Ed Sheeran is trying his best though. His new coming-of-age album deals with marriage and adulthood. Opening track Tides crashes in forcefully, setting the bar high. It’s bright, poppy and instantly catchy. “I have grown up, I am a father now,” Ed sings.
But there’s paranoia in the mix too ‑ “I have the same dream every night/A bullet through my brain, the moment that I close my eyes”.
Tender acapella offers salvation – “Time stops to still, when you are in my arms; it always will”, he testifies, his voice as soft and moving as an orphan’s tears.
Songs range from the Spanish-flavoured 2-Step to tender orchestrated ballad The Joker And The Queen via the upbeat, dreamy Overpass Graffiti, a big bold pop song that sweeps you up.
Shivers is slower and more soulful, but still urgent, as a besotted Ed sings over handclaps, strummed guitar and pizzicato violin. “Ooh I love it when you do it like that…” Do what though? He leaves us to fill in the blanks. Perhaps it’s her ironing.
The maybe too synth-heavy vampire dance track Bad Habits is tempered with gentle passages, and Ed’s plaintive falsetto on First Times touches the heart.
He’s come a long way since he started out with an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal, but Sheeran pushes himself constantly. “Everything has changed, but I am still the same somehow,” he pledges.
Ed and his co-writers, chiefly Johnny McDaid and Fred Gibson, have created his most rewarding record yet.
The title is pronounced Equals, yet in reality few can match his seemingly limitless knack for writing monster hits.