Let’s start with the basics. This is a pop album. An undeniably bland and derivative pop album. It has therefore been unbelievable the amount of positive press this album has received from alternative music fans, given the glaringly pop stylings of it. It is polished to the point that it is blinding. The songwriting is average and most closely resembles James Blunt’s efforts, as seen on the opening track The A-Team, which is the highlight of the album. Not entirely offensive but not having much to it, this meandering pop gem gives some hope to this otherwise worthless effort.
Perhaps the most concerning element of this whole endeavour is the thoughtlessness the lyrics show. They are just inane and many are so predictable that they could have been created by an online rhyming dictionary. By far the worst offender, Wake Me Up, has such ludicrous lyrics it could easily, very easily, slot into place amongst a Flight of the Conchords album. This is exacerbated by sections featuring the whitest rapping you have ever heard (in fact the total lack of rhythm probably wouldn’t even allow it to be classified as rap.)
It is not hard to see why this album appeals to girls aged between 10 and 16 and boys of a similar age who are desperately trying to impress said girls. It ticks all the boxes for a moderately pleasing pop record by a whiney English boy. Look no further though, because there is barely a fleeting glimpse of any more depth to this album than what would be put out from the winner of X Factor or Australia’s Got Talent!
To ensure we are not too harsh, there is that bare hint of a fleeting glimpse of something more. If you listen to his voice but ignore the lyrics, there are times when Sheeran could possibly approach a sound similar to Jason Mraz. If he were able to avoid the corporate, commercial trappings of predictability, there is a chance he could develop his songwriting to take better advantage of his voice. Unfortunately, having seen so many young artists in this position go the other way it looks like Ed Sheeran will forever be defined by this album of not-quite-as-well-written James Blunt songs.