Ed Sheeran's 'Subtract' is cohesive in a boring method

Last Grade: 5.4/10

ed sheeran subtract album cover

“Subtract” consists of 14 standard-edition tracks.

Asylum/Atlantic Information UK

I do not know why anybody thought that suing Sheeran for plagiarism was a good suggestion since he is incapable of singing that seems like something however an Ed Sheeran Track.

After all, that is nice information if you happen to love Sheeran, and there is undoubtedly one thing commendable about consistency.

But it surely does not go away a lot room for curiosity, surprise, and exploration.

Earlier than “Subtract,” I had by no means listened to one in every of Sheeran’s albums entrance to again. And but, by the point I completed observe three, I had a fairly clear thought of how the following 40ish minutes of my life would sound.

Positive sufficient, my expectations had been met. I used to be handled to an Ed Sheeran Album — nothing extra, nothing much less.

For the file, I neither like nor dislike Sheeran. I’m not one in every of his many senseless haters who, in his phrases, deal with him as “the punchline to what dangerous pop music is.” However I am additionally not somebody who reaches for his music in my on a regular basis life. I take pleasure in hits like “The A Staff” and “Form Of You,” however I’ve by no means felt linked to them.

Nonetheless, I had excessive hopes for “Subtract.” I like Dessner’s work as a producer and I like unhappy lyrics. I received genuinely choked up studying Sheeran’s Rolling Stone profile, his first in-depth interview in 5 years, through which he speaks candidly concerning the loss and trauma he is been compelled to endure.

I by no means discover myself doubting Sheeran’s authenticity. All through “Subtract,” it is clear that he is writing from the center.

However even in moments when his pen is sharpest — when he is full of remorse in “Salt Water,” or dreading information from the physician in “Sycamore” — I sense a disconnect. Regardless of all of the aforementioned loss and trauma, “Subtract” is filled with clean textures and buffed edges. It is predictable. Some lyrics are objectively heartbreaking, however I do not really feel heartbroken.

My physique does not soak up Sheeran’s music in the best way I count on from delicate, eloquent pop stars. As an alternative, I really feel it skim over my pores and skin like a light-weight breeze.

I can not put my finger on the reason for this disconnect, however I believe it has one thing to do with Sheeran’s unmistakable, unchanging voice. He’s technically expert on this space, boasting a powerful vary. However like Pavlov’s canine, I have been educated to count on tacky balladry once I hear his signature lilt, so that is what I hear — even when the phrases aren’t tacky in any respect. 

On the finish of the day, Sheeran is a profitable, gifted, top-40 musician who needs very a lot to be an album artist, and but, he isn’t. And that is OK!

Value listening to:

“Eyes Closed”

“Salt Water”



“The Hills of Aberfeldy”

Background music:






Press skip:

“Life Goes On”

“Finish of Youth”


“No Strings”

*Last album rating primarily based on songs per class (1 level for “Value listening to,” .5 for “Background music,” .5 for “Break up choice,” 0 for “Press skip”).