“There are further risks he’s taken, the majority of which suffer us listeners with the realisation that absolutely none of them have paid off”
Digital Release: August 29, 2011
Physical Release: N/A
Ed Sheeran has every right to want to flaunt his versatility as an artist now he’s hit the big time, rather than accepting the testosterone-less pigeon-hole ‘The A Team’ awkwardly wedged him in and cosying up alongside equally soppy acoustic guitar-wielding acts like Damien Rice, Joshua Radin and James Morrison. And in a bid to grasp originality, Sheeran’s even gone to the length of remixing his new single (like ‘The A Team’, it was an old track from mixtapes gone by) to give it a squeaky clean make-over fit for today’s charts. The move isn’t original, but it’s smart. And it sees him pay his debt to his grimier beginnings after ditching them for his breakthrough. In any case, the strategy has an uncomfortable risk about it; the song’s departure both in sound and attitude from ‘The A Team’s overarching pleasantness is enough to potentially alienate the majority of those who enjoyed Sheeran’s impression of a wiseman, his reedy voice straining it’s way through overly-earnest tellings of a prostitute whilst those less smitten heard a man whine for more than four minutes of desperate yearnings for puberty.
At it’s heart, ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ is another song to add to a growing pile of dreary moans at commercial artists and the way some record labels regard their puppet popstars as nothing more than opportunistic revenue. Always an admirable quality to have, that resilience, but the need to devote a whole song to it further erodes any bid for originality Sheeran has. And alas, there are further risks he’s taken, the majority of which suffer us listeners with the realisation that absolutely none of them have paid off. The remixed single only emphasises how poor Sheeran’s paper thin voice is as he finds himself struggling to keep up and be heard amidst the dark, apocalyptic verve. It’s relentless energy drains his voice void of any detectable emotion and leaves us with a young man and a poor scripture on lyrical overdrive sounding as original as a tree.
And on his lyricism: there’s not a rhyme that passes that doesn’t suggest his avid claims to a razor-sharp wit are quickly buffed away by frequent syllabic ill-judgements, whilst he allows other stinkers to sink as low as gimmickry at regrettably indeterminable expense, but it’s only when “They say I’m up and coming like I’m fucking in an elevator” is wheezed out that we see just how far he has yet to come before he can stand his own ground in the grime arena. It’s not an impossible depth to claw his way back from, but it’s certainly going to be a steep climb.