When Ed Sheeran released his debut album, +, he was hailed as one of the most original and unique songwriters of this generation, with his fresh, honest and incredibly clever lyricism.
Though he’s kept some aspects of his clever writing, with each progressing album, his sound has become more and more mainstream — much to the disappointment of his fans. However, Sheeran’s latest release, No. 6 Collaboration, is a step in the right direction back to making himself the unique artist fans knew and loved.
There aren’t many popular collaboration albums. There are plenty of albums with two or three popular artists coming together to make an album, like Labrinth, Sia and Diplo’s album, LSD, but there are rarely albums in mainstream pop where one artist collaborates with various artists on every song.
The album features a lot of notable artists, like Eminem, 50 Cent, Travis Scott, Khalid, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Skrillex, Bruno Mars and many others. Sheeran has a lot of notability himself, so it was easy to find artists who were willing to collaborate for his project.
Sheeran’s music has been progressively falling more flat, but this album revives some of his greatness with some truly good songs like “Beautiful People (feat. Khalid),” “Remember the Name (feat. Eminem and 50 Cent),” “BLOW (feat. Bruno Mars and Chris Stapleton)” and by far the best song off the album, “Best Part of Me (feat. YEBBA).”
Sheeran nailed the opening of the album with “Beautiful People,” between Sheeran’s beautiful tone and diction and Khalid’s soulful, silky voice. “Remember the Name” combines two of the most well-known rappers, Eminem and 50 Cent, and also showcases Sheeran’s rapping talents. “BLOW” steers away from Sheeran’s sound to usher in some hard rock from Chris Stapleton and Mars’ signature funk.
“Best Part of Me” features another unique voice and songwriter, YEBBA, who’s made a name for herself through multiple features and her single “Evergreen.” YEBBA and Sheeran find a soft complexity in the song that is the closest Sheeran comes to recreating the time where he was at his best.
With every album’s best songs come its worst songs. “South of the Border (feat. Camila Cabello and Cardi B)” attempts to create an authentic Latin feel with all the desire and heat of a summer night, but instead, it creates an awkward feeling that is really unpleasant to listen to. “I Don’t Care (feat. Justin Bieber)” shows Bieber’s collaborations aren’t really working well lately. As one of the album’s singles, it wasn’t exactly the greatest choice to get audiences excited about the album. It seems like a lazy, uninteresting collaboration that is unnecessary to Sheeran’s album.
Though Sheeran has been moving closer and closer toward the mainstream, that’s not always a bad thing in terms of creating hype songs. Three songs that are immediate bops are “Feels (feat. Young Thug & J Hus),” which has a distinctive, dissonant beat, great falsetto from Sheeran and a good verse from Young Thug; “Antisocial (Feat. Travis Scott),” which is extremely catchy and fun to listen to; and “Don’t Cross Me (Feat. Chance the Rapper & PnB Rock),” which has a mellow beat that focuses on respecting and protecting women.
Audiences are definitely able to hear Sheeran’s original sound crying out at random points in the album, through his song with YEBBA, his soft and delicate falsetto, his focus on rapping and how incredibly British he makes his song “Take Me Back to London (feat. Stormzy).”
The album isn’t bad by any means, but it simply lacks the complexity audiences know Sheeran is capable of. There are a couple of songs on the album that sound like the old Sheeran peeking out but miss the bar. With glimmers of hope within the album, it seems like Sheeran is heading back to his sonic roots and the intimate lyricism his fans know and love.