He’s always had two differing styles: the acoustic, slushy balladeer and the hip-hop courting loop pedaller. In this return, we have not one but two singles that make that split explicit.
Everyone will have a favourite. For me, it’s the dancehall-infused Shape Of You that brings Sheeran’s style into more modern tastes with its infectious syncopations, even if the idea of a Sheeran sex-jam may seem distinctly unappealing to some. The counter single, Castle On The Hill, sees Sheeran turning to the stadiums he’s so eager to fill on tour, though the jangling guitars and mawkish lyrics veer dangerously close to U2 territory.
Yet this divided approach seems to have only solidified his fanbase. Where a double single release may have been a risk by splitting streaming numbers as opposed to focusing on a sole track, he’s instead simply launched to the top of every chart with both hits. Shape Of You is slightly outperforming Castle On The Hill, but to have two singles on a par with one another dominating global charts whilst breaking almost every streaming record going is a phenomenal achievement (he’s receiving an unprecedented 7m daily streams worldwide). It’s a marketing strategy that’s paying off, building up huge anticipation for the forthcoming album and with two solid tracks to boot.
I wonder what the inevitable ‘Subtract’ will bring in a couple of years time…