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Ed Sheeran


A unique combination of folk, hip-hop and er… gingerness, the un-popstar-looking Englishman ED SHEERAN is a refreshing and multi-talented acquisition to the modern era’s staid X-Factor-fixated music biz. Now something of a collaborative workhorse; a guest of US stars such as TAYLOR SWIFT, WRETCH 32 and Devlin, among others, Ed has went from champion of the collegiate nu-coffeehouse grime scene to a fave among L.A. glitterati such as Jamie Foxx. It was the latter actor/singer and a certain Sir ELTON JOHN that gave him his initial break across the Big Pond – a “+” in anyone’s career one can truly say.
Born Edward Christopher Sheeran, 17th February 1991, Halifax, West Yorkshire, his move to London was indeed essential in giving him the courage to succeed. A self-financed album, ED SHEERAN (2006) {*5}, a handful of EPs and an inspirational YouTube introduction (performing `You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’) helped tens of thousands get an eyeful of the flame-haired singer-songwriter. Intelligent and witty songs were the lad’s forte, and at only 19 he secured a deal with Asylum/Atlantic Records; “The No.5 Collaborations Project” (in early 2011 with other up and coming pop artists) garnering a UK Top 50 position.
On the back of a couple of massive hits, `The A Team’ (about a junkie prostitute) and the aforementioned `You Need Me…’, anticipation for his solo debut proper, + (2011) {*7}, led to the record eventually hitting UK pole position. Released the following April in the US, it also cracked the Top 5. With DAMIEN RICE conspicuous by his absence in recent times, the 300-gigs a year and Festival-friendly SHEERAN was more than happy to lap up any ailing and foreboding fans. Name-checking “Shrek” on the delightful `Wake Me Up’, and going full-tilt and tongue-twisting on `U.N.I.’ (one of several scribed with co-producer/multi-instrumentalist Jake Gosling), SHEERAN showed he could pull off most anything given the opportunity. While one could still find this album gracing the charts two years later, Ed was gearing up for his sophomore effort.
Simply titled, X (2014) {*7}, the transatlantic chart-topping set saw Ed work with Midas-touch PHARRELL WILLIAMS on global smash, `Sing’, while other collaborators to sign in were Benjamin Levin (on `Don’t’), Amy Wadge (`Thinking Out Loud’), RUDIMENTAL and SNOW PATROL’s Gary Lightbody (on `Bloodstream’), plus a handful with Johnny McDaid and/or FOY VANCE. Compared to the likes of JASON MRAZ, DAVID GRAY and COLDPLAY’s Chris Martin, the sensitive SHEERAN and his trusty acoustic guitar play for the rootsy rap/hip hop in-crowd, rambling and swaying like some soul veteran twice his age.
A more personal outlook at life on skipping social media platforms for a year, the anticipation for anything SHEERAN was phenomenal, to say the least, when the global chart-topping ÷ (2017) {*6} “divided” critics and adoring fans alike for reasons too numerous to mention. The rapping busker could serve up ballad after sentimental pop ballad; even venturing into Celtic-folk with one of his many top-selling download singles, `Galway Girl’. Basically promo fodder that, with challenging criteria, could gate-crash the charts without a bona fide release, it was hardly Ed’s fault when the whole entire set of 12 songs (+ bonus tracks!) occupied the “official” Top 20 for the 10th March. This was as follows: 1. `Shape Of You’; 2. `Galway Girl’; 3. `Castle On The Hill’; 4. `Perfect’; 5. `New Man’; 6. `Happier’; 8. `Dive’; 9. `Supermarket Flowers’; 10. `What Do I Know?’; 11. `How Would You Feel (Paean)’, and so on, and so on… To top, what to Ed, must’ve seemed a gloriously abundant year, sales-wise, EMINEM invited the troubadour to feature on his `River’ hit.
A gap year of sorts in 2018 was duly put to one side for SHEERAN under a succession of collusions alongside esteemed pop, rap and hip hop acts. These streamers included chart-toppers, `I Don’t Care’ (with JUSTIN BIEBER) and `Beautiful People’ (with KHALID). Add to that Ed’s explicit-natured `Cross Me’ smash hit featuring CHANCE THE RAPPER and PnB ROCK, and a handful of other minor alliances with YEBBA, TRAVIS SCOTT and CHRIS STAPLETON & BRUNO MARS, summer 2019 culminated in the 28-year olds transatlantic No.1 a la NO.6 COLLABORATIONS PROJECT {*6}.
In the past, Ed had relegated these overtime ventures as EP diversions to his solo sets… though not on this occasion. The timing was perfect for the billionaire singer-songwriter – and now movie star – who also saw the premiere of Danny Boyle’s alternative-BEATLES movie, Yesterday, take off from the red carpet. As for the groove-laden, star-studded collaborations set, STORMZY (`Take Me Back To London’), EMINEM & 50 CENT (`Remember The Name’), and CAMILA CABELLO & CARDI B (`South Of The Border’), had all the appeal of a casual-clothes day at the office.
© MC Strong/MCS Jul2013-Jul2019

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