After the incredible success of his 2011 debut album '+', Ed Sheeran has kept the mathematical positive trend going with his latest album 'x'. And while '+' brought Sheeran out of his humble beginnings and made him an internationally recognised superstar overnight, 'x' has looked to focus itself more on the commercial aspects of his solo singer/songwriter sound. Bringing in the likes of Pharrell Williams and Rick Rubin to produce snippets of the new album, 'x' is far more focused towards a more wider fanbase and as a result dilutes itself to the lowest common denominator.
Between them, Williams and Rubin have produced some of the world's best contemporary music. While Pharrell has brought the Justin Timberlake sound of 'Justified' to Sheeran's lead single 'Sing' and 'Don't' has that classic 90s hip-hop beat Rubin was famed for, their contributions only exaggerate how mundane the rest of the new material is. The album's opener 'One' is so basic in its sound and production, it could have been mistaken as a demo track for a guitar-weilding vocalist who can be found playing in coffee shops in the late afternoon. Sheeran has obviously tried to hold on to the minimal sound of his debut as much as possible but given his new success, it seems he has lost that spark that helped separate him from the herd in the first place and leaves 'x' as a shallow and hollow record.
It does appear that Ed Sheeran has become a product of his environment, losing face in his ability and producing an album that is more about growing his fanbase than appeasing his current one. It has small moments of greatness but with so much middle of the road music on here, it is hardly worth getting excited about.