It’s not often that I’ll laugh out loud reading some music commentary but this statement on Ed Sheeran’s latest, ‘Sing’, had me at least audibly smirking. “Somehow – and scientists will have to look into this for decades to come –” The Guardian’s Michael Cragg wrote, “Sing also makes Ed Sheeran seem like a wild-eyed lothario rather than someone who might cry during sex.” I’d never really considered Sheeran as the type who might cry during sex but certainly, he’s kept well away from the lothario end of the spectrum to date. He’s done arrogant, done slightly thug with Yelawolf and done plenty of inoffensive guitar-strumming in between. But he’s never done Timberlake-esque pop.
Until now. What’s changed? The production credits. Reading down the track list for his 2011 debut ‘+’, every single one of Sheeran’s songs was written either exclusively by him or with the assistance of British superproducer Jake Gosling. One track, ‘Kiss Me’, allegedly sports production from Kanye/Jay-Z collaborator No ID but in the main, production duties are also handled by Gosling. Listening back to this ‘Justified’-era Justin Timberlake-sounding attempt to be sexy and dangerous and nothing like the humble acoustic Ed we know, it’s pretty clear he’s had some influence, possibly from label execs keen to extend his exponential rise. The name in brackets beside ‘Sing’? None other than Pharrell Williams.
The grand reveal isn’t actually that revealing if you listen closely enough to ‘Sing’ – it’s punctuated by stylistic clues like big chunks of falsetto, tight guitar lines hugged by memorable melodies and Pharrell’s own shouts (‘sing!’, ‘louder!’ substituting for ‘hey!’, ‘beat it!’ et al) that typically characterise his work. The decision to bring P in is an obvious commercial one – he has been on the most winning of streaks possible lately – but a questionable aesthetic one. There’s no doubting that Sheeran has benefited from a boost in energy levels but at times the marriage feels forced, not least in Sheeran’s second verse rap. As much as the who heartthrob thing comes off strange, Sheeran has the chops to back it up. The rhyming, however, is just plain awkward. The song will still get traction because it has Pharrell’s fingerprints all over it but this just might be proof that the midas touch doesn’t always translate.
Ed Sheeran – Sing