Ed Sheeran may be the quintessential pop star of the 2010s: a singer/songwriter who seems to acknowledge no boundaries between styles or eras, creating a sound that's idiosyncratic and personal. Sheeran borrows from any style that crosses his path -- elements of folk, hip-hop, pop, dance, soul, and rock can be heard in his big hits "The A Team," "Sing," "Thinking Out Loud," and "Shape of You" -- which gives him a broad appeal among different demographics, helping to elevate him to international stardom not long after the release of his 2011 debut, +. When Ed Sheeran released +, he just had turned 20. He had been playing music since he was a child in Framlingham, Suffolk -- he was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire but his family moved when he was young -- enthralled by the classic rock he heard around the house. Sheeran started writing music in his early teens, recording a self-made album called Spinning Man when he was 13 in 2004. In addition to making music at home -- he put out an EP titled The Orange Room in 2005 -- he'd busk on the streets and play whatever stage he could find. When he was 16, he dropped out of school and moved to London so he could make a go of a professional career, landing work as a guitar tech for Nizlopi, gigging whenever he could, and auditioning unsuccessfully for the ITV series Britannia High. The self-released EP You Need Me arrived in 2009 -- it followed 2006's eponymous EP and 2007's Want Some? -- but his momentum started to build in 2010 thanks to the EPs Loose Change and Songs I Wrote with Amy and, especially, performance videos he posted to YouTube. Sheeran started to generate considerable buzz -- Jamie Foxx invited him to appear on his Sirius/XM radio show -- and he landed a deal with Asylum Records in late 2010. After a final independent EP, No. 5 Collaborations, arrived in January 2011, he signed a contract with Elton John's management team. All of this laid the groundwork for a busy 2011. Sheeran entered the studio with Jake Gosling to record his major-label debut. Its first single, "The A Team," arrived in June 2011, entering the charts at number three. August brought "You Need Me, I Don't Need You," setting the stage for the September release of +. Assisted by the success of November's single "Lego House," the record became a huge hit in the U.K., a fact underscored by his win of British Breakthrough in the 2012 Brit Awards. Sheeran's success soon spread to Australia, Europe, Canada, and then the United States. He received a boost in the U.S. by opening for Snow Patrol in 2012, but that paled in comparison to the exposure he received opening for Taylor Swift on her Red tour in 2013. His endorsement from Swift, combined with his landing of the closing credits song "I See Fire" for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, set Sheeran up for an eventful 2014. Along with reuniting with Jake Gosling, Sheeran worked with Rick Rubin and Pharrell for X, the sophomore set that arrived in June 2014. X debuted at number one on both sides of the Atlantic and generated the huge hits "Thinking Out Loud" and "Sing," success that helped Sheeran secure a win for Album of the Year in the 2015 Brit Awards, along with the trophy for Best Male Solo Artist. His success wasn't limited to Britain. X was the second biggest-selling album in the world in 2015, coming in behind Adele's 25, and "Thinking Out Loud" took home the Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance in 2016. Sheeran spent the majority of 2016 recuperating and recording his third album with executive producer Benny Blanco. Early in 2017, he released two singles, "Castle on the Hill" and "Shape of You," with the latter reaching number one on the charts throughout the world. Their parent album, ÷, appeared in March. ÷ topped the pop charts in over 20 territories, including the U.K. and U.S., and it generated another international hit in "Galway Girl." Ed Sheeran's massive popularity was confirmed in June 2017, when he was awarded an MBE on the occasion of the Queen's Birthday Honours. Over the next year, Sheeran stayed busy touring. He also picked up several more accolades including winning the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album for ÷ and Best Pop Solo Performance for "Shape of You." In 2019, he paired with Justin Bieber for the single "I Don't Care." It was the first of a series of duets which Sheeran collected on No. 6 Collaborations Project. The album appeared on July 12, 2019, just a few weeks after the release of Yesterday, a Danny Boyle film set in an alternate world where the Beatles never existed that featured Sheeran in a pivotal role. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released July 12, 2019 | Atlantic Records UK
Skrillex, Eminem, Justin Bieber, YEBBA … Those are only a few of the names on the star-studded guest-list for No.6 Collaborations Project, the continuation to No.5, Sheeran’s grime collaboration album from 2011. Meanwhile, the redhead hurtled up to the front of the charts across the world. It was clearly time for him to try the exercise again. On the menu, a wide variety of sounds, from rap (with 50 cent & Eminem) on Remember the Name, a romantic ballad with Cardi B and Camila Cabello, called South of the Border, and a hard rock duo with Bruno Mars, BLOW, that soundsl like Lenny Kravitz at a glance. Groovy and catchy! The collaborative mindset on display lets Sheeran’s talent as a songwriter shine through – how can he write so many hits, so easily, without ever losing his humility and candor? The recipe to his music – rap, hip-hop rhythms and acoustic guitars, is still as effective. ©Alexis Renaudat/Qobuz
Pop - Released September 9, 2011 | Atlantic Records UK
Adopting the old-fashioned route to success by playing a grueling 300 gigs in 2009 alone, Ed Sheeran's blend of singer/songwriter balladry and acoustic hip-hop has built up quite the fan base, ensuring his debut full-length album, simply titled Plus, is one of the most hotly anticipated releases of the year. Unfortunately, it's the former, rather than the latter, which dominates the follow-up to his grime-inspired introductory No.5 Collaborations Project EP. Indeed, the unexpected hugely popular response to lead single "The A Team," an achingly tender tale of a heroin-addicted prostitute (think a socially aware James Blunt) seems to have thrown him off course, as rather than pursue the more urban direction that set him apart from his contemporaries, the majority of Plus' 12 tracks feel like self-conscious attempts to replicate its sound. The sparse piano chords and stream-of-consciousness delivery ("I knew you loved Shrek cos we've watched it twelve times") of "Wake Me Up," the gentle percussion and lilting piano hooks of "Small Bump," and the melancholic wistful folk of "This" are all melodic, Damien Rice-esque numbers that would no doubt go down like a storm on one of the many open-mike nights Sheeran used to frequent. But for an artist who has built up a reputation for his inventive fusion of sounds, they are disappointingly back-to-basics affairs which offer little that hasn't been heard before. However, Sheeran is a much more interesting prospect when his unassuming manner is accompanied by an array of skittering hip-hop beats and staccato R&B licks. "You Don't Need Me, I Don't Need You" is a blistering swipe at the music industry which shows that while he may not have the conventional image of a rapper, he certainly possesses the quick-witted attitude; "U.N.I." combines Snow Patrol-esque guitar hooks with a breakneck-speed delivery reminiscent of Craig David's early 2000s output; while some dirty, scuzzy guitars and electronic bleeps are thrown into the mix on "The City," which deals with his experience of moving from his hometown of to the bright lights of London. With his casual jeans and hoodie, and relatable tales of relationship woes, university, and getting drunk, it's easy to see why Sheeran has struck such a chord with the late-teens/early-twenties crowd. But his debut's failure to capitalize on his unique selling point means it's likely to leave everyone else nonplussed. ~ Jon O'Brien
Pop - Released December 9, 2011 | Atlantic Records UK
Loose Change is the fourth EP from British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran and the second release in his "Five EPs" project. Recorded at Sticky Studios, Surrey, U.K. with Jake Gosling, the EP features the track "The A Team," which would eventually go on to become a worldwide hit. ~ Rich Wilson
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