Ed Sheeran has limped back out into the public eye with another generic pop album in Equals, released on Oct. 29. Expectations were low for Sheeran, but he still failed to meet them.
Lyrically there isn’t much holding the album together. A lot of songs talk about Sheeran becoming a father and husband, but he doesn’t really have much to say beyond briefly mentioning these experiences. “Love in Slow Motion” is the “Thinking Out Loud” or “The A Team” song of this album. It’s that soft love song that Sheeran hopes will get played at high school dances as that year’s slow dance anthem.
On “Collide,” Sheeran churns out descriptive lyrics—ordering pizza on an airplane, going to an Irish bar in Rome—that give listeners a glimpse into Sheeran’s life. But these lyrics describe hyper-specific moments, not giving listeners much to relate to.
The first track, “Tides,” goes from lyrics about his daughter to a section where he talks about contemplating suicide. Although it can sometimes be cathartic for an artist and listener to have those feelings and thoughts put into song, dropping this subject matter randomly into the album and never returning to it again seems to trivialize those thoughts. If he gave this topic more focus than one verse, Sheeran might be able to do something powerful with these feelings. In its current form, the reference is in incredibly bad taste.
Notably, Sheeran seems to be moving away from acoustic songs on Equals. This has resulted in a shift toward producing generic pop. “Bad Habits” is so painfully unoriginal it’s hard to tell if Sheeran wrote it or asked an AI to create a pop song.
It’s not like there is no potential for these tracks. In Spotify’s storyline feature, Sheeran talks about how the song “Sandman” is based on a lullaby he sang for his daughter that he plays on a ukulele. Instead of opting for a more stripped-down version of the song, “Sandman” is overcrowded with pop instrumentals.
A more powerful and emotional version of this song would actually just be a recording of Sheeran playing this song to his daughter. Instead of trying to turn a lullaby into a pop song, he could have ended the album with a very personal moment dedicated to his daughter.
Sadly, Sheeran falls short of creativity or vulnerability on Equals.There is nothing special about Equals. While Sheeran somehow falls more in line with current pop music with Equals, the album will soon be forgotten.
Photo Courtesy of Asylum Records