Ed Sheeran - x [Pop]
Most of my reviews are of metal albums - not a surprising thing, mind, since I would more readily listen to a metal record (and then be able to review it) than one from almost any other genre. However, there are times when, compelled by hearsay, hype or other strange self-created reasons, I bite my tongue, step out of my comfort zone and put myself through an entire album of music that I don't usually listen to. Sometimes the results are pleasant, and other times they aren't. This is one of those "other times".
I gave this album a shot mainly because people close to me have been riding the Ed Sheeran hype train really hard. This guy isn't like those other pop artists, they say, attempting to convince me that, assuming there are multiple types of pop artists, Ed Sheeran isn't of the type that I readily profess to dislike.
Sad to say, though, that this album has not given me any reason to afford Sheeran any more respect than I would most other pop artists (that is to say, not a lot of respect). In fact, I could quite easily break this down:
Vocals: My immense disdain for auto-tuned vocals and the reasons behind such disdain are all old hat by now; I won't go any further down that road than mentioning that this album contains fairly liberal use of pitch correction. That matter aside, the vocals are delivered alright (not fantastically, as many people would have you believe). The usual crooning and bluesy runs are there, best observed on tracks like "Don't". Sheeran tries to spice things up with rap-like vocals on "Runaway" and "The Man", which appears "creative" and "original", except it isn't, even in the context of pop music, given that other artists like Jason Mraz and Train have used vocal stylings like these fairly frequently (and arguably more adeptly than Sheeran). Overall, the vocals aren't terrible, but neither are they amazing. "Bland" would be an appropriate word here - so much for Sheeran being some other kind of pop artist.
Lyrics: There isn't a whole lot going on here aside from the usual done-to-death drivel about puppy love and teenage rebellion. I fully understand that the primary target audience of pop artists like Sheeran is not seeking the musical equivalent of William Wordsworth (nor indeed should it); however, this gives Sheeran no reason to slap together all the cliches he found while listening to 2000s records and repackage them, as he appears to have done here.
Music: Musically speaking, the album plays largely to expectation; Sheeran made his name in the mainstream arena as an acoustic artist and, aside from a couple of tracks, does not deviate much from his tested formula. This creative decision was Sheeran's to make and is mine to critique: much like his 2011 album "+", there is again nothing noteworthy happening here, unless one considers strummed and occasionally-fingerpicked major and minor chords noteworthy. If Sheeran was trying to sound new and improved, it didn't come through; if he was content to make bank off his die-hard fans by simply regurgitating old ideas, then balls to him.
Overall: This album isn't quite the shit show that "+" was. "+" was so bad largely because its radio hits - "Lego House" and "Give Me Love" - were complete garbage. The song with arguably the most airtime on "x" is "Sing", which is a fairly annoying song (especially because of the unnecessary howling in the choruses) but not quite "Lego House"-level bad. However, that by no means suggests that "x" is anything to write home about - on the contrary, it is bland, uninspiring and unoriginal (and, again, THERE IS SO MUCH AUTOTUNE) which, if you may, classifies it as just another run-of-the-mill pop record.