Ed Sheeran’s new album, Subtract, marks a departure from the hits we’re used to as he delves into more introspective and raw territory.
The delicate production and masterful arrangements allow his lyrics and emotions to take center stage, creating an intimate listening experience.
Familiar in Style, New in Depth
The newest Ed Sheeran songs capture the transformative power of grief, highlighting his ability to find hope and strength amidst life’s darkest moments. The emotional landscape of Subtract is deeply impacted by the loss of his close friend, Jamal Edwards, as well as Sheeran’s fear of losing his wife, Cherry Seaborn, to cancer. His ability to channel his emotions into his music serves as a reminder that art can be a powerful outlet for healing and self-expression. By sharing his own experiences, he invites you to connect with your own and find solace in his music.
Play-By-Play: Powerful and Emotional
Ed Sheeran’s latest song, “Boat,” sets the tone for the album, evoking a sense of melancholy. Sheeran’s pained vocals harmonize with the simple acoustic guitar, conveying lingering sadness. However, as you listen to the lyrics, you discover a glimmer of hope that says you will not be defeated.
In “Eyes Closed,” Sheeran’s syncopated wordplay and a hauntingly persistent guitar melody serve as a poignant tribute to his departed friend. The song encapsulates the harsh realization of loss, acknowledging that life goes on despite the void left behind. The track stands out as one of the up-tempo offerings on Subtract, though its raw energy remains distinct from Sheeran’s usual pop sound.
The emotional crescendo of Subtract can be felt in “Life Goes On,” where Sheeran’s voice becomes increasingly raw and unfiltered. This song serves as the culmination of Edwards’ passing and Sheeran’s worries about his wife’s health. It features predominantly acoustic guitar, interspersed with delicate piano and viola, underscoring Sheeran’s tumultuous emotions. Amidst the constant gray clouds, the mention of Seaborn’s name ignites a flicker of love within him.
In “End of Youth,” Sheeran reflects on the toll of grief and on how people cope and make questionable choices. The lyrics encapsulate introspection, wondering if this is the end of a certain youthful innocence, where pain begins to dominate life. He makes you confront the fear that the pain might never fade. This song is contrasted by the most buoyant track on the album, “Curtains,” which finds Sheeran emerging from his emotional cocoon. The motivating lyrics, coupled with a propulsive beat and prominent electric guitar, fill you with determination to move forward. Sheeran acknowledges his low point but ultimately decides that he will be okay, and so will you. Every song in Subtract is a feat of musical delight, but this is undoubtedly Ed Sheeran’s best song in a while.
Sheeran demonstrates his gift for making love songs in “The Hills of Aberfeldy.” With sparse orchestration, Sheeran’s voice takes center stage as he delivers a romantic hymn dedicated to a deep and uncomplicated love. His poetic lyrics express unwavering affection and paint a picture of a simpler time. The song ends abruptly, leaving you to contemplate the profound impact of Subtract.
Subtract Creates a Visceral Experience
For this album, Sheeran, known for his heartfelt lyrics and melodic genius, joined forces with producer Aaron Dessner, who also produced Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore albums. The collaboration between Sheeran and Dessner resulted in a wonderful fusion of their distinct styles. Subtract even shares hints of a similar atmospheric and introspective nature of Swift’s albums, intertwining elements of folk and alternative genres. Through the organic blending of acoustic melodies, emotive storytelling, and lush production, Subtract exudes a captivating spirit that balances its heavy subject matter and mournful themes.
Aftertaste: Begging for More!
In all fairness, we left out a few songs, but take it as an opportunity to find even more delightful surprises on your own. You’ll hear Sheeran’s unique and moving voice, his natural affinity with acoustic vibes, as well as new and unexpected, deeply personal and intimate messages. Truth be told, Ed Sheeran’s Equals may have lost the throne. Subtract could be his best album of all time, so do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this intense musical experience.
What more can we say? Ed Sheeran’s music on this album will be remembered as a noteworthy exploration of grief, resilience, and love. Each track reveals layers of raw emotion and vulnerability, offering the listener a cathartic experience. Don’t miss the chance to listen to all of his songs—live, on vinyl, or streaming it on Deezer—and embark on a truly remarkable musical (mathematical?) voyage.
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