Ed Sheeran
Grab your headphones, and have a listen. (Illustration by Rachel Glucksman, Rhode Island School of Design)
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Ed Sheeran

Each song has something to offer listeners — whether it be positive or negative.

As one of the most successful recording artists of the past decade, Ed Sheeran has become a household name. With his last album, “Divide,” having been released over two years ago, Ed Sheeran fans have been impatiently anticipating the artist’s latest work. Already No. 1 in the United States and several other countries, Ed Sheeran’s “No. 6 Collaborations Project” has splashed onto the music scene.

Each song on the album features a unique blend of artists that help to elevate and develop Sheeran’s personal sound. With everyone from Eminem to Justin Bieber as collaborators, the album pushes the boundaries of both Sheeran’s style and the audiences’ minds on musical collaboration.

In 2011, Sheeran produced “No. 5 Collaborations Project,” a similar album featuring only duets and collaborations. Back at it again, Ed Sheeran seems to be on his way to producing one of the most successful albums of the year.

Here is an analysis of the album’s songs:

“Beautiful People” feat. Khalid

As a solid introduction to the album, the song features a lot of the classic Ed Sheeran highlights accompanied by Khalid’s more chill sound. The song discusses the difficulties of changing as a result of fame, and the vulnerability in the lyrics make it stand out.

Khalid’s voice shines through a soft and steady beat complimented by Sheeran’s edgier, raw voice, creating a full sound.

“South of the Border” feat. Camila Cabello and Cardi B

Reminiscent of Ed Sheeran’s song “Barcelona,” “South of the Border” adds a Latin flavor to his more traditional folk-pop style. Clearly an influence from the Latin-pop catalog of Camila Cabello, the song is a fusion of the pair’s individual styles. The strong acoustic guitar helps the song fit in with Sheeran’s style, while the lyrics and beat match Cabello’s work.

As one of the most prominent female rappers, Cardi B is one of the most sought after collaborators. However, her rap verse on this track seems out of place in some ways. Although the quality of her verse is superior, it’s an awkward interruption to the narrative built between Sheeran and Cabello.

Cross Me” feat. Chance the Rapper and PnB Rock

Chicago is getting excited as their beloved Chance the Rapper teams up for another collaboration. With the success of “Coloring Book,” Chance is considered one of the most talented rappers of this generation. The vastly different styles of Chance and Sheeran come together to create an eccentric tune.

The complexly calm beat has Chance’s fingerprints all over it, and Sheeran adds his unique lyrical style. Although this song is likely to make you want to dance, it seems like it had more potential. Everyone on the track is immensely talented, but this song simply does not stand out next to some of the others on the album

“Take Me Back to London” feat. Stormzy

As a prominent UK rapper, Stormzy might be unfamiliar to many U.S. listeners. He has a strong, deep, British voice, and listeners are likely to fall in love with this 25-year-old. Building from the themes in “Beautiful People,” this song discusses homesickness, city pride and being away from home on tour.

With a strong beat and anxious melody, “Take Me Back to London” is perfect for parties and dancing. Interestingly, Ed Sheeran’s quick-paced lyrical rapping and aggressive style make this song truly stand out. Although he talks fast and features what many would consider quasi-rap in many of his other works, the song portrays Sheeran as a true rapper. The combination of voices lets each artist shine while still building a new collective sound.

Best Part of Me” feat. YEBBA

For fans of Sheeran’s more traditional love songs, “Best Part of Me” drips with his acoustic guitar and soft, echoing voice. The piano base and simple melody of the song suits the sappy, loving lyrics of the song. YEBBA’s voice complements Sheeran’s well, and the two make a traditional duet.

The song questions how someone could love another person who doesn’t love themself. With unvarnished lyrics that don’t hold back, any listeners that have felt insecure will be able to relate to this song. Although not the most ambitious collaboration on the album, it does provide solace to those who might be mourning for some of Ed Sheeran’s crooning love songs.

“I Don’t Care” feat. Justin Bieber

Building on the themes of other songs on this album, “I Don’t Care” seemingly gives an introvert’s perspective of the pop star lifestyle. Despite lyrics that convey difficulty and struggle, the song maintains an upbeat pop feel. There is a strong build throughout the song, so listeners are able to jam without getting bored by repetition.

Because Bieber and Sheeran have relatively similar styles, this song does not stand out as a radical cross-genre collaboration. The song does not necessarily compare to some of the others on the album, but it is an interesting mix of the two huge artists.

“Anti-Social” feat. Travis Scott

Although many of the songs take influences from popular rap music and modern beats, this song feels quintessentially 2019. Everything from the bridge to the beat drop reflects much of the current rap scene. Rap is meant for dancing, and this song is no exception.

Travis Scott’s unique sound gives the song more depth and makes it stand out on the album. The collaboration gives listeners a sound that they won’t find anywhere else on the radio.

“Remember the Name” feat. Eminem and 50 Cent

Some listeners would suggest that the best collaboration with this title was created in 2005, when Fort Minor, Mike Shiroda and Styles of Beyond teamed up. Not daunted by this precedent, the three modern artists knock this song out of the park. Eminem and 50 Cent set a high standard as two of the biggest rap icons in the last twenty years. The fact that Ed Sheeran can rap next to these two pillars of the rap industry showcases his genuine talent.

The artists on “Remember the Name” each provide a unique rap style. The desperation in Eminem’s voice complements 50 Cent’s smooth, calm style and Sheeran’s more lyrical vibe. The strong clapping beat and aggressive piano make this song a hand-waving rap anthem.

“Feels” feat. Young Thug and J Hus

Unfortunately, on any album, some songs are not going to be considered hits. With an overwhelmingly chill vibe, this track’s beat feels too “cookie-cutter” in relation to the other songs on the album.

What makes many of these songs so iconic is that each is unique to the styles of the collaborators. The song is relatively ordinary, and the specific styles of any of the artists don’t stand out. Almost any other current artists could be substituted into this song without a second thought.

“Put It All On Me” feat. Ella Mai

As a callback to Ed Sheeran’s style throughout “Divide,” “Put It All On Me” gives fans a taste of their favorite artist’s style in a developed way. Showcasing Sheeran’s strong falsetto voice, this song has some of the strongest vocals on the album.

Both artists contribute individually to the song, and Mai and Sheeran’s voices intertwine in several parts. Although the beat is not the strongest on the album, it’s still a fun summer song.

“Nothing on You” feat. Paulo Londras and Dave

Sheeran goes international with Argentinian rapper Paulo Londras and British rapper Dave. With lyrics in English and Spanish, the song is certainly distinguished. Although the song contains Londras’ killer verse in Spanish, it does not have the Latin influences of “South of the Border.”

The strong, clap-style rhythm and electronic beat drop make this song something you’ll want to bop your head to. Acting as puzzle pieces, each artist creates a unique verse that builds something even greater.

“I Don’t Want Your Money” feat. H.E.R

This track directly approaches the theme of fame and relationships . With some of the realest lyrics on the album, this song seems to be one of the most personal tracks.

The smooth electric guitar and light horn work together, and no genre perfectly fits this song. H.E.R’s voice travels back decades while still maintaining many elements of modern music.

“1000 Nights” feat. Meek Mill and A Boogie Wit da Hoodie

The collaborators on this song had a lot of potential, but it didn’t come together well. Each piece feels disconnected, and the changing beat is confusing. The disjointed nature between the verses and the chorus makes the song difficult to listen to.

“Way to Break Your Heart ” feat. Skrillex

Although many listeners have not heard from Skrillex since 2010, he is back with this Ed Sheeran collaboration. “Way to Break Your Heart” blends Sheeran’s sincere lyrics and Skrillex’s EDM influences. Skrillex’s influence elevates Sheeran’s existing style, making this song sound like many EDM remixes of popular songs.

Although Skrillex’s aggressive, dubstep style made him famous, this more subtle sound serves him well. The song could easily bring Skrillex into the forefront of music for a second time.

“BLOW” feat. Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars

In the first ten seconds of this song, fans will realize it is unlike anything they have heard from Sheeran, Stapleton or Mars before. In an inconceivable turn of events, a global pop star, a country cowboy and an R&B crooner teamed up to make the hardest rocking song of the decade.

The song is a true headbanger, featuring everything from emo screams to an epic guitar solo, bringing the perfect fire to finish out the album. Fans of 1970s and ’80s rock anthems will be pleased as a song like this makes its way back onto the charts. Each artist’s voice playing a critical role in this intriguing collaboration.

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