Review: Ed Sheeran’s new album fails to meet already nonexistent expectations

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Amanda Hare

A digitally constructed image made on Canva introduces a review over Ed Sheeran’s new album by seniors Amanda Hare, Caleb Audia and Gabriella Winans. The album released Friday, Oct. 29. “I had no expectations for the album, and it still didn’t meet them,” Hare said in the review. “It couldn’t be more underwhelming than it is, even if we just took out production overall.”

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You shouldn’t listen to this album. I’m going to start this off by saying it and saving you the 49 minutes you would waste listening to it.

Ed Sheeran released his fifth studio album, “=,” or “Equals,” Friday, Oct. 29. The album features 14 songs with two singles, “Bad Habits” and “Shivers” released beforehand. This album debuts two years after his last album, “No. 6 Collaborations Project.”

Sheeran tested positive for COVID-19 Sunday, Oct. 24, and cancelled his upcoming in-person performances.

I had no expectations for the album, and it still didn’t meet them. It couldn’t be more underwhelming than it is, even if we just took out production overall. Sheeran’s voice frankly does not fit the sound of the album. It’s too smooth, not matching up to the production – despite how underwhelming it was. I didn’t review all of the songs, but if you want more specifics, continue reading. But, if that’s all you need to hear, by all means, exit this article and go listen to Conan Gray’s new song “Telepath.”

“Tides”

Why call this song “Tides” when we can just call it “Rip-Off Castle on the Hill?” That’s all it felt like to me – besides the fact that I also thought it sounded like a horrible attempt for worship music.

Not only is the song well-below a decent attempt at an introduction, but the fact that this track then moves the listener to the next song, “Shivers,” makes “Tides” feel even more misplaced.

“Shivers”

Average. Underwhelming. Annoying. Do I even need to go on? The fact that this was released as a single baffles me, as usually artists release their best songs as singles, but there’s no way “Shivers,” or even “Bad Habits,” were the best of the album.

The mix between guitar-ballad like production and techno-beats does not blend well together, and doesn’t match the lyrics or the vocals either.

As for the music video, I can kind of see what he was going for, but it really just gave off bad-Lady Gaga-impersonator vibes. I’m not really sure what was going on in the video, but it definitely didn’t match the bland song.

“First Times”

Sheeran was definitely attempting something here, but he missed the mark by miles. Not only was it forgettable, but he also tried to sing too high at some points, so his voice got whispery. The only redeeming part of the song were the violins, because I love violins.

The production was definitely the best aspect of this track. But, even then, it gets repetitive and annoying after a while. Just like “Tides,” this track seems misplaced coming from the upbeat “Shivers.” While the lyrics are quite relatable, and are of high quality and emotional connections, specific moments of the song just seem too far-stretched in his vocal abilities.

“Bad Habits”

This song is already way too overplayed. It feels misplaced coming after “First Times,” and I have doubts it should have been released as a single, rather than the typical song in the middle of an album that you forget about. The music video for this was also extremely weird, and, for me, had no point to it, as it didn’t relate to the song at all.

“Overpass Graffiti”

I actually might have to consider this one of the best of the album – which I guarantee is not a compliment – as it had an almost-good beat. After listening to this track, you can’t help but feel like this was a “The Weeknd” track, mixed with more 80s-style aspects. The track, however, is ruined by the merely disappointing, and creepy, music video. It looked like a nature documentary. It just didn’t make sense to me.

“The Joker and The Queen”

This track is probably one of the worst ballads I’ve ever heard. To be honest, this track tries to mix in Adele-like vocals, Sia-like songwriting progressions and Kanye-like weirdness. It is not a good match, especially for an adult male in a pop album. In my opinion, Sheeran strains his vocals on this track trying to fit an emotional appeal when tied in with the songwriting, and it ends up just being a mess.

“Collide”

The beat had potential to be good, but for some reason, it just was not. A mix of tropical sounds, hip-hop beats, and backing synths, the production has a lot of potential. The track reminded me of a Killers song, but then again, Ed Sheeran’s vocals didn’t match up with the energy.

“2Step”

This song had potential to be good, if it was sang by another artist. The tone quite frankly doesn’t fit Sheeran’s voice, but the overall lyrics of the song, if sang by someone else, I could see being a popular song.

“Sandman”

The whole song sounds like a kids jingle and it’s incredibly odd. Definitely not a fan of this one, and, as per the theme, it was boring. If you are the type of person who likes tracks like these, you’d be much better listening to recent tracks by “The Tones & I,” because Ed Sheeran’s take on this song type is embarrassingly awkward to listen to. After finishing the track, I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance to the game “Hay Day.”

“Be Right Now”

The beat definitely tried to serve something, however it served absolutely nothing. The production not only felt off, but it also completely overpowered his voice. The background distortion on his vocals accompanied the beat nicely too, but it felt overly repetitive. The deep piano didn’t match his vocals either, but the overall vibe of the song wasn’t the worst on the album. The lyrics are pretty relatable and deep, but once again, the match between his vocals and the production were not good.

Final Opinions

Overall the album was underwhelming, boring and forgettable. I will never listen to it again, nor remember these songs minutes after writing this.

Sheeran’s biggest downfall is that his voice just doesn’t fit pop. It sounded much better with his earlier music like “Photograph.” However, it just doesn’t fit this kind of production. I think this is why the whole album came out underwhelming: his vocals just don’t match the already-lackluster production.

His music videos also had the worst vibe. I know he was trying to go for the unique style that’s growing more popular these days, but he completely missed the mark, just giving off “The Weeknd” vibes with most of the videos. It just ended up chaotic – in a bad way – and some of them were even so weird that it made me uncomfortable.

Another big thing I noticed is that most of the songs sounded similar to either “Shape of You” or “Castle on the Hill,” almost as if he was trying to replicate their success. Most of the tracks seemed like they were copying either song, and it definitely did not work.

If you’ve somehow made it all the way to the end of this album review, please just take our advice and not listen to the album. It’s not worth your time or money.

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