An Album Divided

Unlike your typical algebraic equation, Divide doesn’t leave you wondering what the next step is to solve it. With a diverse tracklist and some killer controversy, Sheeran’s third album certainly won’t leave you adding up your emotions. Subtract the overplayed hits, and you’ll find that Divide is by far one of the most unique albums written by pop artists today, and even touches back on some of Sheeran’s most prominent contemporary folk roots. Compared to other albums targeting the same audience, Generation Z, this junior compilation is more compatible with the teenage lifestyle, while still harboring some more mature hits within its run time. That said, the songs hit a few potholes on the way to the “Castle on the Hill”, and a few are impossible to overlook. While the album as a whole certainly isn’t “Perfect”, chances are that you’ll find yourself wishing you were “Nancy Mulligan”, or maybe even Ed’s “Galway Girl”.
Maybe spoilers for musical compilations aren’t possible, but if Divide is up next on your listening queue, I recommend stopping here. The album is most effective when the first impression comes from a personal listening sesh, with some review reading after to confirm your thoughts. Consequently, it is most important to begin with what would be considered the album’s flops, most commonly referred to as “airing the dirty laundry”. The most confusing (and seemingly, out of place) track is most definitely “Bibia Be Ye Ye”. What seems to be Ed’s first attempt at a multicultural anthem, “Bibia” falls short of any real meaning and just feels like a generic feel-good tune with a single line in a language other than English. The concept of diversifying the album was clearly well-intentioned, but, unfortunately, the pieces of this puzzle didn’t quite add up. Next on the list is Track 13, better known as “Barcelona”. This song feels more like a commercial for a travel agency than a real, musical engagement, but Ed certainly doesn’t think so. If you’re looking for an upbeat vacation jingle, “Barcelona”’ has it in the bag; however, it falls short of the rest of the album. The last downfall of the equation is one with a faulty feel for an Irish jig–”Nancy Mulligan”. For the American release, this song would bring something new to the table, and the new material is that of a traditional Irish tune in a spotlight of American culture. While the idea sounds immensely appealing, the song ends up sounding like a soundtrack to a Disney Channel movie, very Luck of the Irish-esque. Overall, the appeal is less than intriguing for those teens who are used to idolizing Taylor Swift and paying to see 5 Seconds of Summer live in their hometowns. The Divide tracklist is sixteen songs long, so don’t turn away after recognizing that there are three flawed songs. The rest of the album feels like a journey of self-discovery, and Ed knows how not to disappoint, especially when it comes to the younger generation.
Ed cares about his fans’ bank accounts. I repeat: ED CARES ABOUT HIS FANS’ BANK ACCOUNTS. He doesn’t care enough to replenish them, but he certainly knows how to provide quality entertainment at a low price. As the two initial singles, “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You”, were released on digital download, it is only logical to evaluate those platforms first. On iTunes, where songs regularly cost $1.29 each, one can buy Ed Sheeran’s Divide for no more than just $12.99; on Google Play Music, the album is a cost-effective $12.49, and on Spotify and Apple Music (common streaming platforms), the cost of the album is included in the monthly subscription price. All in all, the price is right, and if one of your main voting points on the album is cost, you can tally up the score for Divide.
The diversity of the album is touched on a lot, mostly because listeners had an initial shocked reaction to the stray from Ed’s last two albums in Divide. Much like his previous genre-crossing tunes, songs like “Perfect” and “Dive” give us a hearty reminder of what a love song (or breakup song) should look like, and the straightforwardness of it all is exactly why this album has become so popular with Generation Z. Kids either seek music that relaxes them or music that they relate to. While mature themes are prominent in songs such as “Castle on the Hill”, most songs hold some aspect of youth that this generation clings onto as they listen from beginning to end. Nostalgia is an important factor of any media publication, but Divide takes the cake when it comes to appealing to several groups of people, all at once. While they aren’t exactly crowd favorites, “Barcelona” and “Nancy Mulligan” seem to bring some cultural flavors to the table, but this taste isn’t where the uniqueness of this compilation ends. “Eraser”, the first track, provides a full-length version of the aspect listeners are most interested to hear from Sheeran–his rapping. The song is an acquired taste at first, but the uplifting message and catchy beat will leave you wanting to make even more mistakes, if you know what I mean. Finally, but certainly not the least important aspect of the album, is the diversity of released singles from the album. Initially released hand-in-hand, “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” hit the charts immediately. However, these two songs are immensely different, with “Castle” pulling on the heartstrings of looking back on childhood and feeling the realization of the place you are in, while “Shape of You” feels more like a catchy, romanticised-lyric version of Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”, which is its current lawsuit. Both singles have been important to the success of the album, yet they are so vastly different that they are almost incomparable. The current single, “Galway Girl”, is untraditional for what longtime fans would consider a Sheeran tune. While some aspects of the song are comparable to “Don’t” from the album Multiply, “Galway” seems to be an entirely new take on Ed’s musical career. Throughout the record, you’ll find the bumps in the road and the unexpectedness of where it takes you, but Divide will make you want to come along for the ride–all of it.
Ed Sheeran gives the impression that he knows what he’s doing through the release of Divide, and he knows exactly who his audience is. As an avid listener to heartbreak anthems and reminiscent melodies, Ed’s album is for me. Although he might be branching off from his traditional roots, he gives us the performance of a lifetime, just as he always has. Yes, there are a few missed connections, but after connecting the dots with the tracks that hit home, the chances are high that there will still be a picture worth seeing. All in all, it is time to clear up any confusion, and hope that Sheeran finishes this equation in the near future.