Released September 9, 2011, + (plus) was Sheeran’s commercial breakthrough in the U.K. It eventually peaked at #5 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and was the highest debut on the U.S. chart for a British artist since Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed a Dream in 2009. It is the ninth best-selling album of the decade in the UK.
Jason: I am annoyed that this is on this list. Up to this point the albums have been genre defining, revolutionary, or created a cultural shift. Now we have this ginger dweeb who makes music for tweens and suburban aunts. He’s the type of artist whose albums debut exclusively at Whole Food checkout lines. It’s like I don’t even know this list anymore.
Brad: I actually agree with you. I think he’s talented but much like Bruno Mars and Drake, he does nothing for me. This felt like a chore to listen to 4 times.
Jason: I do a minimum of 5 times. It’s just coffeehouse background music.
I mean, he’s fine. Just nothing special and does not deserve a place on this. Alas, here we are. Do you want to guess which song I hated?
Brad: The one that includes “Shrek”, “Blu-Rays” and “DVDs” in the lyrics? “Wake Me Up”, it’s called.
Jason: YES! Very good. I am sure that ‘lamenting-about-a-breakup’ song means something to him but to us it was a tedious mess. Some of his songs are catchy. “Grade 8” is okay. “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” has a rap in it where he inhales too much. It’s not the worst ever it’s just unnecessary.
Brad: I get really uncomfortable when he beat boxes and raps. I have a visceral reaction to skip ahead to the next song.
Jason: In his raps he tries too hard to be cool. Rapping about “crack” and “fucking in an elevator” and I am like “give it up, Sheeran.” That song also sounds like a Hamilton rip-off. Even thought I know it isn’t.
Brad: I think he can be a decent songwriter. This was his first album and it sounds like a first album. I think he is really good at writing hit songs but still not great at creating cohesive albums.
Jason: He’s the Katy Perry of British popular singles.
Brad: I’ve listened to all three by the way.
Jason: All three voluntarily. He boxed himself in with album titles: +, x, and ÷. The last one I had to look up the alt-character code since the divided-by sign isn’t even on a keyboard. If he continues to make music for the next 50 years will we get %, ^, *, @, ¶, and ≥ ?”I liked his album ‘closed bracket’ better than ‘square root’ but not as good as ‘equals sign'”
Brad: Ha! Possibly.
Jason: Do “Times-sign” and “Divided-by” or whatever they are called, get better? Does he mature along the way as a musician?
Brad: I think he does. Although, he has been accused of plagiarism by several artists. He’s been sued or accused by the writers of TLC’s “No Scrubs”. I think Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Marvin Gaye’s estate have accused him of plagiarism too.
Jason: I remember that. Do you think these are valid complaints or one of those things where they just sound similar?
Brad: It depends. Sometimes I really hear it and sometimes it seems like a stretch. I can understand where an artist who has been existing in the world and listening to music might not know that they are ripping someone off.
Jason: Well, this tattooed ginger hobbit isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so I expect more plagiarism accusations but also more Sheeran singles being covered by every American Idol contestant.
Brad: Yes, I think all of that will happen. I understand why he is successful. He seems appealing to many generations at once. He is really becoming a mogul with all of his guest writing for other artists and now he has his own music label. I think he’s starting a boy band too where he writes all their songs. You have to admire his drive and work ethic if nothing else.
Jason: True. I will give him that. And he seems nice and his music isn’t awful or offensive it’s just like blanched carrot coins. Okay fine, but why bother?
Brad: I agree. He’s had some really great singles and he seems like a charismatic performer but most of his music is pretty bland and sounds similar to me.
Jason: I think I am ready to move on from Sheeran. What grade do you give this album?
Jason: Harsh (for you). I am going to go with C. Maybe this album is on here because we need a aural palette cleanser.
Brad: Maybe. I debated on giving it a straight C but then I remembered the Shrek lyric.
Jason: Good call. He’s the plain froyo of the music biz but with a Nerds candy topping.
Below is the scratch-off artwork from the 100 Bucket List poster.