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Album Review

Nearly a decade ago, a lanky 20-year old released a collection of acoustic tunes ripe with wistful tales of love and imagination. Fast-forward eight years, and the British singer-songwriter has ascended the pop-music charts to the tune of millions of dollars and many of the last decade’s most notable songs.

Few could have predicted Ed Sheeran’s rapid rise, as he hardly fits the mold of the typical rock star. But it’s a mold that he has successfully shaped around his disheveled, relatable, bloke-next-door image. For most of his career, Sheeran has been accompanied by a simple guitar and the occasional toe-dip into “signing rap,” one of many spin-off genres he has helped popularize. But now his career has taken another turn.

Sheeran’s sixth studio album, the aptly titled No. 6 Collaborations Project, taps into the talents of artists across various musical genres. It’s a list that reads more like a who’s who of the music industry than your normal collaborative effort.

Yet these collaborative efforts don’t always ensure the kinder, confessional content fans have become accustomed to from Sheeran. No. 6 features artists such as Cardi B, Travis Scott, Justin Bieber, Eminem, Chance the Rapper, Young Thug, Meek Mill, 50 Cent, Skrillex and Bruno Mars. Four of the album's tracks earn “Explicit” labels, more than any previous Sheeran album. It's a collaboration that still showcases Ed Sheeran's characteristic charm and boyish wonder … fusing those qualities with explicit content that's impossible to ignore.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Album opener “Beautiful People” (featuring Khalid) critiques the cultural status quo regarding a person's beauty and worth. “We don’t fit in well/‘Cause we are just ourselves/I could use some help.” The duo warns against modeling our lives after the lifestyle and appearance celebrities who they think have it all together.

Song of Summer candidate “I Don’t Care” focuses on Sheeran and his new wife, as well as fellow newlywed Justin Bieber and his bride. Both of them talk about sticking by their wives’ sides at parties in order to combat anxiety-inducing situations. “'Cause I don’t care when I’m with my baby, yeah / All the bad things disappear.”

“Best Part of Me” and “Feels” tackle the issues of anxiety and doubt within relationships, and they also recognize the hope that comes from trusting that you've found the one. “Baby, the best part of me is you/Lately everything’s making sense too/Oh baby, I’m so in love with you.” It’s clear that Sheeran's been searching for “what’s real” for a while now. And it seems he’s finally found it: “I’ve waited most my life for something real/ Baby, I got the feels for ya.”

“I Don’t Want Your Money” peels back the curtain into Sheeran’s personal life, highlighting the relational tensions created by life on the road: “(She say) I don’t want your money baby, oh/You know I just want your time.” On the track "H.E.R.," sings about how material things can never replace the gift of a person's time and presence, which is something Sheeran promises to change.

Objectionable Content

As noted above, more than a few of Sheeran’s songs include harshly profane language, sexual references and glorifications of illicit substance use. “South of the Border” begins as a typical pop duet between Ed Sheeran and Camila Cabello. Then, as she does so often, Cardi B crashes the party with obscene lyrics referencing oral sex.

On “Antisocial,” Sheeran teams up with Travis Scott in a song that treats their angst and loneliness as an excuse to behave badly: “Don’t give a d---, I’m gonna smoke here/Got a bottle in my hand, bring more though.”

Joined by Eminem and 50 Cent on the track "Remember the Name," Sheeran raps as well, offering head-scratching lyrics such as: “Watch how the lyrics in this song might get twisted/My wife wears red but looks better without the lipstick.” The trio also raps about how they’ve succeeded in spite of their humble beginnings. But braggadocio, profanity and references to alcohol also turn up.

“Take Me Back London” (among other songs) alludes to drug use and self-indulgent behavior: “Spread wings in the clouds, getting high/We ain’t hit a rave in a while.” Similarly, “1000 Nights” (Featuring Meek Mill and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie) adds, “This the type of s--- we used to dream of (Yeah, yeah)/Bad b--ch look like Mona Lisa/Flippin’ off a yacht in Ibiza.”

Sheeran and Co. often seem to excuse alcohol use, smoking and getting high as coping mechanisms to deal with life's difficulties.

Summary Advisory

Sheeran’s recent marriage to his longtime girlfriend, Cherry Seaborn, forms the thematic foundation for much of the content here. Accordingly, we hear heartfelt promises of protection and realizations of what truly matters in life. That said, Sheeran rarely looks inward, instead opting for a superficial gloss over a relationship’s difficulties magnified by life on the road.

But there are bigger problems to deal with here than Sheeran's superficiality. The guest artists he's included introduce a volume of problematic content that includes references to one-night stands, explicit language and substance abuse. And though he still clings to the appeal of his “I’m just a regular guy” shtick, the entourage accompanying him this time around suggests otherwise.

Listening to Sheeran’s latest album, I can’t help but hear my mother's old adage: “It’s easier for the people around you to change you than for you to change the people you’re around.”

For Ed Sheeran, Mom's wisdom couldn't ring more true.

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Hit 100 million streams in its first three days.

Record Label

Atlantic Records UK

Platform

Publisher

Released

July 12, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Jackson Greer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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