Ed Sheeran returns with an album full of collaborations with his favourite artists, here's everything you need to know...
It's only a slight exaggeration to say that the last time Ed Sheeran released an album, namely 2017's ÷, he single-handedly ruined the UK Singles Chart. With every one album's 16 tracks occupying a position in the UK's Top 20, Sheeran set new records for chart dominance and cemented his place as one of the country's most commercially viable exports.
Small wonder, then, that the news of his next full-length offering has been greeted with more than a little excitement. Sheeran began teasing his latest album release back in May, announcing the album via his Instagram and teasing a long list of guests set to feature on his upcoming LP. Sheeran also unveiled the title for his new album and explained the idea behind it: “Before I was signed in 2011, I made an EP called No.5 Collaborations Project”, the singer said in a statement. “Since then, I've always wanted to do another, so I started No.6 on my laptop when I was on tour last year. I'm a huge fan of all the artists I've collaborated with and it's been a lot of fun to make."
Describing the new LP as more of a compilation than a regular studio album, Sheeran has recruited a laundry list of guests for its 15 new tracks, and with a handful of singles already released, his new album No.6 Collaborations Project makes its arrival in stores today. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Since the release of his chart-breaking 2017 album, Sheeran has certainly been busy, appearing in Game of Thrones later that year and even popping up in the New Year's Honours list, earning himself an MBE for “services to music and charity.”
Then there was the small matter of his tour in support of ÷, which began in 2017 and took in a staggering 260 shows across all continents, lasting all the way up to the beginning of this year. That hasn't left much time for making an album in the usual way, so instead Sheeran has been recording tracks for this album in between his many, many live shows.
The album began with an idea Sheeran had about doing an all-male cover version of Labelle's 'Lady Marmalade', echoing the cover recorded in 2001 for the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge by Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Lil' Kim and P!nk. Sheeran had envisioned a version featuring himself, Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars, but when pitched the idea over the phone Mars indicated he would prefer they record something new together. The resulting track 'BLOW', which closes out the new LP, became the first one recorded for Sheeran's new project.
Who's producing it?
Several producers have contributed to the new album, including Max Martin, Shellback, Benny Blanco and Fred Gibson.
Any special guests?
Just a few. Amongst the many artists putting in an appearance on Sheeran's latest offering are Khlalid, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, Stormzy, Justin Bieber, Travis Scott, Eminem, 50 Cent, J Hus, Ella Mai, Skrillex and Bruno Mars. And that's not even all of them.
What does it sound like?
Sheeran was keen to point out in a recent interview with Charlamagne Tha God that he doesn't see No.6 as the next stage in his career, instead preferring to think of it as a fun project that he's decided to release because he felt like it. As such, you probably shouldn't read too much into the new album in terms of its musical direction.
Which is just as well because, stylistically, it's all over the place. If this were a studio album, that might be interpreted as a criticism, but with so many different collaborators it's impossible to guess what's coming next. At one end of the scale there's the anthemic pop of his Khalid collaboration 'Beautiful People' and the dancehall-flavoured rhythms of 'I Don't Care' with Justin Bieber; at the other is the pure, riff-driven rock of 'BLOW', the Bruno Mars and Chris Stapleton collaboration that kicked off this whole project.
Does it deliver?
Had this album been billed as a proper follow-up to ÷, you could imagine critics scratching their heads over which musical direction Sheeran was ultimately trying to head towards, but by deciding to put together and release the album in the way he has, he's effectively freed himself from any of the pressure that might normally come with following up an album as big as ÷, and it shows.
With so much variation across the album's 15 tracks, there are bound to be some that float your boat to a lesser extent than the others, but instead of coming across like a slightly confused step in a new direction, No. 6 Collaborations project just sounds like a guy indulging his eclectic musical tastes and enjoying working with artists he really admires. Taken for what it is – namely a collection of songs rather than one body of work – the new album serves as an enjoyable showcase for his favourite artists, with plenty of pop bangers for his fans to enjoy.