Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Fresh Playlist: Ed Sheeran Sounds Uninspired In Mainstream Comeback

With new music flying like warp-speed through the various channels of the Internet, it can be hard to keep up. But worry not! Each week The Fresh Toast will deliver the most-discussed and exciting songs that have recently dropped. Landed. Crashed. And also: soared. Enjoy. 

Ed Sheeran—“Castle on the Hill” & “Shape of You”

When Ed Sheeran broke into the mainstream with 2014’s X, it wasn’t so much because he upended pop’s formulas, but how he blurred them together. At his core, Sheeran’s just a guy with a guitar, but you’d be hard-pressed calling him folk or country. He scats and can break into raps, but he wasn’t hip hop. And he wasn’t really pop either, upon closer examination. His elusive nature of being defined only raised his normal schlep appeal, his lyrics indicating a genuine personality in a hyper-aggressive marketing and fake industry.

His massive success from X’s monster singles led Sheeran in a long-gestating touring cycle. Collaborations and one-offs appeared, but no proper release from Sheeran. Now he returns with “Shape of You,” a sugar-coated, bland dancehall joint trying to sell sex. This single was at one point intended for Rihanna, according to Sheeran, and you wish it still was. His voice is all wrong for the context, and Sheeran sounds too rigid to his approach and too analytical in his construction.

“Castle on the Hill” isn’t much better. A rockish, nostalgic jam, Sheeran’s more in his element here and iTunes describes it as a “life-affirming pop rocket,” but the ship never takes off. It’s not bad, but isn’t great either. The concept—waking up one day and missing more blissful, childhood days—is well-worn, perhaps, but these type of feelsy notes are where Sheeran typically excels. How disappoint then that he’s more recycling than adding anything to the genre. Sheeran, sadly, fits right into the song’s formula.

Migos—“T Shirt”

I could tell you about this video, but Chance the Rapper sums it up more succinctly than I ever could.

This has been your gleeful dispatch on the Migos’ new music video.

The xx—“Say Something Loving”

“Say Something Loving” doesn’t sound like a typical record you’d expect from The xx, yet doesn’t completely leave behind their moody aesthetic. It’s just that that mood has changed. Still a bit melancholic, sure, but no longer so downtrodden. More earnest, more, dare we say, positive? (From the chorus: “You say something loving / It’s so overwhelming, the thrill of affection”) Following previous single “On Hold,” The xx is clearly leaving their past selves behind. And we’re not mad about it.

Jazz Cartier—“Tempted”

With a solid 2016 that built his buzz, Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier isn’t slowing down in the new year. This oozy single from his upcoming album Fleurever delivers bouncy production that’s hard to resist nodding your head or dancing along to.

Elliott Smith—“I Figured You Out”

Though it ended prematurely, Elliott Smith’s career as a songwriter was nonetheless prolific. That whispery voice of his imbued his lyrics with delicate seriousness, like his songs were secrets from a friend. This posthumous release is apparently “a stupid pop song [he] wrote in about a minute.”

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