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Ed Sheeran’s Subtract - An addition of all emotions

Nandini Roy

Date - May 22, 2023


“Easy come, hard go; then life goes on.”

This particular line from the chorus of the song life goes on from the Irish Singer and songwriter Ed Sheeran’s new album Subtract reveals the complex reality of life and screams of maybe a glimmer of hope even in a person’s darkest days by focusing on how life never stops.

This new album bursts with emotions of sorrow and hope, thus finding a unique spot in Ed Sheeran’s extensive discography. While the singer and songwriter have produced melancholy music in the past, Subtract has its appeal as an arena of conflicting emotions conveyed through music produced during one of the most challenging times in Ed Sheeran’s life.


The much-awaited album Subtract was finally dropped on May 5th and, since then, has done nothing but an incredible job of winning hearts worldwide. The Album comes after much anticipation, as the artist had been dropping hints about the album in his various concerts since last year. And with the album, Ed Sheeran has finally brought an end to his mathematics series almost more than a decade after it was started with the launch of the album Add on September 9th, 2011. 


Like all of his other albums, Subtract exposes various aspects of his personal life to the critical gaze of his audience. However, the album has managed to create a cemented spot in the public's hearts with the personification of sorrow and grief, thus, making it instantly relatable and providing the listener with a haven for their feelings. On listening to the various tracks on the album, one may easily fit into their situation in the song's context. Thus, while it may be a dictation of Ed Sheeran’s emotions with the lyrics being specific to the events of his life, it may as well help provide comfort to anyone who may see their life situations being reflected in Subtract. 


With each song of the album resonating with raw unravished emotions, through the songs, Ed has paid tribute to the late English music entrepreneur and his best friend Jamal Edwards, who had played a vital role in launching Ed’s career through his production SBTV. 


Songs like ‘Eyes Closed,’ as described in his documentary, the sum of it all, became a gentle reminder of Jamal for the singer and songwriter. Furthermore, the upbeat song became his way of paying homage to his best friend, whose death shook him deeply. The lines “Every song reminds me you’re gone, and I feel a lump in my throat” depict the grief one feels on losing a loved one, thus making the song appeal to the broader audience who may feel it resonates with them. Furthermore, the lyrics “times is moving so slow” represents how lost one may find themself without that one person. 


In contrast to the grief-filled ‘Eyes Closed,’ ‘End of Youth’  showcases a raw look at the harsh realities of life. The lines “I guess it's all part of life, but I can’t help but feel low” show resignation to the truth; however, it becomes a reminder of how self-destructive sadness can be. 

Moving on from grief and then resignation, the other songs in the album, like ‘Toughest,’ became Ed's tribute to his wife Cherry Seaborn, battling cancer while pregnant with their second child. The track also highlights the painful journey the couple had to endure while facing the copyright case against the singer and songwriter. And finally, Dusty became a tribute to his baby girl Lyra who was born soon after Jamal's death. These two songs bring with them some hope and help dilute the cynical nature of the album.


The album, thus, is aptly described as an arena of conflicting emotions as, while soaked with feelings of grief and loss, it also carries with it another emotion of celebrating life. While Jamal's death was devastating, the birth of a new life was a soothing balm over the pain. The album, thus, not only focuses on loss but also celebrates life and reinforces that there is always light and hope, no matter how dark the tunnel may be. With lines such as “The waves won’t break my boat,” the audience gets a reminder that no matter what or how significant the loss may be, one still has to stand tall. Songs like ‘Life goes on,’ thus, become a bittersweet reminder of how despite the loss and the grief, life does not stop for anyone, and hence we may as well cling to whatever hope is left. And the fast rhythm of eyes closed contradicts its melancholy lyrics and reminds the audience to celebrate the life lost while still keeping it alive through memories.


Thus, it may be apt to say that Ed Sheeran has presented his listeners with a mind-blowing album that ensures to cause a painful ache in your chest with songs like eyes closed. The album also provides a soothing balm with songs like Dusty, Boat, and Toughest, thus making Subtract an addition of various emotions ranging from deep sorrow to immense hope. Furthermore, in addition to receiving numerous critical acclaims, the album has been successful in winning over the world, as evidenced by its debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 and with its songs still being among the Billboard HOT 100, with people all over the world reveling in the beauty that the lyrics are. 


With it almost being a month since the album was dropped, its success across the globe represents how aptly Ed Sheeran managed to channel his grief into songs that have described not only his but the emotions of millions of such people around the world. The contradicting emotions only add to the album’s true essence and give a clear picture of what life truly is, a sea with both perils and peace. 


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Tags: #music #album #BillboardHot100 #EdSheeran #Sumofitall #Subtract


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