Artist Progression: Ed Sheeran

Week 4: Blog Post

Photo Credit: Billboard, Meredith Jenks

Artist Progressions is where I will look at the progression of an artist and discuss why they are succeeding in the music industry. Sometimes I will also discuss how they can progress further. For my first artist progression I will discuss singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. I will first provide a brief history of his music and then go into why his music is so successful.

Ed Sheeran is popular pop artist. I have followed Ed Sheeran’s career from the beginning. He had independently released his EP No. 5 Collaborations Project in 2011, and then was later signed to a record label. Later in that year he had released his debut album +. He had released his single The A Team, which was not only successful in the U.K. but gained international traction. This is where his career started to take off. Other singles on the album like Give Me Love proved that Sheeran was both lyrically and musical gifted and was on his way to stardom. The albums consisted of pop, folk pop and acoustic music.

As his success continued to rise, Sheeran had released his album × in 2014, which consisted of primarily of pop music, and a few other sounds. He continued to see success in the charts, with singles like Thinking Out Loud and Sing. This album also had a few a Grammy nominations. He had won two Grammy awards for his song Thinking Out Loud. It won Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. This in my opinion is when Ed Sheeran started to become very popular and known worldwide.

Then he released his album ÷ (Divide) in 2017, and right away singles like Castle On The Hill, and Shape Of You started to break records and top charts in the UK and internationally. Not only was his music successful but so were his shows, as he had many sold-out shows for the Divide Tour.

Lastly, his most recent release was his album No.6 Collaborations Project, which came out in 2019. The album contained pop, hip-hop and R&B music. He had collaborated with many artists on the album such as Justin Bieber, Ella Mai, Travis Scott, H.E.R., Chris Stapleton, Khalid and more. The single I Don’t Care featuring Justin Bieber broke streaming records and climbed it’s way up the charts. This album was very successful and one of my favorites because it showed the range Ed Sheeran had in terms of his voice, writing, and musical genres.

Now that was a quick recap of Ed Sheeran music history, but the question is why was he so successful? I will discuss a few reasons why I think he was so successful. Firstly, Ed Sheeran continued to develop his sound over time. He started off with indie pop music, slowly making his way to full pop, and then combining pop with a mix of hip hop and R&B. Ed Sheeran has proved that he can take on any genre.

Ed Sheeran is not only diverse in genres, but tempos too. The tempo for his songs range from moderato (moderate), to largo (slowly), to allegro (quickly), however for the most part they keep a moderate pace. The songs are diverse in emotions, such as happiness, and sadness, he is one of the rare artists who can convey all sorts of emotion well. Although his sound continues to develop and change, his voice stays the same. He may use different vocal ranges, and I believe he typically uses a head voice, but his soft voice stays the same throughout the musical changes; so even though the music is different, it feels familiar because Sheeran has kept his sound the same in terms of his voice. It is also important to note that although his sound in terms of music and genres changes, he always has pop music incorporated into that sound, which helps with that familiarity.

I think this is big reason for his success; that he grows as an artist and develops his sound but also keeps it familiar through his voice and the pop music. This is important because having the same sound again and again, can feel boring and overplayed but at the same time completely changing your sound could also result in the music not being good. It is very difficult to find the balance of a familiar sound that is developed, and I think Ed Sheeran is one of the rare artists who can pull this off. I think people like new sounds that still have some familiarity but I will also note that some people may enjoy the same sound or a completely new sound, depending on the artist. As some artists may be well versed in the sound they already have, or are able to completely change it and still keep their fan base; again this depends on the artist and I will discuss this in other artist progressions.

A good example of Ed Sheeran’s emotional range, and tempo range, is comparing his two songs Supermarket Flowers and Shape of You which are both from the Divide album. Supermarket Flowers is a slow song that is about losing someone, and death, whereas Shape of You is a bit faster in pace as it is more upbeat and is about fun and love. If you listen to the songs back to back, you will hear the amazing emotional range that Sheeran can provide through his voice, and honest and heartful lyrics. He is also gifted in song writing, as he can produce very relatable and well written lyrics, that the audience can empathize with or just enjoy.  

As for his sound range, if you take a listen to all of the albums, you will see his sound change, from indie pop, to pop, to hip hop and R&B.

Since Ed Sheeran is already a very successful artist, it is difficult for me to discuss what he should do in order to gain further success which is something I will do with upcoming and new artists. However, as I mentioned Ed Sheeran has great range in everything and I can’t wait to see what he does next, if he comes back from his music hiatus.

I loved his most recent album No.6 Collaborations Project as it really showed that Ed Sheeran has range. So here are snippets from Spotify of the album. Head over to Spotify to listen to the amazing songs!

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