After almost two months of hyping fans up about his third album, Ed Sheeran delivered Divide (styled ÷) on March 3 to the delight of Sheerios around the world.
The 16-song LP (deluxe version, including four bonus tracks) may be the most diverse of Sheeran’s discography, with the British singer-songwriter trying out new sounds and getting vulnerable in his lyrics. While each track does have its own vibe, the nuances are what make Divide a collection that fans will have on repeat for weeks (if not months) to come.
To honor Sheeran’s valiant effort on his latest record, Billboard decided to recognize the uniqueness of each track with a superlative. Check out our mock awards for Divide below.
Most likely to become a wedding song: “Perfect”
If “Thinking Out Loud” didn’t have you convinced that Sheeran is the master of making fans of both genders swoon, “Perfect” is bound to do the job. And with aww-inducing lyrics like “I found a love, to carry more than just my secrets/ To carry love, to carry children of our own” and a slow-dance-ready melody, it’s likely engaged couples around the world are already plotting their first dance to this one.
Best guitar solo: “How Would You Feel (Paean)”
Another heartfelt romantic ballad, “How Would You Feel (Paean)” could also be a contender for wedding receptions. But the guitar is much more prominent in this love song, and while it’s no secret that Sheeran is a talented axe man, he pulls out a John Mayer-esque solo about two-thirds of the way through this song that really establishes him as a master of his craft.
Most passionate vocal strains: “Dive”
Sheeran has a way of packing his songs with even more gusto through his no-holds-barred singing that results in raspy power notes. Those moments of passion are sprinkled throughout the entire Divide track list, but are certainly most apparent in the chorus vocals of “Dive,” where you can practically see the veins popping in his neck.
Most visual storytelling: “Galway Girl”
Set to a fiddle-based rhythm similar to that of an Irish folk song, “Galway Girl” tells the story of a night an Irish fiddle player and an Englishman fell in love — or at least had themselves one hell of a time. From referencing a specific street in Galway, Ireland, to detailing the events of the evening (i.e., “As last orders were called, was when she stood on the stool/ After dancing to Kaleigh, singing to trad tunes/ I never heard “Carrickfergus” ever sung so sweet” or “I walked her home then she took me inside/ Finish some Doritos and another bottle of wine”), the intricacies Sheeran puts into the track make anyone wish they could live such a night.
Catchiest melody (other than “Shape Of You,” of course): “Nancy Mulligan”
Another story told through song, Sheeran recounts the love story of his grandparents, Nancy and William Sheeran, which began with Nancy’s father turning William’s proposal wishes down and end in a happily ever after. While it could be one of the album’s sweetest tunes lyrically, Sheeran decided to turn it into a folky tune, with an Irish flair reflecting his grandparents’ heritage.
Most heartbreaking track: “Happier”
Perhaps one of the prettiest songs on Divide, once fans listen to the lyrics of “Happier,” they quickly realize that it’s actually Sheeran’s account of a “one that got away” story. Fans immediately noticed a melodic similarity to Sam Smith’s ever-so-emotional “Stay With Me,” and frankly, “Happier” could be 2017’s version of that.
Biggest homage to his past material: “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here”
Most of the 16 tracks on Divide involve new and varied sounds, but fans of older Sheeran tunes may flash back to the slower tracks from Multiply and Plus (especially “Tenerife Sea” and “Lego House”) upon listening to the sweet acoustic sound of “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here.”
Most radio-friendly: “Shape of You”
Even if this hadn’t already been one of the two singles Sheeran initially release from Divide, “Shape Of You” would still easily be pinpointed as the radio single that would become one of Sheeran’s biggest hits. The hook-filled, electro-pop-infused smash has already lived up to that, sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 for a fifth week in a row (dated March 11) and dominating radio airwaves across the country.
Craziest lyric: “New Man”
Considering Sheeran found a way to include the phrase “bleached arsehole” into a song (the line “He’s got his eyebrows plucked and his arsehole bleached,” in the first verse), it definitely can’t go unmentioned — especially since Kanye West was the last major artist to incorporate that graphic phrase. Coincidence that West’s wife Kim Kardashian is also mentioned in “New Man”? We may never know.
Biggest step toward a new sound: “Bibia Be Ye Ye”
As previously mentioned, Sheeran expanded his horizons a little more on Divide, playing with different sounds and beats that may have been deemed out of his comfort zone in past records. But his bold attempt at a Ghanaian (via Vampire Weekend) vibe works pretty well on “Bibia Be Ye Ye,” with an irresistible drum beat and electric guitar-laced melody that simply puts a smile on your face.
Most personal lyrics: “Save Myself”
Divide is full of Sheeran’s personal stories, indicated from the first lyric of “Castle on the Hill” (“When I was 6 years old I broke my leg”). While the specific subject of “Save Myself” isn’t entirely obvious, it’s a song that anyone who has ever felt down on themselves can relate to. Even if some of the lyrics feel like a bit of a gut punch (“Life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels/ Or drown it with a drink and out-of-date prescription pills,” for example), Sheeran makes the point that you need to pick yourself up before you can help anyone else — something that many people probably need to hear, even if they don’t realize it.
Best track for a sing-along: “Castle on the Hill”
Even if you don’t hail from Suffolk, England, like Sheeran, his musical narrative about his childhood and rebellious high school years is something that likely sparks nostalgia for anyone who listens. And combining the relatable autobiographical lyrics with the fast-paced, wavy melody (not to mention the cheerful “ooohs” at the end of the chorus) makes for a song that’s almost impossible to not belt out.
Most likely to make you bust a move: “Barcelona”
When a song starts with the line “Get up on the dance floor tonight,” it better follow suit with a danceable beat. Fortunately that is 100 percent the case with “Barcelona,” with playful almost tropical guitar and chants of the Spanish city’s name in the chorus. And with the England native trying his hand at some Spanish, “Barcelona” may also inspire you to learn a little yourself.
Closest track to “Love Yourself”: “What Do I Know?”
No, “What Do I Know?” is not a “f–k you” song the way that “Love Yourself” is, but the bouncy guitar pops are certainly reminiscent of Justin Bieber’s Purpose track (co-written by Sheeran himself). And since Sheeran had originally intended on having “Love Yourself” on Divide, it’s not super surprising that he whipped up another beatless tune with some catchy guitar backing.
Best showcase of his rap skills: “Eraser”
One of the songs that Sheeran premiered prior to the release of Divide, fans were made aware that Ed would rap on “Eraser” — but what wasn’t evident until the entire album was released was that “Eraser” would be the track with the most rap on it. And despite the more pensive lyrics involved in the “Eraser” raps, MC Sheeran drops the lines with effortless confidence.
Most beautiful melody: “Supermarket Flowers”
Having more of a piano base than most of Sheeran’s songs to date do, “Supermarket Flowers” melodically comes off as one of the sweeter tunes on Divide. Once you listen to the lyrics, though, you realize that there’s a pretty emotional meaning to it: Sheeran is saying goodbye to his grandmother. But instead of singing a sad song about her passing (which happened while he was still making the record, as he revealed in a track-by-track interview), he’s celebrating the impact she had on him and the angel that heaven gained — adding an entirely new aspect of beauty to the song.