With the New Year in full swing, English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran brought his 2016 resolution to a close. At the conclusion of his hectic and successful 2015 music career, Sheeran hoped to become less involved with social media and technology. Throughout 2015, Sheeran received numerous awards and nominations, some of which include: two Brit awards for Best Male Solo Artist and Album of the Year for “X”, three Grammy nominations, two iHeart Music Award nominations, two People’s Choice Awards for Favorite Album “X” and Favorite Male Artist.
Because Sheeran’s 2015 year was filled with hit singles, a tour for his album “X” and appearances at numerous award shows, the artist wanted to take a break from the chaos. After remaining under the radar for a year, Sheeran re-entered the social media world on Dec. 13, 2016. He posted on Instagram and Twitter an electric blue picture, hinting toward the release of a new album.
The hype continued on Jan. 1, when Sheeran uploaded a video of him with a piece of paper that read “New Music Coming Friday.” The next day, Sheeran posted a short video showing the cover design of his upcoming album entitled “” (pronounced “divide”) which will be released on March 3.
Jan. 6 was an exciting and long anticipated moment for Sheeran’s fans, as the artist released two singles, “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill.” The first, originally written for pop artist Rihanna, tells an upbeat story of the singer meeting an attractive woman at a bar, who he eventually falls in love with. The first lines read, “The club isn’t the best place to find a lover / So the bar is where I go.” Sheeran alludes to the idea that he’s not interested in the “hookup” culture found in clubs, so he and his friends go to a bar where the atmosphere allows for actual conversation to take place.
The singer then sees a woman who he hopes will talk to him. After bonding over music at the jukebox, the two hit it off. It becomes apparent that they have a strong physical connection when the woman says, “Say, boy, let’s not talk too much / Grab on my waist and put that body on me.”
Sheeran continues to describe a night when they had sex and how “in love” he is with her body. The relationship is bumped up a notch when the two venture out on their first date. The once solely physical relationship blossoms into a romantic love story where the two are able to talk to each other for hours.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Sheeran wanted to show two different sides to his musical abilities and passion. His emotional song, “Castle on the Hill” contrasts to the upbeat story of “Shape of You” due to the more powerful and relatable message it holds. In “Castle on the Hill,” Sheeran reminisces on his personal experience in Suffolk, England — the place where he grew up.
Sheeran begins the song by painting a picture of his childhood, where he’s running down a hill in an attempt to outrun his brother. He explains that he began to face larger problems as he grew up and wishes he could return to the carefree times of his childhood — don’t we all?
“Found my heart and broke it here
Made friends and lost them through the years
And I’ve not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home.”
Suffolk still holds a special place in Sheeran’s heart despite the loss of early friendships. As a town where Sheeran both found love and had his heart broken, Suffolk is a place that holds many memories and meaningful emotions for the singer. He later talks about missing the moments where he and his love would watch the sunset fall “over the castle on the hill” — a significant time in Sheeran’s life. Sheeran’s lyrics allow us to think about our own first love story and how perfect it once felt, compared to the messiness and chaos of our present-day relationships.
Later, the song talks about the rush to grow up — another relatable topic. At the age of 15, Sheeran began smoking and drinking because of his desire to grow up. He then continues to sing about his first kiss and how he doesn’t think he “did it right.” Like Sheeran, the desire to act older than one actually is is common within society. This phenomenon increases pressure to perform mature actions, such as kissing someone, even if one doesn’t necessarily feel ready to do so.
Sheeran ends his song by describing the current living situations of friends and family. Some of the people he describes are doing well, some are struggling with drugs, but all are significant to him because they helped shape the person who he is today. He says, “but these people raised me,” a line that shows Sheeran’s true appreciation for these relationships.
“Castle on the Hill” is an uplifting song that causes the audience to reminisce on their past. Even though Sheeran’s story is different from our own, it mimics the same emotions and attachments people have toward their hometown and old friends.
According to Entertainment Weekly, both singles soared to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 list with “Castle on the Hill” at No. 6 and “Shape of You” taking No. 1. Sheeran made history by being the first artist to hold two songs in the top 10 simultaneously.
Also according to Entertainment Weekly, the two songs broke records for Spotify’s First Day Streams and Spotify’s Best First Week for a Track. The two numbers totalled 88 million combined streams throughout the first week. With a combination of a Caribbean/tropical vibe and a house party beat, “Shape of You” veers away from Sheeran’s typical compositions — showing that he has been dabbling with new music styles during his time off.
“Castle on the Hill” however, carries a fast-paced, folk-like tune that accompanies a powerful message that Sheeran fans are accustomed to hearing from his previous singles. The contrast between these two releases leaves fans wondering what vibe “”will have. Is Sheeran moving toward a more pop style? Or will the album continue to follow Sheeran’s typical unique chords and messages? Either way, fans are excited for his return to the spotlight and are waiting to see what else he has in store.