‘=’ – the fourth instalment in Sheeran’s symbol album series – is Ed’s most accomplished work yet; the evolution of an artist who continues to tread new ground. A body of tracks that were made over a four-year period following his seminal ‘÷’ (Divide) album era, thematically, ‘=’ finds Ed taking stock of his life and the people in it as he explores the varying degrees of love (‘The Joker And The Queen’, ‘First Times’, ‘2step’), loss (‘Visiting Hours’), resilience (‘Can’t Stop The Rain’) and fatherhood (‘Sandman’, ‘Leave Your Life’), while also processing his reality and career (‘Tides’). Sonically, ‘=’ encapsulates Ed’s versatile musical palette, spanning signature, guitar-led tracks and world-class balladry to weightier, euphoric production moments, as first showcased on this summer’s emphatic comeback track, ‘Bad Habits’.
Embracing Ed’s own truths, ‘=’ seamlessly captures both the intimate and every day; elevating universal experiences to a higher plane as reflected by ‘Visiting Hours’ – a track that finds Ed coming to terms with the loss of his mentor and friend, Michael Gudinski, and written shortly after his passing: “I wish that heaven had visiting hours / So I can just swing by and ask your advice”. Performed for the first time at Michael’s state memorial in March, the poignant track, which is joined by a stripped performance video, features backing vocals from Michael’s close friends, Kylie Minogue and Jimmy Barnes.
Written and recorded across Suffolk, London, Sweden and LA, the album’s executive production comes from Ed Sheeran, FRED (No.6 Collaborations Project) and Johnny McDaid (Divide), with additional writing and/or production provided by Steve Mac, Joe Rubel, Amy Wadge, Foy Vance, Elvira Anderfjard, David Hodges, Andrew Watt, Lou Bell, Natalie Hemby and Ben Kweller. Sheeran’s brother, Matthew, a composer, also contributes stunning string arrangements on ‘First Times’ and ‘The Joker And The Queen’. The album artwork is a vivid collage of butterfly imagery symbolising the albums’ thread of ‘new life’ and is backdropped by one of Ed’s own abstract paintings.
Ed Sheeran commented – “= (Equals) is a really personal record and one that means a lot to me. My life changed greatly over the past few years – I got married, became a father, experienced loss, and I reflect on these topics over the course of the album. I see it as my coming-of-age record, and I can’t wait to share this next chapter with you.”
In June, Ed Sheeran released his 10th UK No.1 single, ‘Bad Habits’. Spending seven consecutive weeks at the top of the UK’s Official Singles Chart and counting, it has since become the fastest track to reach half a million sales in the UK of the year so far (OCC). Looking ahead, on 2nd September, Sheeran will play an intimate fan show at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his debut album ‘+’.
‘=’ Official Tracklisting
3. First Times
4. Bad Habits
5. Overpass Graffiti
6. The Joker And The Queen
7. Leave Your Life
10. Stop The Rain
11. Love In Slow Motion
12. Visiting Hours
14. Be Right Now
About Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran is an era-defining artist. Through his fusion of thought-provoking songwriting, universal pop and multi-genre influence, his rich tapestry is not only perfectly suited to his audience but it’s something that transcends generations.
Since surfacing on the UK circuit in 2010 with his ‘No.5 Collaborations Project’ – an eight-track EP featuring his favourite grime artists of the time – the Suffolk-raised recording artist has resonated with fans across the world through his peerless songcraft and versatility. And now, with four UK No.1 albums to his name – ‘+’ (2011), ‘x’ (2014), ‘÷’ (2017) and ‘No.6 Collaborations Project’ (2019) – he has sold over 45 million albums and 150 million singles across the world.
Most notably, Ed’s 2017 blockbuster release, ‘÷’ (Divide), saw Ed reign supreme as one of the most in-demand pop stars on the planet – a feat he has continued to sustain ever since. Crowned as the fastest-selling album, ever, by a male artist in the UK, the chart-shattering album housed a swarm of singles including ‘Castle on the Hill’, ‘Perfect’ and ‘Shape of You’, with the latter becoming Spotify’s most-streamed song of all time.
But it’s not just his recorded music that’s seen the former Glastonbury headliner become one of the sought-after artists of the 21st century either. Possessing a mystical ability to turn 90,000 capacity venues into the pub back-rooms that he first started playing in, Ed made history in 2015 after becoming the first-ever artist to play Wembley Stadium solo – without a band and with just his guitar and loop pedal – over three, consecutive sold out nights. Move forward to the summer of 2019 and Ed would re-enter history books after the completion of his mammoth two-year Divide tour, officially becoming the most-attended tour of all time after it culminated with special homecoming shows in Ipswich, Suffolk.
Ed Sheeran – who was awarded an MBE for his services to music and charity in 2017 – is the proud recipient of 1 x IFPI Award (best-selling global artist of 2017); 4 x Grammys; 4 x Ivor Novello’s; 6 x BRIT Awards (including two consecutive wins for ‘Global Success’ in 2018 and 2019); 7 x Billboard Awards + more.
At the end of 2019, Sheeran was presented with the Official Chart Company’s first-ever ‘No.1 Artist of the Decade’ award following a host of accomplishments in his native UK including the most No.1’s across the UK’s Official Singles and Albums chart from the years 2010-2019.