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Ed Sheeran: No.6 Collaborations Project Album Review

The rumors are confirmed: Ed Sheeran finally married his longtime girlfriend, Cherry Seaborn. In a interview with the radio host Charlamagne tha God-real, one hour of small talk recorded in the studio of Sheeran's countryside home in Suffolk and released alongside the album in place of any major press-sheeran fill us in with blessed references to their life together . He's ditched the good-natured, drunken shenanigans that once led to a scar on his cheek from the sword of an actual British royal in favor of nesting with the person he calls his "lady." Please be glad to Ed Sheeran on his graduation to marriage,

Therein lies the conceptual premise of the bulk of the guest-laden No. 6 Collaborations Project . There is "I Do not Care," an early single featuring Justin Bieber and perhaps the best effort on No.6 and a vector of the dancehall-lite rhythms sounds Sheeran's debut on 201

7's "Shape Of You." Bieber, and fellow newlywed, shares in Sheer's swelling melodies and loving truisms: "I do not care when I'm with my baby, yeah / All the bad things disappear." Then there's "Cross Me," featuring Chance the Rapper and and the hook fashioned out of a sample of PnB Rock's 2017 XXL Freshman cypher, a well-meaning if slightly paternalistic from their respective partners

But the change in Sheeran's marital status has not inspired a shift away from the chip on his shoulder: I'm a cool guy, I'm a regular guy, is the subtext of his career so far. No.6 is an open-handed, Khalid-assisted reminder that he is not one of the "beautiful people," and a catchy calculation suitable for the sad-pop dominating the charts. "Antisocial," featuring Travis Scott and his signature skittering drums, begins with a bizarre instruction: "All you cool people, you better leave now."

In an album defined mostly by banality, "South of the Border," featuring Camila Cabello and Cardi B, is a bizarre moment. It's a Latin-pop fantasy-sheeran sings of someone's "caramel thighs" and "curly hair" -punctuated by Cardi's suggestion that "Ed got a little jungle fever." Huh? Maybe unintentionally, the raceplay points directly to the elephant in the room: Although he built his fame on confessional, earnest acoustic guitar songs, Ed Sheeran loves black music, and he wants you to know it

Unfortunately, on No.6, that appreciation largely manifests as the belief that he is a competent rapper. One song "Take Me Back To London" featuring Stormzy, his flow bears a suspicious resemblance to "Bitch Better Have My Money" -era Rihanna. (Sheeran has settled plagiarism lawsuits on at least three occasions and will go to trial on a fourth this September.) There, and elsewhere, his raps are cringey and simplistic, with all the subtlety of a plot-driven song written by Lin Manuel Miranda: "It's that time / Big Mike and Teddy are on grime / I want to try new things, they just want me to sing / Because nobody thinks I write rhymes."

Being a fan of rap does not mean you can rap. I would never be deluded in thinking I could run a kitchen just because I've spent years watching "Chopped." Along with 50 Cent and Eminem, both way past their prime as rappers, Sheeran sounds even more out of his depth on "Remember the Name: "Yeah, I was born and misfit, I grew up 10 miles from the city of Ipswich / Wanted to make it big, I wished it to exist / I never was a sick kid, stop rappin ',' like it's Christmas. 'Those unnamed haters were right and No.6 confirms that Sheeran is better off sticking within his skillset. "Feels," which ingenuously unites Young Thug and J Hus, and "Put It All On Me", which offers Ella Mai a warm piano to shine over, are legally irresistible

In a 2014 Vibe Cover story, in which a reporter witnessed his freestyle over beats including YG's "My Nigga," Sheeran was described as having a "hip-hop soul." A couple years later, Stormzy, with whom Sheeran has something of a friendship, took it further. "Even with his rapping he can execute it well," he told GQ . It did not quite come out of nowhere. In 2011, after releasing a handful of EPs in the style of alt-folk-rock singer-songwriter forbearers like Jason Mraz, he convinced No.6 No.6 is modeled. Wiley and Jme to participate in his No.5 Collaborations Project Over the years, he has performed multiple Nina Simone covers, recorded a song in the Ghanaian language of Twi, and told Billboard that Justin Timberlake, unparalleled in the cultural phenomenon of "blue-eyed soul," was "pretty close to a direct inspiration. "

Nearly 8 years, 150 million albums sold, and dozens of arena-headlining tour dates after No.5 he's employed a similar ethos but with the expanded budget and superstar access of his status as one of the world's best-selling artists. Like the original compilation project, much of No 6. is as bad in theory as it is in practice. Pop music has been drawn from a black cultural expression since the dawn of its existence, becoming increasingly absorbent in recent years. As hip-hop and diasporic genres like Afropop, dancehall, and dembow have framed the dominant modalities of contemporary radio, inspiration and appropriation have become business moves as much as artistic choices. No.6 which has all the conspicuous mining of a Drake album, but very little of the finesse or cultural fluency

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