Ed Sheeran: So relatable, so what?

Ed Sheeran: So relatable, so what?

All this past weekend, I have been seeing Ed Sheeran come up on my Instagram feed.

The British singer-songwriter came to Singapore with his one-man show last Saturday, and it seems like half the people I know went to the sold-out concert held at The Star Theatre.

One after another, video clips of the portly, orange-haired fella warbling away appeared on my iPhone.

I just don't get it.

While doing my radio show Maddy, Jason and Arnold In The Morning recently, I had an off-air conversation with Maddy Barber about Sheeran, and she tried to explain why everyone loves him.

The word that came up again and again is "relatable".

Sheeran sings about things we've all experienced and he does so in a straightforward, literal fashion.

That's fair enough, but I still don't know why I should find it interesting.

Here is a sample of the lyrics from his hit song One: "Take my hand and my heart and soul / I will only have these eyes for you, and you know / Everything changes but we'll be strangers if we see this through / You could stay within these walls and bleed or just stay with me / Oh lord, now"

If one of my friends wrote that, I'd probably laugh in his face.

The music is similarly simplistic, with straightforward chord progressions and arrangements.

His songs are sort of the musical equivalent of mashed potatoes, sans gravy. White, whipped and flavourless.

For me, music should be the opposite of relatable.

It should be a complete escape, whether transcendent or decadent.

Music can lead us towards the future, towards the light, binding us in a mystical sense of oneness with the universe.

It can also drag us down into a delicious primordial sensuality.


Music can illuminate whole new worlds and dimensions, and so why on Earth should I give a dang about Sheeran's humdrum love life?

Why would we settle for a humble chronicler when we could have a true visionary?

Here is a sample of the lyrics from Hawkwind's The Golden Void, one of my favourite tunes: "The golden void speaks to me, denying my reality / I lose my body, lose my mind / I blow like wind, I flow like wine / Down a corridor of flame / Will I fly so high again? / Is there something wrong with me / I cannot hear, I cannot see / Down a corridor of flame / Down a corridor of flame / Down a corridor of flame"

It might not read like Yeats, but this "space rock" song from the 70s at least attempts to blow your mind.

Anyway, people like what they like, and that's fine.

I just wish I could understand why people like what they like.

Ed Sheeran could be my Rosetta Stone for figuring out the whole human race.

This article was first published on March 18, 2015.
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