Songwriter (2018)

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Songwriter (2018) Movie Poster Image
Docu about pop star's album creation; smoking, cursing.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 84 minutes

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Positive Messages

Songwriting, recording, and performing are collaborative efforts. "Teamwork makes the dream work."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ed Sheeran comes across as affable, down-to-earth. He collaborates well with others, remaining open to other ideas that help him flesh out his own. He keeps close ties with his family, still refers to his mother as "Mommy," and unabashedly sings about emotions not often heard in pop music, such as love for his brother. He's shown visiting his old high school, teaching students about music, songwriting. He's shown smoking several times, drinking alcohol once or twice.


One or two brief kisses. One song about physical attraction and intimacy isn't explicit but mentions things like how his bedsheets "smell like you."


"F--k," "s--t," "hell," and "penis."


Lots of clothing with logos, mostly for sports teams. In an extended scene, Sheeran's wearing a Hooter's T-shirt.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One collaborator almost always has a cigarette in his mouth. Sheeran smokes several times. One or two brief scenes show alcohol consumption, usually at parties or celebrating album launch. Some song lyrics mention alcohol, cigarettes. For one song a producer encourages Sheeran to think up a lyric with alcohol or cigarettes to show mood.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Songwriter (2018) is a documentary about pop sensation Ed Sheeran's process making a new album. The emphasis is on the songwriting phase, of course, but recording and mixing the album are also shown. Band rehearsal and touring are also briefly explored. Expect some salty language, not too often, including "f--k," "s--t," and "hell." One song about physical attraction and intimacy isn't explicit but mentions things like how his bedsheets "smell like you." Drinking alcohol is shown two or three times. One collaborator almost always has a cigarette in his mouth, and Sheeran smokes several times. Sheeran comes across as an affable, down-to-earth fellow who's stayed close with friends and family while achieving every aspiring musician's dream.

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What's the story?

From riffing on ideas in the back of a tour bus to adjusting frequencies on the final mix, SONGWRITER shows the hard work, collaboration, teamwork, frustrations, and joys of Ed Sheeran's artistic process in creating the album Divide. Cameras operated by Sheeran's cousin capture the highs and lows and the unusual locations used -- everything from start to finish -- that went into creating the album.

Is it any good?

Ardent fans of Ed Sheeran will love soaking up every minute of this documentary about the creative process that led to the album Divide. Teens who are interested in music will also enjoy Songwriter's behind-the-scenes access: the gear, the recording equipment, the instruments. Watching a song grow from a few hummed phrases into a fully realized album track may inspire them to try an instrument or write a song themselves. Archival footage from Sheeran's childhood add to his wholesome appeal and help fans visualize the world he inhabits and sings about.

It's unlikely to hold the interest of those who aren't fans of Sheeran or interested in the music industry. Some parts of the process, like when he and a bunch of other songwriters are holed up in a house in Malibu, drag on for too long. And moments of genuine emotion are too few and far between to keep people hooked who aren't enjoying the music. But Sheeran fans will no doubt want to watch it over and over again.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Songwriter shows the songwriting process. Did anything about it surprise you? What character strengths make someone a good collaborator?

  • Why is Ed Sheeran so popular? If you like his music, what's so great about it? What's your favorite song of his? If you don't like his music, why not? Who do you like better?

  • Why do you think this documentary was made? Is it for fans? To make money? Does it provide any real insights, or does it just seem gratuitous?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love music

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