Yes, I know what you’re probably thinking. How on earth can one of the most famous singers right now possibly qualify as a “new music” find? Well, it doesn’t really – but I feel compelled to make a defence for this tune, so hear me out.
I’ve not really been much of a fan of Ed Sheeran’s music. It’s just sort of been there, playing listlessly in the background on commercial radio stations and sounding, well, inoffensively MOR. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy I See Fire from the second Hobbit movie: that was a truly ace song. And Wake Me Up was kind of sweet too. But the rest didn’t really flick my switches.
But I do really like his latest release Castle on the Hill. Yes, it’s a little bit Coldplay in places and very, *very* chart friendly – to the point where I have no doubt that it’ll smash his record for most-streamed song due to it’s anthemic quality. But…..it’s really lovely.
Maybe it’s the old romantic in me talking, as I find my usual cynicism momentarily stripped away. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of growing up in the countryside and hearing the shared experiences in Sheeran’s lyrics. Maybe it’s the expertly shot promo video that, thanks to the familiarity of teenage nostalgia, needles you right in the feels. I don’t know. But I do know that I like it.
In muso circles, it’s not the cool thing to admit liking this kind of stuff. I read an article the other day about how the UK music scene (or at least the chart-friendly part of it) was shit nowadays as a result of bland musicians like Sheeran. There’s a backlash to middle class artists because the safe, chart-friendly working class stuff isn’t as prevalent in post-austerity Britain (which kind of ignores the fact that ‘gritty’ paupers from these bygone, musically-superior ages – presumably such as Oasis or The Libertines – disappeared up their own arses the moment someone thrust money and drugs into their hands). And yes, there’s certainly an argument to be made about how working class artistry is an underground movement in the late 2010s when it really deserves to be more overtly embraced.
But that’s semantics. It doesn’t address one of the key points of musicianship which is to create great melodies that resonate – irrespective of whether you add greater value by including carefully crafted lyrics full of poetic beauty, socially-relevant eloquence and politically-motivated poignancy. And regardless of whether you like his message, or the carefully-cultivated indie-slacker image he’s created for himself, you can’t argue that Ed Sheeran doesn’t belt out a good tune every now and again. And this is one of them.