New Ed Sheeran album ‘÷’ unites critics in praise

Ed Sheeran is having a very good week. On Wednesday came word that “Shape of You,” the debut single from his new album “÷,” sits atop the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for a fifth week in a row. And the eagerly anticipated disc debuted Friday to some of the best reviews of his career.

This is only the third studio album from this talented English singer/songwriter. His debut, “+,” earned him a Best New Artist bid at the 2014 Grammy Awards; he lost to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. His follow-up, “x,” contended for Album of the Year last year but he lost to Taylor Swift (“1989”). And while he was bested for Record of the Year by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson for “Uptown Funk,” he did win both Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance for “Thinking Out Loud.”

Based on the early rave reviews for “÷” excerpted below, expect Sheeran to be back in contention at next year’s Grammy Awards.

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Roisin O’Connor (The Independent): “Diehard fans may clamour for the ballads and he certainly delivers on those but for this listener, as it was on ‘x,’ it’s the bonus tracks where Sheeran often shines brightest; where it sounds like he’s having the most fun. ‘Barcelona’ is a blast of sunshine ahead of the West African-inspired ‘Bibia Be Ye Ye’ that makes you wonder if it may have been penned after the ‘Shocker’ that Sheeran drank in Ghana.”

Harriet Gibsone (The Guardian): “He stays relatable throughout his third album. ‘New Man’ is a genuinely witty takedown of every tattooed bro with a Ministry of Sound compilation but old-fashioned, boyband theatrics take precedence. ‘Dive’ is a sexy, guitar-led ballad, full of dramatic pauses perfect for pant-flinging opportunities. ‘Perfect,’ meanwhile, is more traditionally British in its pop band production.”

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Rick Pearson (The Evening Standard): “During the album’s best moments — the rasping blues of ‘Dive,’ the acerbic R’n’B of ‘New Man,’ the Celtic balladry of ‘How Would You Feel’— Sheeran sounds tremendous: a multitasking, modern pop star who can sing, rap and strum.”

Jordan Bassett (New Music Express): “His latest album is as likeable as he seems in interviews: assured but unassuming and sometimes hard to fathom. There’s probably a mathematical formula to Ed Sheeran’s success, but he’s the only one who can crunch the numbers.”

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