With songs about deteriorating relationships and unrequited love played to the tune of acoustic strums and bluesy vocals, Ed Sheeran’s latest album “x” is nothing listeners haven’t heard before.
“x” is the second studio album by the singer-songwriter and it’s filled with sappy generic love songs from front to back with minimal variation, continuing the same melancholy theme found on his previous album, “+.” From the very beginning, the album commits to the slow tempos and woeful lyricism that make Ed Sheeran the kind of artist he is.
Accompanied by acoustic guitar strums on the opening track, “One,” Sheeran sings, “All my senses come to life/ While I’m stumbling home as drunk as I/ Have ever been and I’ll never leave again/ ‘Cause you are the only one … Just promise me, you’ll always be a friend/ ‘Cause you are the only one.”
Sheeran explores the complexities of unrequited love in this slow ballad, and while he might not get the girl in the end, he hopes that she’ll “always be a friend.” Despite the raw emotion that is captured through the lyricism and composition of this song, it remains so stagnant that it’s hard to want to listen through to the end.
Sheeran touches on the theme of deteriorating relationships on the track “I’m a Mess,” as he sings, “I can’t shake this feeling now/ We’re going through the motions/ Hoping you’d stop/ And though I’ve only caused you pain, you know,/ But all of my words were always beloved.”
Once again, acoustic guitar is the prominent instrument on the track. However, the track makes use of steady drumming throughout to make the song a bit punchier than “One.” Still, “I’m a Mess” feels one dimensional and formulaic.
One of the highlights of the album is the upbeat, rap-like track “Don’t,” which serves as a break from the repetitiveness that fills the album. The song has been rumored to have been written about Sheeran’s former flame, Ellie Goulding. Although those rumors may never be clarified, it is clear that someone did Sheeran wrong and he isn’t afraid to show it as he sings, “I wasn’t looking for a promise or commitment/ But it was never just fun and I thought you were different/ This is not the way you realize what you wanted/ It’s a bit too much, too late if I’m honest.”
Despite the explicit songwriting, the biting song about an unfaithful love interest is upbeat and full of sass. It’s the kind of song that “x” could have used to avoid the repetitiveness that is found throughout the album.
While there are some more upbeat tracks on the album, such as “Don’t,” “Sing” and “Runaway,” they are scarce and awkwardly placed. More likely than not, fighting the urge to skip the song within the first minute of the majority of the tracks was a constant battle while listening to the album.
More than anything, the album lacks variability in rhythm and pace. The songs bleed into one another and ultimately make Sheeran’s latest musical effort a hard listen in one sitting.
With such a successful debut album under his belt, more musical maturity was expected with this album – something that would move past the mediocre and into something more evolved than “+.” Instead, we got “+’s” identical twin with a little less punch.
“x” is essentially no different than the other sappy love albums we’ve all heard before – guy gets his heart broken, guy doesn’t get the girl he wants, guy finds another girl to love and the process starts all over again. It is filled with so much sameness that it makes the album not worth the listen. Mainstream music doesn’t need anymore generically composed songs.
– Shelly Maldonado