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Equals by Ed Sheeran - Album Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 8th 2021
A new album from Ed
I finally got my copy of the new Ed Sheeran album. I am a little late to the party with this one because I stupidly held out for the "Deluxe" edition, and my regular supplier of new release music didn't get that in until the end of last week, so I apologise there.

I will also say that I have read and seen a few reviews of this album already, which is something I try to avoid, but the reviews, in general, have been verging on the negative, so I was really not rushing to listen to this. But, now that I have spent a full day with it playing, I will say, I disagree with the general consensus. This is not a bad album.

=(Equals) by Ed Sheeran (2021)
sheeran, equals, album

Yes, he's back with the mathematical album titles.

Alright, first, the Deluxe Edition. I was under the understanding it was going to have some bonus singles on it and include the tracks Sheeran recorded for the film Yesterday. Well, not the version I got! I instead got a second CD of the instrumental tracks of the fourteen songs on the album. And in at least two of them, vocals could be heard, like they recorded the songs, then stripped them afterwards, not put the actual backing tracks there. Sorry, but as far as Deluxe editions go, this was one of the least I have bothered with. How do the songs go without Ed singing? Relaxation mood music, for the most part, modern music to help you get a good night's sleep. And that does not bode well for the album, right? Because now we need Ed to bring these songs up from not the most exciting backing tracks.

Did he manage it? For the most part, yes he did. This is head and shoulders above the collaboration albums/projects he's been releasing of late, which have not impressed me outside of one or two tracks. It is not as good as Divide, but probably stands as an equal with Plus and Multiply. That might be its problem. It does not feel like Sheeran has taken many huge leaps forward. When we look at an album like Swift's folklore and how much growth that showed, it does feel like this is treading water.

And, for the most part, it is over-produced.

Wow, that's very negative, especially for me, right? Yes, yes it is. I admit that. But I have not taken it off for a day now, so there is definitely something there.

Oh, and another positive: I love the lyrics here for the most part. His writing feels very personal and this album feels quite autobiographical, and that really helps me appreciate any album – well-written words. This has that in spades.

Here's the tracks!

'Tides' We open with an upbeat number, a song about changing and not minding that changes have occurred. It bops along at a good pace, and the acoustic guitar is at the forefront. But this made me check my player when I heard it on the second CD – there's gaps where there's no music and I didn't realise. It's just vocoded voice, but I thought there'd been a mistake! Oh well. Still, great opener.

'Shivers' The first of the songs that could have done with less behind the desk. However, it still feels like a decent little pop song. Nothing to set the world on fire, but good enough.

'First Times' "I thought I'd feel different playin' Wembley, eighty thousand, singin' with me…" Ed and an acoustic guitar, and he remembers so many first in his life. A gentle ballad. His voice is allowed to show imperfections, and this song feels intimate, and is one of my favourites in this collection.

'Bad Habits' This feels like so many other pop songs out there that have been released in the past five years or so. The only difference is Sheeran's lyrics, but even they feel a little clichéd here. This could have been by literally anyone else. It's not bad, but bland.

'Overpass Graffiti' There is almost an 80s feel about the backing music in this track, so that might be a reason I found myself drawn to it. But I do like this one. Having said that, the lyrics feel like some of the metaphors don't quite work. Still, I liked it.

'The Joker And The Queen' A piano ballad, with some more imperfect vocals. But this one didn't work for me. It felt over-wrought. It was like it was trying to be this album's 'Thinking Out Loud', but it didn't hit the same mark.

'Leave Your Life' An okay song. The music really does this one no favours. Again, the production leaves something to be desired. But it is just okay.

'Collide' I don't know about this song. The lyrics are good, and the music is actually fine, but they feel like they don't quite fit together. When it slows down right at the end, it hits me – this song, of all the ballads, needed to be either a ballad or more acoustic in delivery. Production again.

'2step' And on every Sheeran album there has to be one where he does his version of rapping. This is that song for this album. As much as I hate to admit it, I like it when he does that talk-singing style, going as fast as he can, and this song is another example of that. Yeah, I enjoyed it.

'Stop The Rain' Another track that, while not bad, could have been recorded and released by any of a number of male pop singers in the charts at the moment. It has a more up-tempo feel and is slightly poppier, and is okay, but it does not stand out.

'Love In Slow Motion' And the acoustic guitar is allowed some more time to shine and suddenly the track sounds so much better. If Sheeran stuck to this formula, this album would have come across as so much better as a whole. This song is a decent one, and it is made by the fact it is Ed and his guitar at the forefront, as well as some good lyrics.

'Visiting Hours' This is the first song I heard from the album, because it is written as a tribute to Michael Gudinski, and he debuted it at the memorial service. It is a definite highlight of the album. And Kylie Minogue and Jimmy Barnes appear in the backing vocals. This is a beautiful song, well-written, and a fitting tribute. Best song on the album.

'Sandman' This is the longest song on the album and the music reminded me of that awful duet he did with Justin Bieber, which meant I had trouble getting into it. I understand it is a song for his child, and that's great, but that musical recognition just left a sour taste in my mouth. This is probably a personal thing on me, but it is what it is.

'Be Right Now' This is also a little over-produced, but Sheeran's voice is allowed to have more freedom, and the piano sounds like a piano, not a synthesiser, giving it a little more grounding. It is a decent way to close the album, and I will say that on the bonus disc, this is the best of the instrumental pieces.

And there we are. 14 tracks. But at less than 50 minutes, it definitely doesn't overstay its welcome, and the longest track clocks in at only 4:19, which is not a slog, either.

Maybe I'm being kinder to this after forcing myself to listen to the latest offerings from Drake and Kanye West recently, both of which left me cold and were work to listen right the way through (which is why I have not reviewed them).

So, this is the latest album from Ed Sheeran. He is spinning his wheels a touch too much, and I would like to hear some more experimental or change-up in style from him. But there is no denying that this is a good album, and that he is clearly happy with his life.

So, yes, recommended. Not the greatest, but not bad by any stretch.


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