Well, well, well, if it isn’t the English orangehead loop-stompin monster back after a LENGTHY hiatus with new music. That seems to be the theme lately. I realize not every artist can be Taylor Swift, recording or re-recording a full album each month, but also WHY THE DRY SPELL?! Well, in Ed’s case, it was pretty understandable. Since his last record (Divide, fully reviewed by The Salty Ju upon its release in 2017) Ed has gone cold turkey with the partying, gotten married to a gal named Cherry, and had a baby unfortunately named Lyric Antarctica. So I GUESS he’s been a little busy. We’ll let it slide…for now. This comeback (but don’t call it a comeback) album is titled = or Equals and if you’ve been keeping up with Ed’s discography, is right on par for his math symbols theme. Although, if I may be picky, this seems like a final call if we want to get deep. He’s already released +, x & ÷ and you would THINK the grand finale would be = because that’s typically the end of a math equation. HOWEVER, he still hasn’t used – (minus.) Just some deep thoughts I’m having as I overthink the meaning of math symbols just like Swifties overthink every social caption she’s posted since 2009. Anyway, I’ve done my homework and listened to this album on repeat all weekend long in preparation for this blog. I just know you were all overcome with anticipation for this track by track review because you can’t TRULY enjoy new music until you’ve heard my opinions on it. So without further ado…EQUALS.
- Tides*. The very first lyric that Ed sings on his comeback after an off the grid 4 years is “I have grown up, I am a father now.” WHOA. Ok, hot start. He’s setting that damn tone. We’re not going to have any cheeky references to your new douchey boyfriend getting his asshole bleached on Equals, because Ed is a DAD now, guys. It was with this single lyric in the first 5 seconds of listening to this album that I was like oh, fudgsicles. We’re about to get served with 14 songs oozing love and happiness for his new family life. And I have to be completely honest with you, I almost didn’t want to listen. I almost heard this first lyric, rolled down my window driving down 195 and tossed my phone right into the breeze. But I didn’t. Mostly because I’m still paying off that brand new upgraded iPhone, but also because I’m 30 now, guys. I’d like to think I’m mature enough to listen to music about people being blissful in their fairytale life and not want to drive my car off the road because that’s not where my life is. I’ve GROWN. (Quick context: as I’m typing this, I’m hysterically laughing.) But seriously, I’m going to try to listen to this album with an open mind even though I hate when musicians are happier than a pig in shit and therefore only release love songs. (See: Taylor Swift’s Lover which she conveniently released as I was going through a breakup. Thanks for that, TAY.) Ok, so now that I’ve given you that very lengthy preamble, I’ll actually get to the meat of this blog, judging the music. I really like this song. Musically, when he sings the chorus and then jams on those strings to bring it back up again, it makes me want to do a cartwheel. And you know what? I can. Because the message of this song is live your damn life because life is like an ocean, always changing tides, yo!
- Shivers. This song was one of the few pre-released singles before we got the whole album. Click here to see my initial thoughts on the music video. As per usual when I first hear a single that’s a little different than what I’m used to from an artist I’m like KILL IT WITH FIRE, and then my hysterics calm down after a few listens. Now that I have the cohesive album, I’m thankful for these club beats to break up all of the I LOVE MY WIFE AND BABY deep cuts. #Grateful for a beat I can drop it down low to and not have to overthink. I’ll be sure to introduce this one to my playlist for the next kitchen dance party with my four year old niece.
- First Times. There’s the Ed we know. The classic romantic, introspective love song. If this wasn’t so specific to his achievements in his career, I’d say it’ll be this album’s overused first dance song at weddings. But if I had to venture a guess, no one wants to slow dance to a song about how playing a sold-out crowd at Wembley stadium wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Gawd, Ed. BE MORE UNGRATEFUL. Just kidding, obviously the point of this song is to say that no achievement is worth shit without the love of your life, and every moment with them is the best achievement ever. Or whatevs.
- Bad Habits. This was the first single Ed released back in June and I was downright scared. Our first taste of Ed tuneage in several years and he drops this jumpy beat with a creepy vampire music video. Read my kneejerk reaction here. And obviously, remember that I’ve toned it down since then. What a sneaky little B Ed is releasing the only two club jamz from this album to trick people into thinking that was his new sound. Then he drops the whole thing and it’s like GOTCHA! This song is another fun jam to groove to despite the fact that the lyrics are touching upon Ed’s years of going HOARD in the party scene which eventually led to him going stone cold sober. I get it, once you get your moneymaker sliced and diced by a royal sword, it’s time to reconsider if you need to take a beat from drinking…but that doesn’t mean cancel ALL partying! Moderation is key for all bad habits.
- Overpass Graffiti*. ALRIGHT now we’re cooking with gas, baby. We’ve got a breakup song. It’s not a sassy tell-off, it’s wistful and sweet full of nostalgia but rather than being a total downer, it’s 80’s MAGIC. I love that he sped up this song and made it snappy. And those background scream-y vocals?! Oh, hell yea. Can’t wait to practice those at full volume in the shower. Plus to finish things out, he does my fave thing singers do where they take away the instrumentals and just sing with an echo effect at the end before the music kicks back in. I tell you, that and a good clap break in a song will get me EVERY damn time.
- The Joker And The Queen. I really don’t like this song. I’ve spent all weekend listening to the album in full with no skips and every time this one came on my finger was ITCHING to next it right out of my ears. They can’t all be winners and a dramatically slow piano ballad with an old timey sound and unrelatable lyrics just didn’t hit with me. Total personal preference. Obviously it’s well done–Ed has the voice of an angel, it’s simple with just the piano and the strings and there’s a nice musical interlude that might be fit for a 1940’s black and white picture but sorry I’m uncultured swine and I just can’t get down with it.
- Leave Your Life. I love the beat of this but natch the lyrics don’t resonate so much with me because I don’t have a popstar dad who goes on international tours. Ed wrote this song as a letter to his daughter in case anything ever happens to him. I used to go on and on about how I was my dad’s little mistake and that he was probably out playing a gig with his band Zipper at the Rusty Nail when I was born and couldn’t be bothered to come to the hospital. So I guess it’s kinda the same thing. Except my dad never wrote a song for me, he just wrote a bunch of songs about presidents, books and God. Your move, DEN. Also out of all of these songs, this is the only one that’s consistently been stuck in my head all weekend so it’s definitely got sticking power.
- Collide. How appropriate that after his love letter to his daughter, he writes a love letter to his wifey. This is basically a laundry list of all their memories as a couple. It’s like when you sign someone’s yearbook and write a bunch of inside jokes. And honestly that’s kind of the theme for this album. I understand Ed is an artist and he wants to release songs that he’s proud of and all, but there’s at least three songs on this album that I can think of that could’ve just been recorded for his family and shared privately. It’s romantic as hell to release public love songs that are very obviously for one specific person, but that person is not me and therefore I’m bitter as hell about having to listen to it. Whoops, guess I haven’t matured. The effort was there, I promise. But also, no one cares that you two have been to an Irish bar in Rome.
- 2step. Fun fact, I got firsthand two-step lessons from a Texas girl in a Boston bar while I was schnackered. I’m sure it was a real sight for sore eyes to see a bar with 5 people in it and 2 of them are two-steppin to whatever bro country song was playing. Haven’t 2stepped since then. In fact, gun to my head I wouldn’t be able to remember how to do it. The Jersey turnpike is the only dance move that’s stuck with me. #sorrynotsorry This song is a nice lil groove about how dancing makes all your troubles go away, which I wholeheartedly support. It’s also OG Ed with the double time singing/almost rapping and oh boy is it good to have him back.
- Stop The Rain*. What a cuppa positivi-TEA. See what I did there? Punny AND British. Also, just facts. This is a great anthem and I love it a lot. Plus it has CLAPS! The rain gonn’ come baybay, but just pop open that umbrella and keep on chuggin YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAAHHHHHHHH.
- Love In Slow Motion. Alright, back to his lady. This is obviously a nice slow jam for all the married couples who have kids or busy lives and don’t take the time to do date night or focus on each other. Take your time away from those runny-nosed puke monsters and talk to your sig oth and remember why you fell in love with each other and decided to create those runny-nosed puke monsters to begin with. Or whatever. I dunno. I’m running out of steam here, folks. I had the open mind to start and then slowly but surely it started to close as each sappy love song started playing. We’re reaching the end of our rope here.
- Visiting Hours*. Oh, great! I just admit I’m reaching the end of my rope and then we throw in a death song! READ THE ROOM, ED. Anyway, get ready to sob your damn face off to this song. It’s about wishing you could visit those you’ve lost and update them on your life and let me tell you, it’s beautiful and depressing all at once. Written for his friend who passed suddenly and sung at his memorial service, there will never be a dry eye in the house when this song is playing, I can assure you that. And not for nothing, but the composition of the song, using backup vocals in certain parts, the horns section and you guessed it, my favorite break for vocals only with no instrumentals at the end, CHEF’S KISS.
- Sandman. Remember when I was like hey maybe some of these songs didn’t need to be on a public-facing album that people spend money on? DING DING DING DING. I’ll take “A lullaby for your infant daughter” for 500 please, Alex. AUTOMATIC SKIP without even a second thought. I don’t have children so maybe those Ed fans who are parents will appreciate him including this but I sure do not. I didn’t think I was listening to Raffi’s greatest hits and therefore when this hit my eardrums I had to do a double take and be like did Spotify pull a fast one on me? Appreciate the calming island vibes but I’m lulled to sleep the normal adult way, to the sounds of a sitcom I’ve seen 9 zillion times. Shout out to the zesty way he sings “shake of a lamb’s tail” though. I’ll give him that.
- Be Right Now. Alright, we’ve made it to the end and the message as it has been on every other song so far, is LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. This closer is about living in the moment and it’s a got quite a club beat but is also oddly soothing. A conundrum of a song to ease us on down the road. It’s a breezy palate cleanser to leave you twirling away from this chapter of Ed’s life. Also, I originally bitched about how long he’s gone without putting out music and then as I was diving into each track, I learned that he started working on this album in 2017 so my apologies for being a greedy dirtbag, apparently works of art can take time. Another note I’d like to make, the last track and the first track flow SEAMLESSLY together. A couple times I wasn’t paying attention and this song ended and Tides began and it felt like just a continuation of this tune. So well done for all your repeat listeners, Ed (whether you intended it or not) we’ve got two great bookends to this story!
Overall Notes: I mean not to beat a dead horse here but obviously this album is REAL specific to the place Ed is in currently and therefore lacked a lot of relatability for me. And again, not just because I’m a single bitter loser, but also because each song had SUCH detailed accounts of memories or things that have happened in his life. Certainly much more of a diary entry album than songwriting and music that we can all apply to our lives, which is how people typically connect with songs. It’s not a bad album by any means and it has a great and uplifting theme overall, but it’ll be lower on the list in my personal rankings, which are as follows: 1. Divide 2. Multiply 3. Plus 4. Equals. And remember that these criticisms come from someone who has never written a song, lacks all musical talents and just has a lot of strong opinions SOLELY based on her own worldview. So, if you loved this album and it made you feel like you were floating on air, more power to ya-take my sass with a grain of salt and a shake of a lamb’s tail.