Music Review: Ed Sheeran's "=" Album

A while back, I wrote about Ed Sheeran’s single “Bad Habits” and how it debuts his new music era. So now that his = album has been out for some time, I want to come back to him and review his work.

I had suggested his new album will be electronic music since “Bad Habits” resembles techno. This was basically a guess, but I didn’t expect to get it right. Yet despite this new change in genre, there are echoes of his past self, which is symbolized in the equal sign for his music and life. 

“An equals symbol is the end of a question and start of an answer, it’s in the middle of the two. I definitely feel like being 30 I’m on either side.”

With that said, I’m no music critic, but I’ll be giving a short overview of how each song fits into Ed’s new era.

Ed Sheeran's New Album
Image Source: BBC

1. Tides

While I like the album, I have to ironically say that I didn’t like this first song. It gets better after the first listen, but it’s cringe because of its passive structure. For example, he says, “I have grown” instead of “I grew up" in the first lyric: “I have grown up I am a father now.”

Luckily, this mostly happens in the beginning, but it's a beginning that makes me halt and skip the song I was unfair to it a couple of times with wanting to remain with my first impression since I didn’t want to hear it again.

There’s also one sound, the beat of drums, that is repeatedly heard from beginning to end, making it feel like an annoying sibling poking you over and over again. However, when you accept it as it is the beat becomes danceable, but with the lyrics, that’s a hard desire to have. In other words, this song is raw of New Ed. But it’s a song that gives an overview of the album and his life.

The song explains the many changes he experienced, communicating what he’s going to sing in the following songs. But fair warning, a majority of his songs explain the different stages his marriage went through during the last four years, making the album centered focused on his relationship with Cherry. But don’t worry, he wrote “Shivers” for his fans, making the song come from Old Ed.

2. Shivers 

This is a song that I love dancing to, but it’s both a sexual and romantic song that’s the new “Shape of You.” So while he’s experimenting in the dance genre, this is a song that resembles his old self with his clever lyrics.

But compared to “Tides,” this song is more attractive to dance to because of its sound variety. However, this is the one song he specifically wrote for his fans and the radio, since he believes a song has a longer shelf life if it’s on the radio.

And while he wanted to do this, he still ticked off the box that he wrote something specifically for his fans and the public to enjoy.

song first times lyrics
image source: youtube

3. First Times

Like “Tides,” I didn’t like this song very much, but it's more tolerable. This song is the first to have a guitar and is dedicated to the lifetime of firsts that Ed and Cherry will share as a married couple, making this song a wedding or honeymoon song.

Because of this, the song has personal lyrics of their time together. While their simple and thoughtful words reveal their intimacy, it makes it sound like Old Ed.

Ed sheeran's bad habits
image source: youtube

4. Bad Habits 

A song I always love dancing to, but it's also a song that's self-explanatory about Ed breaking his bad habits. Aside from this, this is the song that debuted Ed’s new music era.

Image Source: IMDb

5. Overpass Graffiti

This song has sentimental lyrics and dance tunes that can be felt most strongly with the echoes, which is when I noticed the echoes have existed in every song, signaling to me that they metaphorically stand for his past self still existing in his new music just like the equal sign on the album cover.

The song itself is about a relationship falling apart, but his love still exists. Because of the previous song, it seems like Ed is taking responsibility for the state of his relationship with Cherry.

In my opinion, it sounds like he was preparing for a breakup, but I think it could be him saying he still loves her despite how rough their relationship has gotten. The clever lyrics make it sound like Old Ed but because he's being open about the state of his relationship with dance tunes, I say the song is mostly New Ed.

the joker and the queen
image source: filmaffinity

6. The Joker and The Queen

This song mainly has sounds from a piano, which is nice, but the lyrics are eh since the title and song are an old metaphor and provide nothing new.

Yet despite this, I like how there is a subtle answer to what’s happened since the last song by saying, “The road broken brought us together,” showing that even though their relationship has been rough, they eventually came together and worked it out.

Because of this, the song is about Ed's appreciation for Cherry, making it equally personal and new as “Overpass Graffiti.”

7. Leave Your Life

I embarrassingly don’t have a strong opinion about this song besides being alright, so I can’t say much about it. But aside from that, “Leave Your Life” sounds like Old Ed since it’s a love song led by a violin about how the love between Ed and Cherry will bring them back together when they face challenges and changes by saying, “I know we can change from day to day, but this love’ll keep alight.”

Ed Sheeran writes about his marriage
Image Source: Vocal Media

8. Collide

This is where I started liking the album since I started seeing the connections between each song.  At the same time, I think his talent springs out the most here and onward.

Besides this, the song itself has generated beats and is another love story, but it’s focused on Ed and Cherry’s memories to describe the positive change she brought to his life, making the song sentimental like “Overpass Graiffi.”

But while there are similarities, the differences between the two show his growth and sincerity as New Ed. Though because it’s not the first time hearing a song like this, I think Collide is a perfect balance of Old and New Ed.

9. 2Step

This song has a bit of rap, but not as fast, as usual, making the song lean towards Old Ed, especially since there is a guitar and various generated beats similar to his collaboration album. The combination then allows the song to go from harmonious to dancy, signaling a better time in his relationship with Cherry. 

The song itself is a general summary of their issues but they’re resolved by spending time together. In particular, their healing activity has been dancing since that’s how they initially fell in love together, which has been told through “Thinking Out Loud.”

10. Stop The Rain

I fell in love with this song immediately because of its positivity. The song speaks about the negativity that life can bring and how it can’t be stopped, so you have to go through it the best you can.

Some critics think the title is contradictory to the lyrics, making the song “bad.” But I say that's what makes it good. “Leave Your Life” is also contradictory with its title, but the trick between these two songs is that it allows people to make a relatable assumption they think it will be about because people want to stop the rain and leave their lives, but the lyrics, the song itself says they’re here to stay. 

“Stop The Rain” particularly says you can’t stop bad things from happening, so you can only go through them or do something to make it better or more tolerable. But the song does allow room to just sit, feel, and let everything out by acknowledging that some situations just suck. 

Yet at the same time, Ed clarifies that this is just his opinion. The dance beat and guitar sounds make the lyrics sound like Old Ed and his song “What Do I Know?” But because the two songs don’t sound the same, I say this song is a perfect balance between New and Old Ed.

Image Source: Genius

11. Love In Slow Motion

This song goes into the resolution of Ed’s relationship with Cherry more than 2step, but it talks about how Ed’s love intensifies when they’re alone together, making it an intimate song.

Because of this, Ed brought out the guitar again, making 70% lean towards Old Ed. But at the same time, this is a song I don’t really like and I can’t explain why, so I don’t completely trust my review or rating of this song.

12. Visiting Hours 

From the beginning, it’s noticeable that this is the song about Ed losing one of his friends. Because of this, it sounds like “Supermarket Flowers” since it’s also about loss, but it was about his grandmother. With that in mind, this song expresses Old Ed the most.

Many people have said that the song is him accepting his death, but I don’t think so. To me, the title and the lyrics reveal that he's grieving. Because someone who accepts loss can still grieve since grief isn’t linear so people can skip and return back to old grief stages. Aside from this, Ed has said he wrote about his process, making it not a simple song about acceptance.

13. Sadman

This is such a great song for babies and kids since it’s a cute dancy lullaby about the safety Ed provides from his love, encouraging his baby to sleep and dream by saying, “And though there is rain outside, you’ll be warm and dry, the thunder and the lightning won’t hurt you, so go to sleep, my love.”

And the fact that it comes after “Visiting Hours” shows the contrast and focus of death and life, which is symbolized through the butterfly on the album cover. With that said, I think this song is completely New Ed.

Image Source: Times of India

14. Be Right Now

This last song is the conclusion of the album, making it about the resulting lesson he has learned, which is self-explanatory about being in the present moment and cherishing what it is being offered, even if the moment is bad. 

Because of this, I think of the song as the successor of “Stop The Rain” since its appreciative of all of life: the good, the bad, and the grey.

But when it comes to being New or Old Ed, I think the sound variety makes this song unique, but the lyrics are definitely him, so I say this song is the opposite of “Love In Slow Motion” with 70% of it being New Ed and 30% being Old Ed.

With that said and done, I liked 9 out of the 14 songs, so I give the album a B- at a 4.2 stars rating. It might seem a bit too high for some people, but he ordered his songs very thoughtfully with a review, the journey, and a conclusion being connected together, and I appreciated that sort of consideration.

But I also appreciate how the album doesn’t completely get stuck in my head. I like a good song I can put on repeat just like anyone else, but some songs shouldn’t be repeated because the next time you hear it, you don’t have the same euphoric feeling as the first time.  

But his "=" album is free from earworms, allowing listeners to enjoy the songs each time they're played, and I appreciate that kind of peace. 

But hey, “What Do I Know?” ;)

Hi! Hello! My pronouns are she/her, and I'm a storyteller who loves tea and cats.

No Saves yet. Share it with your friends.

Write Your Diary

Get Free Access To Our Publishing Resources

Independent creators, thought-leaders, experts and individuals with unique perspectives use our free publishing tools to express themselves and create new ideas.

Start Writing