Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Ed Sheeran – Sing

It’s Singer-Songwriter Wednesday! And it’s 2014, so you know who that means…

David Turner: The guy behind some of the dullest radio hits of the last few years is now on his Justin-Timberlake-eyed-soul kick. The song isn’t Pharrell doing Marvin Gaye, but ’14 Pharrell doing ’02 Pharrell doing ’79 Michael Jackson, sung by the guy that did “The A Team.” *breathes* Though this isn’t “Blurred Lines,” I don’t doubt this is a good single, but the last year of white bros doing their best JT impression — this includes Timberlake himself — is a bit tiring.

Alfred Soto: Oh dear: hard strummin’ over a drum program. He’s “taking a step into no man’s land” with the most risible Timberlake imitation yet.

Patrick St. Michel: Sings a half-assed version of “Like I Love You,” is more like it. Props to Pharrell Williams for selling his old ideas to gullible kids.

Will Adams: At what point does shameless swiping turn into respectful homage? At what point does the Timberlake-Neptunes sound become distant enough that it conjures nostalgia instead of sneers? The answer may have more to do with context than time. With Timberlake and Pharrell still riding the highs of their 2013 resurgences, “Sing” feels opportunistic. That such a drastic shift in tone for Sheeran is totally unjustified does not help matters.

Katherine St Asaph: How mad do you think Justin Bieber is that he finished puberty and redid “Like I Love You” one year too early to actually get Pharrell involved? (Biebs may not give a shit anymore, you argue — but surely Scooter must!) Ed Sheeran, however, is just in time: by UK PR’s powers combined, + launched Sheeran’s career right up to this springboard, which aims at Timberlake and (they wish) Jackson’s heights. And I am… surprisingly OK with that? Not to be all #authenticity, but Sheeran’s guitar work means he brings more to Pharrell’s old track than your standard ol’ Paloma Faith, and his rapping is a little less risible a few rappity singles in. The praise has to be faint — Sheeran’s falsetto is not as bad as Sam Smith’s, but you sorta sense he thinks it’s not as good, and the idea of hobbity Ed being a sex symbol is still ridiculous, “Justify My Love” heavy-breathing or not — but it’s still praise. I’m going to fire myself now.

Scott Mildenhall: It’s clear that Ed Sheeran has taken a surprising turn from the worse with how the line “we found love in a local rave” feels brilliant, rather than terrible. He could even whack in another Gabriella Cilmi reference and get away with it, such is the pure catchiness of this song. Hopefully he’s not just a stopped clock; Pharrell, with his incomparable knack for interjections, seems to have the batteries.

Brad Shoup: I’m all in on the high-disco glassiness he brings for the falsetto. Absolutely not having the slumming-busker rippity rapp. I’m literally cueing the chorus up again and again right now.

Anthony Easton: All the points are how quickly he works through some of the phrasing, so you have to slow it down and figure out if it’s charmingly awkward or incompetent (especially the line about the fire blazing.) Less points are for the rarely interesting, now well beyond its sell-by date chorus, and for the indifference of his position as a meta-musician. I got close to feeling this, but it didn’t quite move me.

Jer Fairall: Counting on his ability to sound as cute (at least to the kinds of people who, for whatever reason, find Ed Sheeran cute) as a wannabe Timberlake/Thicke lothario as he did as an unctuous Brit variant on Jason Mraz, Sheeran actually comes close to selling this by giving himself over to the crisp, slinky contours of the production, proving that anonymity suits him as long as the surroundings are this sturdily constructed. Relapsing into the smirky white-boy rap of “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” at the one-and-a-half-minute point, however, he reveals his insecurity along with his obnoxiousness, and the track loses all hope of appealing to any among the cross section that it was undoubtedly (mis)calculated as an appeal to.

Edward Okulicz: Sure, it’s a remarkably brazen sop to the current climate, but it’s also a remarkably clever shape-shifter in its own right. Each distinct part (melodically and rhythmically) of “Sing” is an earworm, and it nicely answers most of my objections to Sheeran’s previous output. His dork-rapping was never really lacking for basic proficiency, it was just cloying and obvious, and here it’s used to grab the attention by contrast and then the song goes back to an infuriatingly catchy falsetto bit. And an infuriatingly catchy riff. And an infuriatingly catchy sing-along “oh-whoa-oh” bit. Pharrell can rightly be given credit for the supple, sleek bottom-end of the track, but there’s a really good topline here too. Several, in fact. What’s surprising is how Sheeran’s white-as-snow, oh-so-serious songcraft sounds frisky and effortless. Still not a fan, but not gonna resist this one.

Reader average: [6.62] (8 votes)

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7 Responses to “Ed Sheeran – Sing”

  1. I feel so naked without someone giving this like, an 8 to make me look slightly less shameful.

  2. If Ed Sheeran doing THIS song is the punchline, what’s the joke?…

  3. @Richaod

    So a middle-of-the-road singer and Ed Sheeran walk into a bar…
    (I’m kidding– I like Pharell).
    I’m glad you guys found this at least average because I thought it was gonna get trashed. It’s pretty cool though I agree that the rapping kind of kills it.

  4. I intended to give this about a 7, but I’m surprised by all the references to “Like I Love You,” which is at once a vastly superior song (the rapping is delivered by fucking Clipse; the funk is genuinely funky) and profoundly strange (it still, in 2014, gets radio play, with a deconstructed call-and-response outro between JT and the “band”) in a way Ed Sheeran could never get to with a thousand Mollies at a thousand local raves. This strikes me far more as a compromise between Thicke and Robin Thicke.

  5. I nearly wrote “Sheeran raps like his idea of a rap song when growing up was ‘Me Against the Music’ but it actually works here” but then I thought it sounded silly and made no sense. But it kind of does.

  6. It makes absolute sense.

  7. I love “Me Against the Music” btw.