Ed Sheeran has clearly struck a chord with British youth in the last year. With a number-three single in ‘The A Team’ and a number one album in +, the irritatingly young singer-songwriter has achieved an unprecedented level of national fame and adoration in the last year or so. Needless to say, this widely awaited debut had a lot riding on it and, in getting to number one, certainly achieved commercial success. However, does this debut live up to all the hype? Surprisingly, yes. Yes it does.
The album kicks off with Sheeran’s breakthrough single ‘The A Team’, the ballad of a young woman with a crippling drug addiction. With its ubiquitous introduction and catchy melodies, partnered with Arctic Monkeys-esque lyrical storytelling, it’s no wonder this track became so popular. The rest of the album continues along this impressive road. His main skill in his songwriting is his partnership of impressive lyrical work with memorable melodies and intricate – yet understated – guitar work. It makes for an extremely effective, likable and recognisable sound. Key examples of this sound can be heard in tracks like ‘Small Bump’ and ‘Kiss Me’, with both examples merging instrumental effectiveness and genuinely moving lyrics.
One of the album’s most interesting and talked about tracks is the dizzyingly dense ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’. In a ridiculous show of wordplay and his clearly enormous lung capacity, Sheeran coherently spits out an incredibly infectious, finger-tapping stream of biographical consciousness. The song doesn’t seem to have any sort of direction but that’s probably the point. However, ‘You Need Me…’ is symptomatic of my main fault with a few of the songs on this album. Like ‘Drunk’ and ‘U.N.I.’, Sheeran just seems to lose interest when it comes to the chorus, opting instead to repeating a simple phrase in a melody not even nearly as infectious and inflicting as the verse, it just doesn’t seem to fit.
However, thankfully this is not a trend throughout the whole album, but it does lead to songs of great merit becoming fairly forgettable. Certain songs also sound slightly over-produced: ‘The City’ seems to be the main offender to this effect. Having heard the original on his earlier You Need Me EP, I can safely say that this song needs no more than a guitar and a voice. ‘You Need Me…’ also suffers the same problem, but thankfully the rest of the album seems to have kept Sheeran’s original simplistic charm.
Besides these pedantic little niggles, + remains an impressive and charming album. It also serves as an incredibly refreshing break in the top forty from X-Factor ‘winners’ and club favourites.