A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ed Sheeran is a very talented, mega-successful young British singer-songwriter who's especially popular among teens and young adults, many of whom (in the U.S.) discovered him through his guest spot on Taylor Swift's Red album and subsequent tour and through a song he cowrote for the English boy band One Direction. However, many of Sheeran's own songs are not nearly as innocent as either of those two artists'. On his second album, X, several songs make reference to drinking alcohol and getting high, and there are (non-explicit) mentions of having sex. Most of the songs on X are about troubled relationships and his resulting angst, but there also are a couple of beautiful love songs. The music on the album ranges from sensitive, acoustic guitar-driven balladry to R&B-slanted neo-soul and hip-hop/rap.
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What's the story?
Ed Sheeran's X (pronounced "multiply," he says) is the second album from the popular British singer-songwriter, who, at age 21, was nominated for Best New Artist and Song of the Year at the 2014 Grammy Awards. His career has been hot, hot, hot in the U.S. since 2012. He was the opening act on a hugely successful tour for Taylor Swift in 2013, and X became a smash hit as soon as it was released in June 2014, propelled by massive sales to Sheeran's predominantly young female pop audience. X has more soul/R&B flavors than Sheeran's first album, with several songs featuring him rapping. But the heart of the album is still his deft confessional balladry, delivered in a pleasing, soulful tenor that occasionally ventures into falsetto territory.
Is it any good?
Sheeran's an exceptionally talented pop, folk, and R&B singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and his second album, X, brilliantly produced by the ultra-hip Rick Rubin, has a stripped-down and intimate feel that perfectly matches Sheeran's sincere and soulful vocal delivery. Many songs deal with his own rocky relationships -- some doomed by the demands of his busy life on the road (aww...poor superstar!) -- but he isn't just pointing fingers and complaining about being wronged by this or that woman. Rather, he's frank about his own failings and raging insecurity. In fact, some of it borders on TMI. But, as he says of his songwriting in one tune, "It's only therapy."
Fans of his luscious ballads might not embrace his hip-hop/rap side as much, but it's no surprise that he can pull off that kind of music, too. "Thinking Out Loud" sounds like an homage to Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," while "Tenerife Sea" is a gorgeous, flowing love ballad certain to get many young female hearts beating fast.