Today I attempt to pay homage to the last Nice Guy left in music. Tedious task, if I’m being honest; it’ll be all the easier to get sarcastic with the fucktrumpets of music who sing on and on about love in the sheets but are next to despicable on the streets.
There were 281 episodes of British music quiz show Never Mind The Buzzcocks with memorable moments throughout; be it taking unrelenting piss out of musicians who notoriously never wrote their own songs, or insulting their plus-ones till they’d storm off the show. Ed Sheeran, however, showed up in all of his ginger-cuddly-hoodie-wearing glory, sending the crowd and fellow contestants into pant-wetting laughter fits, without exactly intending to.
It was after that episode when I started taking Ed Sheeran seriously; but not as a musician. Sure he sings well, and sure he deserves all of the fruit for becoming that church choir boy next door who made it big, but that lad has banter.
Not the kind that Drake tries to have; being that one diabolically emotional rapper but has no problem being The Bachelor of music outside of his records. Not the kind that the Gallagher brothers have; still riding on their success from the noughties’ and insulting every other musician in interviews.
The kind that makes Ed, Ed. He’s just… frustratingly genuine and the freshest breath of air since Fisherman’s Friend. His two albums have been + and x, and the upcoming one is ÷. I mean, that doesn’t even require a mathematical explanation. Just the fact that it’s got you thinking “what the fuck is he playing at?” is brilliant enough.
I’m getting stares from around the office just as I announced that I only know like three or four of his tracks coming into the release of his new singles (2017’s already off to a flyer), but that’s not the charm Sheeran unintentionally exudes. And that’s… where it gets kinda blurry.
Just how far is someone to push the Nice Guy act? I don’t quite care if he’s BFFs with Taylor Swift, or if he’s written a song about lovely lady he met at a homeless shelter. I suppose the bigger reason as to why I don’t know more of his songs is because of the toxic affect it could have on Nice Guy wannabes.
“…take nothing away from Sheeran though, please don’t. I’m not battering him as a musician, because he’s done bloody well for himself and the millions of his adoring fans.”
Sheeran will pick up the guitar and sing you a tale or two about how “loving can hurt sometimes”, and do it very well, but it doesn’t give you the moral gratification some of us , like me, pretentiously seek. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, there isn’t, but I just can’t see Ed Sheeran moving on from giving us that Nice Guy track or record, to giving us that vintage love ballad.
Take Photograph for example, one of the very few I’ll acknowledge from his shimmering discography. Great song. Great, great song. But ugh, enough with the songs that asks listeners to “take a chance on him”. Giving them the attention and acknowledgment essentially allows them to think that they’ve got the right to choose. Is that still being Nice in Nice Guy?
Take nothing away from Sheeran though, please don’t. I’m not battering him as a musician, because he’s done bloody well for himself and the millions of his adoring fans. And boy, is he a musician. His performances of Bloodstream are breathtaking. Toying with the loop pedal, flicking between sensual vocals and steamy falsettos, slamming the guitar for the thump of bass and drums; all manufactured by one heartthrob taking center stage in front of bigger names.
Thinking Out Loud is a romantic ballad that transcends the sappy undernote that lurked throughout x, but radio stations ran the track dry, didn’t they? Overplayed to death, I reach for the next station before Sheeran finishes the first lyric about his legs.
Today comes bearing gifts, with Ed Sheeran’s pair of new singles, Castle on the Hill, and Shape of You. Something different, but something painstakingly the same. I’ve used “painstakingly” very loosely here, and I’ll apologize. Different strokes for different folks et cetera. Castle on the Hill features rampant melodic zest in the new track, with the familiar morose that carried Sheeran’s songwriting prowess this far, and Shape of You looks to be a sexy Marimba-infused percussive romance – that’s fair play.
I don’t hate Sheeran’s music, but I don’t find myself searching for his tracks on most days. My respect and appreciation for him eclipses his time singing, for the time he spends not singing and being his quirky self. Seriously, watch that episode of Buzzcocks or have a gander at his interviews.
You know, I only recently found the sexual connotation behind “nice guys finish last”, but there’s something to be said about Ed Sheeran. He will soar and soar till only birds could get higher, and I don’t find myself hating him for it.