÷ (Divide), the third studio album from Ed Sheeran, was released on March 3, and is already on set to become the number 1 album in the country. The album is expected to be the fastest selling record of the year, with 232,000 copies already sold in its first 24 hours. The record had also already broken into the UK charts with its first two singles, “Castle On The Hill” and “Shape Of You”.
Conversely, the album has not been taken well by critics, with an average rating of 6.1, and Guardian Music even labeling the album “commercially calculated“. However, fans of the global pop icon have been taking to social media to show their appreciation for the “excellent” and “well thought out” record.
Ed Sheeran began the rollout for his ÷ album by releasing two singles at the same time, “Castle On The Hill” and “Shape Of You”, to massive commercial success. The musician, who took a one-year break before these new tracks, said that the double release was “because I was away for so long“.
As he released his two new singles (which have over 1 billion streams combined) fans took to Twitter to tweet #welcomebacked, as their excitement for new music.
Ed co-wrote “Shape Of You” with Johnny McDaid and Steve Mac, and the record sees Ed singing over a Marimba-fueled flow about a promising romance.
The song resuscitates his familiar and mesmerizing guitar looping, only this time, it’s introduced with light, trop-house flourishes, which seems inspired by the time he spent in West Africa during his year’s hiatus, while the lyrics, although as simple as they are on his other songs, are more explicitly sexual than anything else on the album.
Not unexpectedly, this single was initially intended for Rihanna, however, Sheeran ended up keeping it for himself, which was a wise move considering the amount of success the single has had globally.
For “Castle On The Hill”, Ed Sheeran worked with pop producing icon, Benny Blanco, who also worked with Ed for his 2014 single, “Don’t”. Where that tune served up a rhythmic flow, “Castle On The Hill” aims for something more distinguished: it’s a rising guitar track, with an Edgy-style and sentimental lyrics.
It also seems that “Perfect” has been a fan favorite, especially with his female audiences. For fans, it will definitely be up there on the first dance playlist (along with other Sheeran songs) at countless weddings. The song is a charming acknowledgment for his girlfriend that is, essentially, the singer trying to go one better than “Thinking Out Loud”.
It prospers with a less sentimental style of the slow-dance favorite, the song also reveals a bit about Sheeran as a knowledgeable business man, as he pushed back the release of Divide, so it could get its own space, away from the likes of The Weeknd and Bruno Mars, so songs like “Perfect” can get the recognition he wanted.
“Galway Girl” is a track with the most mixed views and opinions on the entire album, and it almost never made it on to the record. Ed, however, had to fight to keep it on the album.
It is a fun, foot-stomping single for anyone who has an Irish heritage; while his label may not think much of the Irish inspired song, it is already due to top the charts this week. Even though we are unsure who “Galway Girl” is, or even if she exists, it is a song that truly shows Sheeran’s love for the Irish culture.
Diehard Sheeran fans may live for the ballads, which he undoubtedly brings on this album, but for this listener, as it was on x and +, it is the bonus songs on the deluxe album, where Ed often outdoes himself. Furthermore, Ed Sheeran makes it clear that this album was not created to satisfy critics but it was written to gratify his fans, and to therefore be commercially successful.
Unquestionably, the album is on target to experience several weeks and months at the top of the album charts and singles charts. Divide is expectedly an astounding achievement for Ed Sheeran; this is a skillful, well-executed effort from one of the hardest-working men in music.
Ed Sheeran’s ÷ (Divide) is out now via Asylum Records/Atlantic Records, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Hiba Hassan