Friday, 4 July 2014

Ed Sheeran - X

x (Ed Sheeran album)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Studio album by Ed Sheeran
Released20 June 2014
Ed Sheeran chronology
Singles from x
  1. "Sing"
    Released: 7 April 2014
x (pronounced "multiply") is the second studio album by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, released on 20 June 2014 in Australia and New Zealand,[1] and worldwide on 23 June through Asylum Records and Atlantic Records.[2] Its lead single, "Sing", was released as a digital download on 7 April 2014,[3][4][5] becoming his first single in the UK to reach number 1.[6]



Background and recording[edit]

As soon as + was finished, Sheeran started work on his second studio album. Around the time his first album was released in 2011, the first songs for the second album were written, "One" being the album opener,[7] and another which eventually became a bonus track.[8] Sheeran wrote with Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol in hotel rooms while supporting them on the North American leg of the band's Fallen Empires Tour in 2012.[8] He also wrote with Irish singer/songwriter and frequent tourmate Foy Vance, penning multiple potential songs for the album.[9] Sheeran decided against releasing his second album in 2012, deciding instead to follow in the footsteps of fellow British acts like Adele and One Direction who had "broken America". [10] In Autumn 2013, Sheeran performed three sold out nights at Madison Square Garden, finishing two and a half years on tour to focus on recording his new album.[11]
In a behind the scenes tour video, it was revealed that he was in the studio with producers Rick Rubin and Pharrell Williams,[12] who were later confirmed in interviews to be contributing towards the album. The album was due for release on 17 February 2014, but Sheeran got "the opportunity to work with Rick Rubin for two months, which [he] wasn't going to say no to", which led to a delay.[13]Having written "hundreds" of songs, Sheeran entered the studio with Rubin and they cut that down to the 15 new songs that feature on the album, excluding "I See Fire", which was recorded separately and saw release on the soundtrack for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.[14] Sheeran stated that he "started off making another acoustic record, and it turned into a neo-soul-funk record", due to the influence of working with producers like Rubin and Benny Blanco that "pulled [him] out of [his] comfort zone". Getting into the studio with Rubin to "rerecord all the songs" after two years of writing them made the songs sound "raw and interesting", at a time when Sheeran was getting tired of them,[15] giving him a chance to "actually set up the album instead of just putting it out".[13] However, doing an entire album with Rubin "just wouldn't work on pop radio", so after working with Rubin he wrote the songs "I'm a Mess" and "Thinking Out Loud", both about his girlfriend at the time, with a different producer.[10] Jake Gosling, who co-wrote and produced the majority of Sheeran's debut album, has no writing credits on this album, whilst new collaborators include Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody and British dance act, Rudimental.[16]

Music and lyrics[edit]

"One" was the first song Sheeran wrote for the album, and is "particularly quiet".[17] Written on a guitar made out of a whiskey bottle in a hotel room whilst on tour in Perth in 2011, the song was the last song written about the love interest that was the focus of the previous album.[7][18][10]
"I'm a Mess" was one of the last songs written, after the recording sessions with Rubin. It is one of two songs written about his then-current girlfriend. It is described as a simple song, and was "written in the shower".[10][19]
In an interview with Zane Lowe for BBC Radio 1, promoting the first single, "Sing", Sheeran talked about getting in the studio with Pharrell and him "playing [Sheeran] a lot of things, and then it stuck on this one riff", which eventually became the basis of the track. He stated he has always been a fan of R&B, but was just "trying to find the right way to make it".[20] Sheeran expressed wishes to create an entire album with Pharrell, and "Sing" was to be a song for that project, but several musical peers, including Elton JohnTaylor Swift and Pharrell himself, urged Sheeran to release it with x.[10] Justin Timberlake's debut album, Justified, was a favourite of Sheeran's, which he consciously tried to channel for "Sing".[21] On working with Pharrell, Sheeran told MistaJam on BBC Radio 1Xtra that they had written two other songs together that were in the style he "usually did", but for "Sing" he was pushed "out of [his] comfort zone" which made the track stand out. Pharrell reportedly said that he wanted to "shake the world's view of [Sheeran] up" and make pioneering songs that no singer/songwriter has done before rather than just "a cool record".[22] A remix of the track has been made with Korean recording artist Psy, and the music video for the song was based on a night out with the artist.[23]
"Don't", a song about a girlfriend who cheated on him with a close friend, has been linked to several of Sheeran's fellow singers, including Ellie Goulding and Taylor Swift, but Sheeran has said it is "100 percent not about Taylor", but that he has played her the song, and she "never want[s] to piss [him] off that much".[24] It started off "as a riff on his phone".[25] "Don't" was planned to be released as the first single from the album, but it was decided that the chorus, especially the line "Don't f- with my love", was not suitable for a first single. The song was recorded first with Benny Blanco, then again with Rick Rubin, and the two producers came together to produce the final cut.[18] The song almost didn't make it onto the album, as Sheeran felt it was "a bit personal", but was urged by those who had heard the demo to release it, as it was "an alright song... so it ended up on the record".[26]
"Nina" was written with Johnny McDaid, and was the first song the pair wrote for the album. According to McDaid, it is a "self-deprecating" love song about "heartbreak... where he basically calls someone up and advises her not to be with him".[18]
"Photograph", also written with McDaid whilst touring with his band Snow Patrol in May 2012, is a "timeless ballad". It started life as a "piano loop playing on [McDaid's] laptop" which Sheeran started singing along to.[25] Sheeran has stated "it will be the one that will change my career path", and believes it to be the one song that will sell the album, even "if the rest of the album is shit".[10][27] Described as "[Sheeran's] Angels", the song is a "ballad with big drums, set in New York".[16]
"Bloodstream" is about Sheeran's experience of taking MDMA during a friend's wedding party in Ibiza.[28]
"Tenerife Sea", first played in demo form at Sheeran's sold out Madison Square Garden shows, is "trademark acoustic balladry". Sheeran wrote the song at the 2013 Grammy Awards, where he felt "a bit left out", as he was there with his parents and "everyone else was doing drugs".[29] Sheeran described it by saying "it sounds like a Thomas Cook brochure", and was in fact inspired by one, as "the sea was so blue and [he] likened it to someones eyes". He "was writing the song and the Thomas Cook brochure was on the table, and [he thought] "Her eyes kinda look like that sea, what sea is that?"", leading to the name and some of the lyrics.[30]
"Runaway" is the second and final track from the album that is produced by Pharrell Williams. Described as "finger-clicking", it draws from the same influence, the sound of Justin Timberlake's debut album, that "Sing" does. Sheeran intended for the song to feature on a future project with Pharrell, but it was put on the album when he was persuaded to include "Sing".[10][16][19]
"The Man", produced by long-time collaborator Jake Gosling, features Sheeran rapping in a style similar to that of Mike Skinner from The Streets.[16] The song focuses on a failed relationship, whilst touching on the subjects of marriage, chemical dependency and his career in the music industry.[31]
"Thinking Out Loud" was the last song written for the album, and it is also Sheeran's favourite. Written about Sheeran's then-current girlfriend after the recording sessions with Rick Rubin were over, it is a "soul" song, and Sheeran "pinned [it] as the 'walking down the aisle' song".[1][10][19] He described it as "the only happy song on the album", and he wrote it in his kitchen.[32]
"Afire Love" was written about Sheeran's grandfather "two weeks before he passed away." He had suffered with Alzheimer's disease for twenty years, and Sheeran has been thinking "What if [he passed away]? And then he did."[25] Sheeran finished writing the song at his funeral.[10] It explains the aftermath of his death, with his family reuniting for the funeral, and explains the deep love between his grandparents.[33]
"Take It Back" is the first track exclusive to the deluxe edition of the album. In it, Sheeran claims not to be a rapper, whilst delivering four rapped verses. In the same vein as previous single "You Need Me, I Don't Need You", he talks about "his personal struggles and his rise to fame."[34]
"I See Fire", the final track on the electronic deluxe edition (the physical deluxe version has a 17th track, "All of the Stars", the song used in the credits for the film The Fault in Our Stars), was previously released on the soundtrack for the second installment of The Hobbit film series. Sheeran was asked to write the song for the closing credits by the film's director, Peter Jackson, whose daughter was a fan of his work. After flying to New Zealand to watch the film, he wrote the majority of the song in a single day, performing all the instruments, apart from the cello, including a violin, which Sheeran taught himself to play for the song.[35] The track was produced by Sheeran himself, and mixed in Abbey Road studios by Peter Cobbin and Kirsty Whalley.[36] It was released on 5 November 2013 as the first single from the soundtrack.[14]

Artwork and packaging[edit]

In a live webcast on YouTube, Sheeran stated that he "feels every single one of [his] records should have a theme that runs through it, even if it's just a colour. The first one was orange, throughout, everything [he] did was orange. This one's going to be green throughout, and everything [he does] will be green in terms of artwork". He cited Coldplay as an influence for this, as they keep with the image of each album they release "for the next two years".[8]
The physical versions of the album come packaged in a green jewel case.[37]


A countdown to the unveiling of the first single was posted on Sheeran's Facebook page, but it was accidentally announced early by Zane Lowe that he would have the first play of "Sing" on 7 April 2014, as his "Hottest Record in the World". The song was played twice in a row, and Sheeran discussed the album and working with Pharrell to produce the single.[20]
Sheeran performed "Sing" and "Don't" live for the first time on Saturday Night Live on 12 April 2014.[38] He then went on to do an exclusive acoustic performance of "Take It Back" on SB.TV on 16 April.[39] Sheeran later performed "Sing" on 27 April at the 2014 Logie Awards held annually in MelbourneAustralia.[40] On 2 May, the singer released an acoustic version of "One" on his YouTube channel.[41] The song was given away on 16 May to people who had preordered the album on iTunes.[42][43][44][better source needed]
On 5 May, Sheeran played three "Multiplyed" gigs, starting at the Steamboat Pub in Ipswich, going on to Koko in London, and finishing in Dublin, where his entire show was streamed live on his website.[45][46][47] The next day, he played a session for BBC Radio 1 at their Maida Vale studios, where Zane Lowe made a live rendition of "One" his "Hottest Record in the World".[48]
Sheeran stated that, until the album is released, he will play very few new songs live, as fans "want to hear the hits", but once it is released he will play a lot more new songs, as "that's going to be what people want to see".[49]
Sheeran played "Sing" on Later Live... With Jools Holland on 20 May, and showcased songs from the record on the extended version on 23 May, including the TV debut of "Thinking Out Loud".[50] His live performance was exactly three years since his last appearance on the show.[51][52][53][54][55][56]
Sheeran performed "Sing" on the finale of The Voice, alongside a duet with contestant Christina Grimmie of his song "All of the Stars", which features on the soundtrack for The Fault in Our Stars.[57][58]
MTV announced that a behind-the-scenes documentary of Sheeran's life, titled 9 Days and Nights of Ed Sheeran, was being filmed, to be aired 10 June. The show would "show every aspect of [Sheeran's] life" while he is on tour, "with extraordinary intimate access to Sheeran", something he has never done before.[59][60] Taylor Swift and Pharrell Williamsappeared in the feature.[61]
After the music video for "Sing" was released, which featured a puppet version of Sheeran wearing a pair of Beats by Dre headphones,[62] it was announced that Sheeran, and his then unreleased song "Don't", would feature in the advert for the latest Beats by Dre headphones, the Solo II.[63]
On 5 June, Sheeran appeared in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge for Annie Mac, performing "Sing" and a cover of Sam Smith's "Stay With Me", both with a live band.[64]

Commercial performance[edit]

On the first week of sales, 'x' was a success: the album debuted at number one in nine countries and reached the Top 5 in eight countries.
In United States, the album became Sheeran's first number one on the Billboard 200, entering the chart at the top with sales of 210,000 copies in the week ending June 29. Furthermore, Sheeran marks the largest debut for a pop album so far this year and the fourth-biggest opening overall in 2014.[65] It also debuted at number one in the United Kingdom, selling 180,000 copies in it's first week of release, becoming the fastest selling album of 2014 at the time,[66] and Sheeran's second number one album in the United Kingdom.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
The A.V. ClubB[68]
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[69]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[70]
Entertainment WeeklyB[71]
Los Angeles Times2.5/4 stars[72]
The Guardian4/5 stars[73]
New York Daily News3/5 stars[74]
The Observer2/5 stars[75]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[76]
USA Today3.5/4 stars[77]
X was met with generally positive reception from critics. The review aggregator website Metacritic, assigns a Metascore to an album, which is based on the ratings and reviews of selected mainstream independent publications, and the release has a score of a 71 based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[67] At The Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick rated the album a perfect five stars, commenting how Sheeran remains tried-and-true to being the singer-songwriter he is on a release that he uses like a "vehicle for emotional veracity, personal revelation and universal inclusion."[70] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic rated the album three-and-a-half stars out of five, remarking how Sheeran usage of hip hop elements "keeps [the music] from being merely a bit of excellently crafted mature pop and gives it some appealing character."[69] At The A.V. Club, Annie Zaleski graded the album a B, indicating how Sheeran is showing in his music that "growing up is messy and tough [...] but affirms that navigating life with maturity and confidence is possible."[68] Randall Roberts of Los Angeles Times rated the album two-and-a-half stars out of four, noting how the release is bound to multiply his stardom, and calling the music "Well-crafted, generous and willing to lay it on thick when necessary, but fun to be around nonetheless."[72] At Entertainment Weekly, Melissa Maerz graded the album a B, commenting how even though Sheeran is "finally getting angry, taking aim at a pop-star girlfriend who slept with another guy" and singing songs about marijuana he affirms to be illegal proving "he's still a good boy after all."[71] Alex Petridis of The Guardian rated the album four stars out of five, highlighting how the artist is "confidently, pushing at the boundaries of what he does."[73]
Jason Lipshutz of Billboard rated the album an 81 out of 100, and according to him, he "finds a hungry artist doing everything possible to elevate to another level, simply by abiding by his instincts."[4] At Q, John Aizlewood rated the album four stars out of five, describing how Sheeran's usage of many collaborators could have been "a potentially foolish move, but Sheeran pulls it off, chiefly because... his friends bend to him, not the other way round."[78] In addition, Aizlewood says Sheeran "Against all the odds, X repositions Sherran as a gambler", which "He's changed things around and used his success rather than been used by it", and at the end-of-the-day "He's taken chances and won again."[78] Brian Mansfield of USA Today rated the album three-and-a-half stars out of four, calling it one of those "rare album[s] that satisfies expectations while simultaneously raising them," which "showcases the sweet, achingly vulnerable songs" that is a hallmark of Sheeran's work.[77] At American Songwriter, Jim Beviglia rated the album three-and-a-half stars, stating how the release shows Sheeran in "somewhat of an identity crisis", yet "it's fascinating to hear him work out whether he’s a hopeless romantic or just a guy who thinks romance is hopeless."[79] Gary Graff of The Oakland Press rated the album three stars out of four, stating how this release "expands his sonic palette".[80] At Newsday, Glenn Gamboa graded the album an A-, praising Sheeran because he "manages a remarkably difficult task [of] broadening his sound without losing the immediacy of his raw, intimate tales."[81] Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe gave a positive review of the album, finding how Sheeran "comes into his own" with the release.[82]
At Rolling Stone, Jon Dolan rated the album three stars out of five, suggesting that "A better album title might have been XXX."[76] Jim Farber of New York Daily News rated the album three stars out of five, writing how "Sheeran can write a hummable tune and, clearly, has something young girls love even more than looks: heart."[74] Writing for musicOMHJohn Murphy rated the album three stars out of five, noting how "Despite its flaws, X will undoubtedly be another huge success for Sheeran, and if he can build on its good points, there could be an even better record lurking inside him as well."[83] Kitty Empire of The Observer rated the album two stars out of five, cautioning how the release "has a broad palette but lacks depth".[75] At Drowned in Sound, Dave Hanratty rated the album a four out of ten, blasting the release because it "offers a few lively embers, but never quite ignites."[84]


"Sing" was released as the first single from the album on 7 April 2014 around the world, and 1 June in United Kingdom and Germany. The music video, released exclusively to Facebook on 22 May, features a puppet caricature of Sheeran on a night out in Los Angeles.[85] The single entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number fifteen,[86] where it has since peaked at number thirteen. It also became Sheeran's first number one on the Australian ARIA Charts and in the UK, where it was released alongside a corresponding EP, which featured a live version of the track, a remix by Trippy Turtle and a new song, "Friends", that does not feature on x.[87][6]

Promotional singles[edit]

"One" was released as the first promotional single on 16 May, available as an "instant grat" download on iTunes when you pre-ordered the album. It entered the UK Singles Chartat number 20 and entered the Billboard Hot 100 at 86.[88]
"Don't" was released as the second "instant grat" promotional single from the album on 13 June, ten days before the release of the album. [89] It debuted at #21 in the Canadian Hot 100 on the chart dated for June, 28th, 2014, the top debut for that week.
Sheeran revealed that he would be releasing a track from the album every weekday in the week leading up to the release, as promotional "instant grat" singles available to those who had preordered the deluxe edition of the album on iTunes. The first of these was "Afire Love", released on 16 June, followed by "Bloodstream" on 17 June, "Thinking Out Loud" on 18 June, "The Man" on 19 June and "Photograph" on 20 June.[90][91][92][93][94][95]

Other charting songs[edit]

"I'm a Mess" entered the UK Singles Chart at number 72 despite lacking independent release, with sales boosted by a live performance during an advertisement break on E4. "Tenerife Sea" entered the UK Singles Chart at number 93 due to strong digital download sales, although the track received no promotion individually.

Track listing[edit]

x — Standard edition[96][97][37]
1."One"  Ed SheeranGosling4:13
2."I'm a Mess"  SheeranGosling4:06
3."Sing"   Williams[98]3:55
5."Nina"   Gosling3:43
  • Sheeran
  • McDaid[25]
8."Tenerife Sea"  
  • Sheeran
  • Williams
10."The Man"  SheeranGosling4:09
11."Thinking Out Loud"  
12."Afire Love"  
  • Sheeran
  • McDaid
  • Vance
Total length:

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