Last Friday, Ed Sheeran released his new album – — or Subtract —. The record joins + (2011), X (2014), ÷ (2017), and = (2021) as the final album in Sheeran’s Mathematics series. The musician also released 14 music videos directed by Mia Barnes to form a visual experience for –. Moreover, Ed released a Disney+ documentary series titled Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All, where he opens up to the viewers about his experiences with love, grief, and success.
In a timely manner, the singer-songwriter won the music copyright trial he’s been involved in since April. The heirs of Ed Townsend, who famously co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” with Marvin Gaye, accused Sheeran of copying the 1973 hit to create his 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud.” They claimed that “the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic compositions in [Sheeran’s song] are not the product of independent creation,” and that the chord progression with its syncopated pattern was copied from “Let’s Get It On.” Ed brought his guitar to court in order to demonstrate the four-chord sequence of “Thinking Out Loud.” The musician also argued that “most pop songs can fit over most pop songs […] You could go from ‘Let It Be’ to ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and switch back.”
Ed Sheeran wins copyright trial, found not guilty of copying Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ with ‘Thinking Out Loud.’ pic.twitter.com/mAlGTNRWFl
— Pop Base (@PopBase) May 4, 2023
With the release of –, Ed Sheeran shows his most vulnerable side yet. As we can see in the documentary series, Ed’s wife, Cherry Seaborn, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor while she was pregnant with their second daughter. That same week, Sheeran’s best friend, music entrepreneur Jamal Edwards, died. About the album, Ed shared, “I had been working on Subtract for a decade, trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what I thought it should be. Then at the start of 2022, a series of events changed my life, my mental health, and, ultimately, the way I viewed music and art […] In just over a week, I replaced a decade’s worth of work with my deepest darkest thoughts.”
In –, Ed writes the most personal lyrics of his career. Along with the music videos, Sheeran takes his fans through a journey of pain, depression, and doubts. “Sycamore” is about the fear of the person you love the most dying, “Toughest” — a bonus track from the deluxe version of the album — is about Cherry and her health journey, and “Life Goes On” is about losing Jamal and continuing to live life without him.
One of the most heart-wrenching songs on – is “End of Youth.” In The Sum of It All, Ed states that grief is the most adult experience someone can go through, and it makes people feel like their youth has ended. Of course, there are also good moments in life, so Sheeran wrote the mid-tempo track “Dusty” — which has a lovely music video — inspired by a memory with his first daughter when they were listening to Dusty Springfield’s 1969 album Dusty in Memphis.
Overall, – is like reading Ed Sheeran’s most personal diary entries. Ed has always been a very private artist and never really shared intimate details of himself or his loved ones, so this album — and his documentary — surprised many of his fans. The musician opens his heart to his listeners in hopes that he can help them feel less alone. Likewise, – makes the audience realize that famous people suffer just like us, and they’re not exempt of obstacles in life.
Definitely, – is rather different from Ed’s previous works — though it sometimes evokes his earlier work in + —, and it shows how multidimensional he really is as an artist. His talent and hard work are undeniable, and we hope we can continue listening to more of his music in the future. You can listen to and watch the music video for “End of Youth” below. Also, remember to watch the other 13 videos in Sheeran’s official YouTube channel, and don’t forget to buy and stream – in all platforms.