REVIEW: Ed Sheeran goes global on new album ‘Divide’


“Divide” – Ed Sheeran (2017)

Michael Nied

Ed Sheeran is back with his new album “Divide,” a globally influenced ode to overcoming adversity and finding joy in life.

It’s been almost three years since the English crooner dropped his critically acclaimed sophomore album “Multiply” in 2014, spending much of last year out of the public eye to craft his follow-up.

After its debut Friday, it’s safe to say that “Divide” was well worth the wait.

Sheeran kicked things off with a double single release earlier this year. The dance hall-inspired “Shape of You,” reminiscent of Sia’s “Cheap Thrills,” combines a vibrant production with Sheeran’s smooth vocals for a buoyant testimony to a lover, while the guitar-driven “Castle on a Hill” reflects on Sheeran’s childhood in the countryside of Suffolk. As a pair, the tracks revealed a sense of reverence for the past and a passion for the present and future.

The singles were followed by a handful of other promotional tracks that hinted at the full scope of “Divide,” but the album is at its strongest when listened to as a cohesive body of work. It’s only then that listeners grasp the full range of emotion that Sheeran experiences on the album.

“Divide” opens with an innovative blend of hip-hop and acoustic pop on the striding “Eraser.” Almost acting as a purpose statement for the album, Sheeran uses the track as an opportunity to reflect on his childhood, the challenges of fame and his ambitions for the future.

Despite his conflicted feelings about the path he has taken, Sheeran steadfastly decides to move forward and find strength from within. “And I’ll find comfort in my pain, eraser,” he declares in the track’s final moments.

His vow to find comfort and new beginnings in the face of adversity is a theme that is frequently revisited on “Divide.”

This is evident on tracks like “Happier,” where Sheeran wishes a former lover well as she moves on and finds happiness with a new partner.

The vulnerability carries over to the following song “New Man,” on which he describes his ex’s new man, birthing some of the most ridiculous lyrics on the album: “And I hear he’s on a new diet and watches what he eats / He’s got his eyebrows plucked and his a**hole bleached.”

Yup, pop music is officially tackling bleaching; things will never be the same again.

Another theme that Sheeran frequently visits on “Divide” is love, particularly the love he feels for his current girlfriend Cherry Seaborn.

Sheeran’s already proved that he knows his way around soulful ballads (hello “Thinking Out Loud,” 2016’s top first dance song for weddings, according to Spotify), so it should come as no surprise that he is at his best when bearing his heart over simple productions on tracks like “Perfect,” “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” and Seaborn’s personal favorite “How Would You Feel (Paean).”

“Perfect” in particular feels like a sequel to 2014’s “Thinking Out Loud,” as Sheeran sings of a childhood romance that’s evolved into the love of his life. “And she looks so perfect / I don’t deserve this / You look perfect tonight,” he earnestly croons over aural strings.

The album’s standard edition ends with “Supermarket Flowers,” a tender tribute to his late grandmother. “Oh, I’m in pieces, it’s tearing me up, but I know / A heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved,” Sheeran fragilely sings on the track’s pre-chorus. The song offers a chillingly beautiful tribute to his grandmother and closes the album with a reflection on the full scope of life.

Deluxe tracks include some of the most energized and global on the project, including the Spanish-influenced “Barcelona,” the Ghanaian-influenced “Bibia Be Ye Ye” and the traditionally Irish “Nancy Mulligan.”

Sheeran closes out the deluxe edition with an ode to self-care on “Save Me.” Speaking to his tendency to care for others before himself, he reminds himself and listeners that it’s important to take care of themselves first. “So before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself,” he sings.

Despite its varied global inspirations, “Divide” is a shockingly cohesive album that encompasses a full range of emotion. Sheeran’s voice soars to its upper reaches and resonates with the purity of love on tracks like “Perfect.” It quivers with the pain of loss on “Supermarket Flowers” and “Happier,” and it vibrates with joy on tracks and energy on tracks like “Galway Girl.”

“Divide” speaks to Sheeran’s strengths as a musician. He’s able to transform his unique experiences into songs that speak to the masses. The album is a relatable body of work that speaks to the power of overcoming adversity and finding strength in yourself and loved ones.


Perfect” It goes without saying that Sheeran is an established balladeer, but he’s particularly sweet on this introspective love song.

Supermarket Flowers” The emotionally fraught track displays the full range of emotions one experiences after losing a loved one.

Galway Girl” “Divide” isn’t all declarations of love and heartbreak; there’s plenty of fun as evidence by this striding production.


Shape of You” The calypso-inspired track is currently burning up the charts, but it’s a bit of an outlying trend-chaser when compared with the rest of the album.

New Man” The barbed ode to an ex’s new flame features some of the weakest lyrics on the album as Sheeran derides an ex’s new lover for things like plucking his eyebrows and carrying a “man bag.”

Michael Nied is the entertainment reviewer for the Kent Stater, contact him at [email protected]