Since breaking out in 2011 with “The A Team”, Ed Sheeran has released 17 singles. Here is my definitive ranking of his discography. His catalog and my feelings are updated as of May 2019.
17 – Happier (2018, ÷)
“Happier” is a refreshing perspective from Ed Sheeran on failed relationships. There’s no anger that characterised “Don’t”. There’s no helplessness that “Drunk” manages to infect me with. Instead, he’s gained wisdom and is at peace with an ex lover moving forward. I do wish the tone was less melancholic. While I know this formula works, must the mood be carried over to all states of mind?
16 – You Don’t Need Me, I Don’t Need You (2011, +)
I bet “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” is one of Ed Sheeran’s favorites from his catalog. He closes a lot of his shows with this track. This is his purpose as an artist put into a song. Personally, I find his words clever and his singing/rapping in the verses superb. The line “They say I’m up and coming like I’m fucking in an elevator” is genius. But the hook is repetitive and not in an addicting way.
15 – Bloodstream with Rudimental (2015, x)
I’m sure Ed Sheeran takes no inspiration from Madonna. The closest similarity they share is the ambition to be the biggest pop star in the world. But if “Frozen” managed to have a reincarnation in 2015, I believe this collaboration between Rudimental and Ed would be its rebirth. The sound is refreshing compared to the rest of his catalog. Ed Sheeran being reduced to a crooner is an injustice that “Bloodstream” demonstrates.
14 – Give Me Love (2012, +)
Earlier in his career, Ed Sheeran embarked on a similar journey ordinary people take. I’m not referring to the experience of being a struggling artist and making ends meet. Rather, he once experienced the heartbreak we all go through, made a plea and begged for love we yearn for, and had no easy alternatives to fall back on. What “Give Me Love” lacked in production and engineering was compensated by its rawness and accessibility.
13 – Perfect (2017, ÷)
I stan Beyonce. But I prefer the original solo version of “Perfect”. Having said that, the single would’ve caused ripples around the world had “Thinking Out Loud” not existed in this lifetime. But the words “Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms” felt less meaningful when put side by side his lyrics 3 years back of “Take me into your loving arms. Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars”.
12 – Small Bump (2012, +)
The themes of Ed Sheeran’s singles in his first album was diverse. I was pleasantly surprised to realise this when I revisited +. He speaks of a friend’s miscarriage in “Small Bump”. While I can only imagine but never comprehend the pain that comes with it, I am grateful to Ed Sheeran for bridging my understanding. I also commend him for calling out opportunists who tried to hijack the song as an anthem to oppose abortion.
11 – I See Fire (2013, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Soundtrack)
When “I See Fire” was released, I was not a fan. The production felt bland and meaning outside of the film’s context is hard to find. What converted me to a believer was seeing him perform this live. He manages to bring the spirit of fantasy and folk in a setting that is otherwise filled with romance and party. Every time the chorus plays, when the sound of violin / cello (I’m not sure) takes over, the music is just haunting and captivating.
10 – Drunk (2012, +)
I’m a person who enjoys his fair share of alcohol. Knowing that Ed Sheeran uses it as a tool to get through the motions of life makes him and his song a lot more relatable. If I heard this track on the radio and had no clue about its background, I would easily mistake this as a single from The Script. That’s not an insult to Ed Sheeran whose sound has managed to evolve. That’s a stab at The Script whose artistry oftentimes stagnates.
9 – Photograph (2015, x)
“Photograph” had the disadvantage of coming out after “Thinking Out Loud”. The latter was simply inescapable. “Photograph” suffered from unfair comparisons and/or people rejecting new Ed Sheeran music as he was everywhere. For me, the song experienced a resurgence when the track played during the pivotal moments of Me Before You. Not everyone loved that film. But I cried like a baby… twice. I rediscovered this in the process.
8 – Lego House (2011, +)
Ed Sheeran first showed his crooner chops with “Lego House”. Who would’ve thought he could replicate the ballad’s success, surpass it, and replicate that achievement multiple times? I didn’t. Back then, most people would be familiar with this sound but not the artist or even this song’s title. I once joined a contest in-flight where no one guessed this correctly. However, they gave me a consolation prize for guessing “Love You Better Now”.
7 – Don’t (2014, x)
Messing with a singer-songwriter’s heart can be a nightmare. Imagine your dirty laundry being aired in public and the mainstream media and public swallowing the story whole. Think of “Don’t” as Ed Sheeran’s version of “Cry Me a River”or “Dear John”. The details are vivid and leaves little to the imagination. I like Ellie Goulding. But I am Team Ed Sheeran in this fight.
6 – Galway Girl (2017, ÷)
I’ve never been to Ireland. But the sound I would imagine in the country’s pubs would be along the lines of “Galway Girl”. I’m happy Ed Sheeran fought for this song to be included in his third album. The sound is folk and the prominence of the fiddle is unconventional for today’s pop radio. But there was no need for doubt. Remember, the Corrs exploded in the 90s and had a career that lasted more than a decade.
5 – The A Team (2011, +)
There’s a special place in my heart for an artist’s breakout single. Without “The A Team”, would we have recognised Ed Sheeran’s talent? Given the melody’s pace and his tender voice, people understandably mistake the song as a ballad. But his introduction to the world is actually a great use of his songwriting – bringing light to stories of the homeless. Specifically, this one centers on a prostitute addicted to cocaine.
4 – Shape of You (2017, ÷)
This song that has been overstreamed in Spotify, overplayed on the radio, and overwhelmingly won the public’s approval in 2017. To date, I don’t skip this track when shuffle leads me back to it. It still gets my mood worked up when I’m out and I hear the tune. If “Your Body is a Wonderland” was reworked by Kygo and reimagined by Ed Sheeran, “Shape of You” would be the outcome.
3 – Thinking Out Loud (2014, x)
I am confident many weddings in 2014 and 2015 used this song as either the SDE video’s audio or played the track to set the mood at the reception ceremony. This piece of art is magical because his words are those you’d utter as your commitment to your partner if you can write poetically and sing gloriously at the same time. These are the clever lines and passionate professions of love that memorable vows are made of.
2 – Sing (2014, x)
Ed Sheeran’s entire catalog is filled with ballads and homage to his origin. It’s easy to forget he knows how to have fun and make music for music’s sake. One of my favorites from ÷ (“What Do I Know”) is cut from the same cloth. This musical rollercoaster is a treat for a stadium crowd to have a shared experience with Ed. The single is also a testament to the amazing skills of Pharell, who helped write and produce this song.
1 – Castle on the Hill (2017, ÷)
Looking back, revisiting moments that have passed, and coming back home is a cycle I will forever cherish. Although his experiences are different from mine, Ed Sheeran captures the sentiment of memories passed and the significance of people who’ve shaped and touched our lives. I’m a sucker for nostalgia. He manages to tap on my chronic homesickness and reverence for a simpler time.
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