunday Glastonbury slot, there’s something disheartening about listening to one or two hours’ worth of soft guitar melodies. There needed to be more of a punch from Ed in his third album. Sadly, Divide failed to provide this.
It started on a powerful note, as well. Eraser‘s rapping (or ‘singing with a flow’) is an edgy beginning to the album, with gritty riffs alongside it. After Castle on the Hill, the album returns to the same-old, calm music we heard on the previous two albums. Granted, that is indeed Ed’s unique style, but there’s only a slight progression in this. To revert back to the above comment on live shows, louder, harsher songs are needed from Sheeran in the future.
There’s other singer-songwriters in the musical genre who can achieve this equilibrium between soul and calmness. James Bay’s consistent emotion on contrasting tracks such as Craving and Let it Go shows that even the stripped-back tracks can pack a punch – his debut album Chaos and the Calm striking a balance between the two tones. It’s something apparent in his live shows as well, keeping audience members attentive and excitable even in the quiet numbers. Unfortunately for Ed Sheeran, Divide only has around four songs packed with soul, otherwise it’s repetitive – and his 2014 V Festival performance wasn’t entirely memorable, in one’s own opinion.
In amongst the mellow tracks, there’s a song with the same melody in the chorus as Don’t You Remember by Adele (Dive), Thinking Out Loud versions three and four (Perfect and How Would You Feel?), and more marimba-style tracks (Barcelona and Bibia Be Ye Ye).
As well as the tropical vibes, there’s a bit of Irish undertones in two tracks on the album: Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan – the latter being about Sheeran’s grandparents (as mentioned in this article on The Irish Times). At this point, credit must be given to Ed for Galway Girl. The rapping keeps the tempo flowing in the verses, with bouncy, fluttering violins breathing life into the chorus. It’s this refreshing fire injected into this track which really should have made an appearance elsewhere on the album.
After a three-year wait between this album and the last, Divide may be exactly what fans were hoping for. However, with little progression and a return to calming melodies, those wanting a bit more soul will most likely be disappointed with Sheeran’s latest release.