Ed Sheeran covers Billboard

Ed Sheeran photographed by Jason Bell on March 26th at Madam Jojo's in London. 

Jason Bell

Ed Sheeran's new single "Sing" has finally arrived, and, yes, the comparisons to Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You" are very apt. The Pharrell Williams-produced track is an uptempo departure for the singer-songwriter, and previews his new album, "x," due out internationally on June 23.

Read The New Ed Sheeran Billboard Cover Story

Sheeran's fragile voice, as heard on past hits like "The A Team" and "Lego House," has now morphed into a confident croon, unafraid of diving into a deep bag of melismas, boisterous chants and rapid-fire rhymes in order to convince his female subject of his desires. The real star of "Sing," however, is the interplay between Sheeran's slicing guitar and the knotty percussion, which swirl around Sheeran's falsetto as he asks, "Can you feel it?" on the bridge.

In Billboard's latest cover story, Sheeran says that "Sing" -- the first time the singer-songwriter has worked with a pre-existing track -- owes a lot to Timberlake. "It was pretty close to a direct inspiration," he says. "I love 'Justified' and 'FutureSex/LoveSounds, so I took inspiration from those."

ED SHEERAN COVERS BILLBOARD MAGAZINEGET THIS WEEK'S ISSUE HERE OR SUBSCRIBE TO BILLBOARD HERE

Also revealed in the Ed Sheeran cover story: "Sing" was not originally slotted to be the first single from "x," which follows his 2011 debut "+." "Don't," a song co-produced by Benny Blanco and Rick Rubin, was set to lead the sophomore LP until early March, but the triumphant "Sing" eventually was decided to be the first look.

PHOTOS: Ed Sheeran's Billboard Cover Shoot

Sheeran announced the single release last Friday, when he also shared the the "x" album title and release date. "Can't wait for you guys to hear it," he added, for good measure. Fans won't have to wait too long to hear "Sing" sung live: Sheeran will perform the single on "Saturday Night Live" this Saturday (Apr. 12).

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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