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Ed Sheeran - No.6 Collaborations Project (Album Review)

Monday, 15 July 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Ed Sheeran’s fourth studio album takes its title from an EP he made eight years ago, pre-superstardom. As he noted on Instagram: “Before I was signed in 2011, I made an EP called No.5 Collaborations Project. Since then, I've always wanted to do another, so I started No.6 on my laptop when I was on tour last year.”

The resulting record adds up to a mishmash of styles that starts very strongly before falling away dramatically. South of the Border (featuring Camila Cabello & Cardi B) is a taut, angular piece of reggaeton-R&B with a well balanced arrangement and nimble songwriting. Similarly, Take Me Back to London (featuring Stormzy) is a pop-grime blend that manages to tread this highly delicate line with distinction.

One of Sheeran’s key talents is a broadly un-affected singing accent. This means that when put next to the raucous delivery of Stormzy or the snarling interjections of Travis Scott (on Antisocial), he manages to sound surprisingly natural.

With that said, the latter song is a textbook example of where the album falls off. It’s decent enough pop filler, but completely forgettable.

Similarly, tracks with Justin Bieber, Young Thug and Skrillex pass with little ceremony, while Remember the Name (featuring Eminem and 50 Cent) is actual dreck. It’s a self-referential bit of pop tripe, with throwback production and lyrics that smack of people phoning it in and cashing their cheques. 

The album draws us back in with closer Blow but by then the horse has already bolted. ‘No.6 Collaborations Project’ is a record that might as well be a Spotify playlist, such is the lack of overall vision and—to be fair to Sheeran—that is almost certainly why he’s called it a ‘project’.

It's also true that pop music collabs in 2019 rarely involve actual studio time with both artists in the room, and this frequently results in disjointed, modular composition that feels more commercial than creative. That said, Sheeran is one of the best singer-songwriters of his generation, so his fundamental talent does shine through here—it’s just that it could have been a lot better.

Ed Sheeran Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri August 16 2019 - LEEDS Roundhay Park
Sat August 17 2019 - LEEDS Roundhay Park
Fri August 23 2019 - IPSWICH Chantry Park
Sat August 24 2019 - IPSWICH Chantry Park
Sun August 25 2019 - IPSWICH Chantry Park
Mon August 26 2019 - IPSWICH Chantry Park

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