‘Autumn Variations’ lacks diversity in sound

Sheeran showcases his storytelling ability and cozy production

Image supplied by: Ed Sheeran Album Cover
‘Autumn Variations’ was released September 29.

With the ability to craft hits like “Don’t,” “You Need Me I Don’t Need You,” and “Thinking Out Loud,” it’s disheartening to find Autumn Variations lacks distinction and memorability.

Released Sept. 29, Autumn Variations is Ed Sheeran’s seventh studio album. Despite Sheeran’s lyrical prowess and the album’s cozy production, Autumn Variations doesn’t turn heads the way Sheeran’s previous work did.

Other than the lyrical components, many songs sound similar to others on the album, lacking the impactful edge ofthe rest of Sheeran’s previous works.

Autumn Variations showcases Sheeran’s storytelling as an important part of his songwriting. The album, inspired by Sheeran’s friends, speaks to the life changes he and his friends faced.

Autumn Variations producer Aaron Dressner is best known for his production work on Taylor Swift’s folk genre albums folklore and evermore. Dressner’s dexterity in production is exhibited perfectly across Autumn Variations, emphasizing the acoustic sounds which contributes to the album’s intimate feel.

Despite Sheeran’s storytelling talent, his most notable skill is the ability to craft music that’s  devoid of resemblance prior works. This distinguishability makes Sheeran excellent, as it renders his work remarkable in the music industry.

This album, however, struggles to stand out where his earlier hits did. They stuck out in the sea of pop music, dominating over other leading Billboard tracks. This album doesn’t do the same.

The opening track of the album, “Magical,” immerses listeners in the story of one of Sheeran’s friends falling in love, accompanied by a cozy production and the light broken chords of an acoustic guitar layered in the background. However, many if not all the tracks mirror these sounds. Acoustic albums can be beautiful,  but the tracks can blend into one another at times, especially if you aren’t listening to the lyrics.

Some songs, as sweet as they are, replicate one another. “Blue,” “Page,” and “Spring” hold Bon Iver-level beauty and melancholy, carried by acoustic melodies that leave listeners with a deep-seated feeling of intimacy, as if they’re listening on a cozy fall day by the campfire accompanied by the smell of autumn leaves.

“Blue” encapsulates the feeling of having no contact with the person you love following a breakup caused by your own errors. My favorite track on the album, “Spring,” speaks to looking for the light in a time of darkness through the metaphor of seasonal depression.

Despite the illustrative lyricism, the songs’ melodies blend together in soothing ballads which obscures which song belongs to which title.

Even the songs that aren’t beautifully saddening on the album are still similar to one another. They demonstrate Sheeran’s songwriting talent with pop melodies that bring warmth and joy to listeners, all while carrying lyrics with the heaviest of themes.

In “Amazing,” Sheeran writes about his friend trying to pull themself out of depression. Someone who wasn’t listening to the lyrics might think they were bopping to a song about a road trip along the California coast.

Similarly, while less energetic, “Plastic Bag” speaks about someone who is struggling with addiction, relying on drugs and partying for their happiness.

The album doesn’t solely showcase dark stories. Sheeran writes several heartwarming ballads as well.

“American Town” is a love letter to Sheeran’s memories with his wife in New York, and he reminisces about his time in the United Kingdom on “England.” “Midnight” depicts the light a loved one brings into someone’s life even in the darkest of times.  Sheeran showcases his soft heart in these songs, relieving listeners of the burdens of the album’s darker tracks.

“Punchline” and “That’s on Me” are arguably the only two songs on this album that bring back Sheeran’s diverse sound, offering a more edgy style. They’re reminiscent of his past tracks off x and +.

The last two verses of “Punchline” bring back a strong electric guitar and a leading drum with a straining rasp in Sheeran’s voice as he sermonizes that he will “never let you go” and he “can’t help it.” It’s the first time his authentic sound comes back to listeners throughout the entire album.

Bringing back Sheeran’s rap tracks and drawing slight similarity to “You Need Me I Don’t Need You,” “That’s on Me” offers fans slower rap verses in a stark contrast to the album’s soft ballads.

Since Sheeran stands among the largest names in the music industry, perhaps he no longer feels the need to stand out. Regardless, it was a letdown to see his authenticity falter to conform to the genre of folk sounds that is currently trending and thriving in the music realm.

Nevertheless, Autumn Variations remains a testament to Sheeran’s ability to remain emotionally vulnerable in his words, crafting resonant lyrics that leave audiences entranced by his profound creative talent.



Album review, Ed Sheeran, folk, Music, New Album, Songwriting, Storytelling

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