Album review: ÷ (Divide) by Ed Sheeran

Nina Ajemian, Arts Associate

Songwriter and musician Ed Sheeran’s highly anticipated album ÷ (Divide), released on March 3, continued Sheeran’s theme of naming his albums after mathematical operations like (Multiply) and (Plus). His new twelve-song album, with four bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, encapsulates elements of the past, present, and future. 

Many of the songs are a collection of Sheeran’s memories, containing pictures and words such as those one might find in an old attic trunk. One of the bonus tracks “Nancy Mulligan” for instance, with its fast beat and fiddle that channels Irish folk music, tells the story of Sheeran’s grandparents and their love story.

In contrast, the song “New Man” has many contemporary, pop culture references. Sheeran sings, “Still looking at your Instagram and I’ll be creeping a little/ I’ll be trying not to double tap, from way back, ’cause I know that’s where the trouble’s at” and later on, “Now you’re eating kale, hitting the gym, keeping up with Kylie and Kim.” These lyrics suggest that the song might be about a recent, but lost, love.

“What Do I Know?” turns to the future when Sheeran sings, “We could change this whole world with a piano/ Add a bass, some guitar, grab a beat/ And away we go.” This song sends the message that every person has the ability to change the world. Sheeran describes himself as “just a boy with a one-man show/ No university, no degree,” as if to say that if he can make a difference, anyone can.

In the R&B-influenced “Dive” he belts out: “So don’t call me baby/ Unless you mean it,” showing his vulnerable side and raw emotion, with minimalistic guitar and drums. Sheeran’s vocals shine in songs like “Dive” and “Happier,” and many songs seem to fit with his usual style, which consists of acoustic and electric guitar, simplistic but vivid lyrics, and occasional rapping. However, “Shape of You” breaks away from this style, with more of a pop feel and a very catchy marimba introduction that continues throughout the song.

Despite conforming at times to popular musical preferences, songs like “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan” prove that Sheeran has stayed true to himself, that quirky is still cool, and that some things will never change, as demonstrated in the line, “With my beat and small guitar wearing the same old jeans” in the opening song, “Eraser.” Another striking line in “Eraser” is “I think that money is the root of evil and fame is hell.” Despite Sheeran’s success, he knows that there are more important things in life, even though he also hints that often people, himself included at times, forget.

÷ also reflects the break Sheeran had taken from the public when he unplugged from social media and travelled the world. “Barcelona” and “Bibia Be Ye Ye” have definitely been influenced by Sheeran’s international travels, with Spanish guitar and even lyrics in Spanish included in “Barcelona.”

“Perfect” consists of beautiful, heartfelt lyrics and a soaring melody. It clearly has personal significance to Sheeran, but still manages to relate to other love stories, making it a very fitting song for a first dance at a wedding. It is the kind of song that will make you cry wishing you were in love, or cry because you are in love already.

“Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” and “How Would You Feel (Paean)” tell simple love stories with acoustic guitar at a slower pace. The slow, melodic “Save Myself, the last song on the deluxe edition, seems to be a reflection of a dark time in Sheeran’s life – perhaps where he is currently, or where he once was.

Like its album cover, ÷ is blue: blue like the sky on a sunny day, like rough waters, like sadness, like the calm before a storm. This album covers a range of emotions, from burning, new love in “Shape of You” to nostalgia in “Castle on the Hill” to quiet sadness in “Supermarket Flowers.” ÷ will make you want to dance in Barcelona, drive down country lanes, fall in love, travel the world, buy a jukebox, cry, sing, and dive into life.