Originally posted 3/7/2019.
Released: June 20, 2014
Peak: #11 US, #113 UK, #13 CN, #18 AU
Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 2.13 UK, 6.13 world (includes US and UK)
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
X, Sheeran’s second album, was nominated for Grammys for Album of the Year and Pop Vocal Album. It also took home the Brit Award for British Album of the Year. It was supported by five official singles, although everything from the album either hit the UK charts or sold at least 200,000 copies.
Sheeran said he “started off making another acoustic record, and it turned into a neo-soul-funk record.” WK He credited producers like Rick Rubin and Benny Blanco for pulling him out of his comfort zone. WK All Music Guide glibly called Ed Sheeran “the UK’s answer to Jason Mraz,” AMG noting that Sheeran, like, Mraz, “plays around with hip-hop cadences but at his core he’s a singer/songwriter…who prefers love tunes to songs of protest.” AMG Not only can Sheeran “ramble out a rap, but he’s also quite comfortable with luxurious, shimmering textures and buoyant melodies.” AMG
“Naturally, these traits surface clearly on Sing, a collaboration with Pharrell Williams that contains some of the natural ebullience of ‘Happy.” AMG Sheeran noted that he tried to channel Justin Timberlake’s debut album, Justified. WK It ended up as the first single from the album.
Sheeran wrote the second single, Don’t, about a girlfriend, singer Elle Goulding, who cheated on him with a close friend. He said he played the song for his friend Taylor Swift and her response is that she would never want to piss him off that much. WK Sheeran first recorded it with Blanco, then again with Rubin, and finally the two producers came together for the final version. WK
The ballad Thinking Out Loud was released as the third single. Sheeran said the song, written about his then-girlfriend, was his favorite from the album. He said it was a soul song and “the only happy song on the album.” WK However, All Music Guide said, “When Sheeran sings slow, he rarely sings sad: he’s a hybrid of Chris Martin and David Grey, a boy next door who hasn’t lost his shaggy romanticism. His sweetness isn’t cloying, not even when the productions are aimed straight down the middle of the road, which they often are on.” AMG
Photograph, the fifth single from the album, was written with Johnny McDaid of Snow Patrol, as was Nina. McDaid called the latter a “self-deprecating” love song about “heartbreak.” WK Sheeran referred to “Photograph” as the song “that will change my career path,” WK believing it to be the one song that would sell the album. WK
“His boyishness doesn’t give these immaculate confections grit so much as a wet, wide-eyed puppy dog heart…Whenever the mildly manic rapping surfaces…it’s a bit of sand in the Vaseline, preventing X from operating as smoothly as it’d like. Nevertheless, these gangly excursions in rap are evidence of Sheeran’s youth and his generation, something that keeps X from being merely a bit of excellently crafted mature pop and gives it some appealing character.” AMG