The ginger-haired, unsuspecting pop sensation has burst back onto the scene with an album that has blindsided everyone in the best possible way.
He’s truly explored the whole spectrum of his artistry up to this point.
“Subtract” isn’t your run-of-the-mill Ed Sheeran album; it boldly refuses to mimic the pop standard of hits like “Divide,” “Equals,” or his recent collaborative ventures. Instead, it stands as an independent masterpiece – an Acoustic/Folk Singer-Songwriter album that wears its rawness, intimate depth, and sheer beauty on its sleeve.
Among its tracks, you’ll find a collection of pop gems, and perhaps the shiniest of them all is “Eyes Closed,” a creation shaped by the genius of “Max Martin.” Even though Martin’s trademark songwriting technique peeks through in this track, its lyrical potency is undeniable.
The rest of the tracks on Subtract come to life under the skillful guidance of “The National’s” Aaron Dessner. Together, he and Ed form an unbreakable musical partnership.
“Subtract” unfolds the narrative of what Ed himself regards as the most challenging chapter of his life. A tapestry woven from personal trials—his wife’s health struggles, the painful loss of his dearest friend, and the unending courtroom battles to preserve his songwriting integrity—these events led him to an emotional abyss he had never ventured into before. This emotional journey is palpable throughout the album.
Its opener, “Boat,” emerges like the dawn, setting the tone for this collection with breathtaking clarity, especially in its bridge where Ed’s husky voice resounds, proclaiming, “The waves won’t break my boat.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg—this album hosts a series of raw and uncensored melodies that narrate a story so intense it even brought him to the brink of mortality. A vivid reflection of this is the second track, “Salt Water.”
What’s more, this marks Ed Sheeran’s premiere album to feature a succession of piano ballads. Tracks like “Borderline” and “Sycamore” scale melodious heights, boasting treble clef crescendos that bear an unmistakable “Elton John” flair.
My standout pick from this record is undoubted “Hills of Aberfeldy”. It resonates with a profoundly Scottish/Gaelic Folk essence that just sweeps you away. What’s truly captivating is that this piece was penned before the creation of Ed’s second album, “Multiply.” Even back then, he envisioned it as the grand finale for “Subtract.” Remarkably, Ed’s journey with “Subtract” began shortly after his debut album’s release. He dedicated himself to sculpting an album that mirrors his current self, and the result is striking. This album oozes authenticity: Ed’s self-expression has never been more resolute.
Right now, there’s a universal adoration for Ed Sheeran that transcends age barriers.
And now, for my ratings of the songs on this remarkable album, scaling from 1 to 10:
“Boat” – 7
“Salt Water” – 8
“Eyes Closed: – 6
“Life Goes On” – 7.5
“Dusty” – 6.5
“End of Youth” – 9
“Colourblind” – 5
“Curtains” – 6
“Borderline” – 8
“Spark” – 5
“Vega” – 8
“Sycamore” – 8
“No Strings” – 7
“The Hills of Aberfeldy” – 10
Score/GOOD – Overall, this album has swayed me, someone who usually fills their car with seventies and eighties hits along with a dose of indie gems. But this album? It has nestled itself in my heart.
[We rank albums on a scale of: Poor, Mediocre, Good, Excellent, and Outstanding]