Blowing my expectations completely out of the water, Ed Sheeran pulls through with a decent record on Divide (÷). His 3rd studio album, also showcasing the theme of Ed’s last two records (the first being Plus (+) in 2011, then Multiply (x) in 2014). Due to my lack of knowledge on Ed as a person, I have no real expectation for whenever he releases a new album. Multiply, his latest effort showed Ed’s ability to make sweet pop tunes with an R&B edge, which was a stark difference to his folk laced Plus. After accolades on top of accolades for Multiply including two Grammys, people were eager to hear from Ed again; Now, whenever a new release comes out, I try to stay away from people’s opinions so I can form my own. However, the Pitchfork review for this new Ed Sheeran album came out, and it kept showing up on my timeline, at a certain point I had to see what they said. “The new Ed Sheeran Album is awful” it read. I wasn’t shocked in the slightest. A pop star making a bad album? Who knew? So naturally, I went into this album with a negative point of view, and I was let down. This album is actually bearable. The opener Eraser opened with slick guitars and rather than the melodramatic, ballad focused voice Ed uses, he went for a different way of singing. He was almost rapping, with fast verses detailing his past few years and childhood, and a confidence that felt like he performing a song from a play like Hamilton. Beside from the weak chorus (which trust me, won’t be the last weak chorus), it was cool to see Ed expand his music past the white guy with an acoustic guitar music he’s known for. This poppy yet interest peaking direction continued on to the second song, Castle On The Hill. Lyrics about his childhood and a thick bass line made for one of the better singles Ed Sheeran has ever released. However, the album takes a dip on “Dive” (no pun intended), with slick, groovy guitars and a slow pace that gets torn down by the cheesiest lyrics I’ve heard in awhile. A persistent issue throughout the album is the lyrics, save for the song “Supermarket Flowers”, which is about his late mother. Throughout this closer, the listener can truly feel Ed’s love and pain for this person he lost, and it stands out because compared to the other tracks, Ed’s emotions feel real. The basic lyrics on most of the ballads on here are taken down even fewer pegs when placed next to this heartfelt song. On top of that, what makes this closer stand out is how steady it is. The driving rhythm and pace that doesn’t try to give the listener a hook as soon as possible plays to Ed’s strengths. That’s not to say Ed can’t write a great hook, though. Take “Shape of You”, with dancehall style drums and an infectious hook that is completely undeniable, or “Gallaway Girl”, which is a fun song with a great hook and great lyrics, with a clever use of a flute. Overall, though some ballads weighed the project down, there were several gems on this album that seriously surprised me.