Recently, a lot of people have been ripping off the slogan of a certain phone company: “the future’s bright” they’ve been proclaiming “it’s…well, it’s ginger…” Now, I realise that these are words many people would not expect to hear, but I’d like you all to (if possible) extract all of the ginger jokes from your minds as I review the major-label debut of Suffolk boy, Ed Sheeran.

The fact that this young man is merely a year older than me, with a huge record deal, having played around a thousand shows, and currently holding the #1 and #2 spots on the iTunes album chart makes me feel a little insignificant in the grand scheme of things. However, seeing as he started working his arse off in 2005, I’ll cut him some slack. And because he’s a nice lad, obviously.

The minimalistic title of + is somewhat misleading, as this is the first time in his career that Sheeran has been accompanied by a full band on many of his songs, attempting to add an element previously unfounded in his independent releases. Sheeran admitted that this album would be “80% of [his] old songs” re-recorded, giving something for both his old fans and his new fans (no doubt acclaimed by the success of ‘The A-Team’ spending ten consecutive weeks in the UK top ten!).

Switching between the harrowing, heartbreaking tales kept simple on acoustic guitars (‘The A Team’ and ‘Small Bump’ – which Sheeran has admitted to being his most personal song to date, and therefore, the hardest to write) and the trials, tribulations and ecstasy of a teenage relationship, Sheeran’s simple yet brilliant lyricism ensures that a gap in the market has well and truly been filled by a teenager having experienced both the underbelly of society and the regular teen-drama that everyone goes through.

The re-recordings of Sheeran’s old material are somewhat bittersweet. Whilst songs like ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ have been heightened by the addition of high-quality studio effects, other songs have lost their ‘rough around the edges charm’. Whilst ‘The A-Team’ remains, mostly, unaltered, other songs, such as ‘Grade 8’ and ‘The City’ – whilst remaining lyrically appealing – have been somewhat overproduced. Perhaps, then, as someone suggested on Youtube: “it was so much better when it was just him and his loop pedal”?

This aside, the addition of ‘Kiss Me’ and ‘Give Me Love’ show a side of Sheeran previously unseen. At a recent show at Norwich’s Waterfront, he admitted that his love songs were usually quirky, something he has cast aside for these two tracks, taking a more general approach to his feelings, and, ultimately, presenting his fans with songs fit for a wider audience.

To wrap it up, I did really enjoy listening to this album, and will (inevitably) have it on repeat for the next few weeks. However, for anyone new to Sheeran, I highly recommend going to a show to get the full experience of his talent – see his website for his October tour dates. For people looking to expand his discography, I highly recommend the 2010 Loose Change EP – who knows, you might find some stripped-down versions of some songs you recognise…

By Lexi Mackinnon
Dance Yrself Clean

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