The stats speak for themselves. Ed Sheeran’s third album, Divide, has shifted 432,000 copies three days after being released. The flame-haired troubadour is on the cover of the month’s Rolling Stone, and nowhere in the modern world can a soul find refuge from Ed’s slightly smug, self-satisfied face and tepid balladry.
When Simon Cowell began his war on popular music way back when, did he envision the likes of Ed Sheeran being the knight in whinging armor who would finally slay all that was dangerous, innovative, fresh, vital, and energizing pop music?
You bet your bottom dollar he did.
It’s hard to believe in the sterile and corporate landscape that passes for popular music in these trying times that pop music, as in any genre of music boasting popular appeal, once came in the form of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, James Brown, The Doors, the Who, David Bowie, Queen, the Sex Pistols, the Jam, the Smiths, Prince, Guns N’ Roses, Public Enemy, Eminem, Nirvana, and Oasis, to name but a few.
Now, Ed Sheeran is the indisputable heavyweight of the game. The new king of pop. An easy listening, multiplatinum sensation guaranteed to whip up a storm at weddings, tea parties, and paint-drying parties.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Ed as a person. It’s just he’s become so massive, so undeniable, so inescapable, that a man would pretty much have to go completely off-grid to completely nullify the chances of being ambushed by one of his irksome melodies.
Indeed, there appears nowhere left in western civilization where one can seek sanctuary from Ed’s bright, shiny face sublimely commanding you in a very self-deprecating way to succumb and accept the indisputable genius of the new pop godhead.
It’s sheer warfare. If you refuse to buy into the line that nice-guy Sheeran is something more than an average singer/songwriter, you instantly become a hater of god’s chosen self-deprecator.
It’s not about hate, folks. Ed is no doubt a lovely person as the media tells us at every opportunity. It’s just that his absolute domination of the charts and the media worship of his every utterance and move could almost have been masterminded by the diabolical intrigue of some Machiavellian figure dedicated to the death of pop music as we once knew it.
You know, when pop was edgy, had a dark undercurrent, a big attitude, and put the swagger in your walk and the rock ‘n’ roll in your soul.
If Sheeran offends, misbehaves, or puts a foot out of place, his record sales plummet.
And record sales and making money are the bottom line for Ed, who once said, “It’s the time of being polite.”
Which roughly translated could mean, “It’s the time to toe the line, do as you’re told and keep the record company happy. If you want to have your cake and gorge on it.”
Sheeran’s music is like a particularly toxic sedative for the masses. He makes tunes to do dishes to. Is it what the public want, or have standards slipped in the world of pop as in everywhere else in the 21st century?
Don’t believe the hype — you just have to buy it. Ed’s new album was considered brilliant before it was even released. It couldn’t fail. How could it?
Ed’s got a guitar, he’s got feelings, he wants the world to know just to know many feelings he’s got, and how many times this ultimate “nice boy” has been treated cruelly by girls because he is so damned nice and special, and not a slightly needy type who’s one rejection away from becoming a stalker.
Ed’s trajectory from everyman busker to instantly identifiable pop god is truly the stuff of miracles or corporate dark arts.
Ever since Simon Cowell declared war on music and launched a recruitment drive to find any new talent, nullify it, and rebrand it as pure product, the ground had been cleared for an opportunist like Sheeran to come along and enjoy the fruits of Cowell’s labor.
Like an apocalyptic cash-generating plague from the pages of the Old Testament, the phenomena of the talent show has laid to waste huge swathes of talented youngsters who thought singing and playing music had a deeper meaning than that of the bank balances of record company executives.
When confronted with the mind-numbing banality and vacuous horror of an industry that will chew you up and spit you out quicker than you can say, “Was that really 15 minutes, sir?” many an aspiring songbird or three-chord hero has shrunk back into the shadows, battered, bloodied, and disillusioned with life in the limelight, leaving only the truly talentless center stage.
The terrible banality of the talent show also boasted another frightful aspect in that it effortlessly closed many avenues for any new acts to become an overnight success story.
Yet, as if by magic, an almost mystical figure appeared from nowhere to do just that. And just happened to embody all that the suited men who meet in darkened corridors prize in an “artist.”
As was written as was done. The chosen one was predictable, malleable, ordinary, unthreatening, uncontroversial, lacking in all spontaneity, devoid of any strange “otherness,” and, above all, nice with a capital “N”!
With the terrible news that Ed Sheeran is planning to put together his own boy band and take them on tour with him, the circle is complete. The war is over, the disciple has become the master, and all, as they say, has become unsalvageable.
There’s nothing wrong with liking Ed Sheeran, just don’t be surprised when a prolonged bout of violent vomiting is the only reaction you’re going to get when someone is repeatedly force-fed a steady diet of nothing.
[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]