After years of climbing the charts and earning multiple Grammys and platinum albums along the way, Ed Sheeran has returned to his roots with his newest album, “No.6 Collaborations Project.” Before Sheeran became a household name he released an album titled “No. 5 Collaborations Project” that featured 10 different artists that sang alongside him, even before he came out with his debut solo album “+.” Despite the album name being No. 5, this was his first ever entirely collaborative album that included various artists.
The new album follows in the footsteps of “No.5” by including several collaborators who were almost unheard of when Sheeran started his career. The star studded list includes Khalid, Bruno Mars, Travis Scott, Camilla Cabello, Cardi B and others from various musical genres and backgrounds, creating a diverse and unique album.
To kick off the album, Sheeran released 5 of the album’s singles with imaginative music videos for each song. The first single “I Don’t Care” was created alongside Justin Bieber. The Canadian pop sensation co-wrote, sang, and starred in the music video — all alongside Sheeran. It was immediately a Billboard chart topper making it as high as fourth on the top 100, which was hopeful for how successful the rest of the album would be. A few of the tracks made it on the top 100 singles chart with the full album making it to number one on the Billboard 200 chart which has proved that the suspected success rang true. The song is about the tribulations that come from social anxiety at a party.
“With all these people around/ I’m crippled with anxiety/ But I’m told it’s where we’re supposed to be,” sings Bieber. The track is up-beat and catchy with a synthesized beat and simple, sing-along chorus The song is an homage to Sheeran’s fiance and Bieber’s wife, claiming that having a partner helps anxiety. “When I’m with my baby, yeah/ All the bad things disappear/ And you’re making me feel like maybe I am somebody,” Sheeran and Bieber sing.
“South of the Border,” includes Cardi B, Camilla Cabello, and Sheeran, and is by far the most genre diverse song. Sheeran and Cabello narrate the song, describing a man and a woman who catch each other’s interest from afar and long to run away together across the border. “In a green field near Buenos Aires/ Until the sun’s rising/ We won’t stop until the angels sing/ Jump in that water, be free/ Come south of the border with me,” Sheeran and Cabello sing in the bridge. The song also includes a rap by Cardi that energizes the vibrant melody.
Sheeran has been incorporating rap from the very beginning with “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” on his first album, “+” . This rap background makes Sheeran’s collaboration with Eminem and 50 Cent on “Remember the Name,” flow perfectly. Each artist raps a full verse about their rise to fame through trials and tribulations before coming together in the chorus to discuss fame and their legacies. While Sheeran has faced quite a bit of criticism for his inclusion of rapping in his music in the past for appropriation and improper style, he shows a decent flow and impressive ability to stay on beat alongside rap legends 50 Cent and Eminem.
“Way to Break My Heart,” Sheeran’s collaboration with well known DJ and producer Skrillex, pushes him out of his comfort zone by taking a traditional love song, the song type that gave him his rise to fame, with a rather outside of the box idea — dubstep. This change made what would be considered a bland song more riveting and non-traditional for Sheeran’s discography. The song starts out nearly identical to “South of the Border” in subject matter, as Sheeran describes the appearance of a potential love interest. “Star sign, Gemini/ Brown eyes, fair hair in the light/ We called time last night/ And I can’t stop thinkin’ bout her” sings Sheeran, with Skrillex’s overwhelming beats in the background. Although the song lyrics are very traditional, the upbeat dubstep electrifies the piece.
The final song on the album is “BLOW,” a collaboration with singer-songwriter and country singer Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars. This trio is a rather unusual choice with each musician coming from a very different musical background of country and pop. The song is rock heavy with intense guitar and drums, comparable to the likes of AC/DC and Guns n’ Roses. Despite the many differences between the artists, the song is genuinely impressive in its ability to fit well within the hard rock genre. The sexual lyrics fit into the genre of hard rock, such as the chorus, “I’m comin’ baby/ I’m gunnin’ for you, yeah/ Locked, loaded, shoot my shot tonight.”
Sheeran has truly outdone himself with this album through diverse genre exploration and inventive songwriting collaboration. Not only did he collaborate with a star studded list of musical celebrities, he also managed to make an album that flows beautifully despite the radical differences of all the artists.