More than just gap year jollity
Ed Sheeran + (Asylum)
Prepare yourself for the juggernaut of talent that is Ed Sheeran. From Suffolk in England, this 20-year-old red-haired lad is a maelstrom of pop creativity. A human megamix of styles, ideas and irrepressible enthusiasm.
Elton John thinks Ed's great. And no wonder. Charismatic Sheeran can write and deliver a heartwrenching love song, or empathise with the plight of a homeless junkie, as easily as he can fire off tongue-twisting lyrical salvos that sound as if Eminem has been plundering The Streets for inspiration.
Sheeran looks set to illustrate how talent, dedication and an overwhelming passion for making music can still reach around the world.
Three years ago, Sheeran moved to London and began playing everywhere he could. In the early 1960s, a young singer-songwriter from Minnesota did something similar when he landed in Greenwich Village. It worked for Dylan.
And it looks to be happening for Sheeran. As the buzz began to spread, even Rio Ferdinand caught the bug.
Earlier this year, when he announced a free gig in a club, so many people turned up he had to play three gigs and busk outside to oblige everyone. And that seems to be part of his appeal. Ed comes across as an obliging sort of chap. A caring individual.
When he sang "And they say she's in the Class A Team, stuck in her daydream, been this way since 18, but lately her face seems slowly sinking, wasting . . ." on the Jools Holland TV show in April, the public went mental for the song. Inspired by a young woman he met when working in a homeless shelter, his song went to No3 when it was released the following day.
The EP, No 5 Collaborations, on which he worked alongside strong voices such as Wretch 32 and Devlin, was a hot seller. No wonder his Vicar Street show in November is already sold out.
But he's not all gap-year jollity. Sheeran can put the boot in when he has to. The current single, a rattling beat and an infectious torrent of lyrical rapping and sweet urban melody, is a stinging riposte to former management.
"I'm not you," he raps. "Now that would be disastrous. Let me sing and do my thing and move to greener pastures."
Sheeran catches sensations most people have felt and unexpectedly channels them back with a twist. "There may be other people like us," he laments on Drunk. "You don't hold me anymore." As he struggles with his emotions, he makes a wish, "I want to be drunk when I wake up. On the right side of the wrong bed . . ."
From Small Bump, an aching ballad to an unborn child, to the clippy hip-hop of The City, a tone poem to London, Sheeran, the urban romantic, proves he's a prodigious pop talent who wears his heart on a tearstained sleeve.
He'll emulate Lily Allen for sure. But on this evidence he could become as major as Paul Simon. HHHHI