Ed Sheeran dropped two tracks today, his first new songs since 2015. The first, “Shape of You,” is a plausible attempt at convincing us he has had sex … a lot of it. It kind of slaps, though you can’t really picture Sheeran ever saying “put that body on me” to a real human woman. Billboard reports that he “debated” giving it to Rihanna, and though it doesn’t sound like something she’d end up singing, you can hear how he might’ve thought so. You can listen to it below.
The second, “Castle on the Hill,” sort of sounds like late period Coldplay—big, broad stroke music for arenas and Wembley performances. (And hey, there are tons of rumors he’ll headline this year’s Glastonbury festival.) There’s a lyric about driving down a country road while listening to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” because Ed Sheeran saw Almost Famous once. SPIN senior writer Andy Cush compared it to Japandroids without guitars, with the intention of slandering Japandroids, and has been demoted for the slight. You can listen to it below.
Are the new songs any good? Hard to say. I think they’re fine, but cannot find anyone to even mildly agree. Ed Sheeran is polarizing. He looks like he was pulled out of a hedge row, writes occasionally intense songs about his ex-girlfriends that mildly cross the line into Problematic Territory, and was once named the most important voice in black music despite being a pale ginger boy. His biggest song, “Thinking Out Loud,” could be objectively described as “treacly.” You don’t get any cooler by claiming to like Ed Sheeran, which is 78% of what animates public fandom.
Even so, I kind of like the guy. He’s deeply corny, but he owns it, and corny guys have a right to be intense, too. Absorb a thousand jokes about how you look like a hobbit—sorry, Ed—and you’d might be pissed off over a ’90s hip-hop beat, too. A good friend dismissed my affection for “Thinking Out Loud” by saying it sounds like the song all basics use at their weddings—which I can’t argue against, though I don’t think it makes him bad. It makes him a man of the people, who feel the things Ed Sheeran feels. (He’s being sued for ripping off Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” for “Thinking Out Loud,” which is funny because no one could ever confuse Ed Sheeran with Marvin Gaye.)
Anyway, the songs have millions of views since they were released last night. Sheeran will release a new album this year. His song for Justin Bieber, “Love Yourself”—you guys like that one, right?—is up for a Song of the Year award at this year’s Grammys. He seems ready to persevere, so brace yourself to hear more of this in 2017.