How the heck did Ed Sheeran become the most popular singer in the world?
Surely it can’t all be down to the fact that he’s nice, bright, white and middle-class . . .
Stephen Fry was once brilliantly described as “the stupid person’s idea of what an intelligent person is like”. If that is indeed the case, then Ed Sheeran is the no-musical- knowledge person’s idea of what a good musician sounds like.
After just one week of sales, Sheeran’s new album has already become the biggest selling album of the year in Ireland and Britain. Last week, he occupied seven of the places in the iTunes top-10 charts, he has just topped both the radio and TV playlist charts and, in quick succession, he’s appeared plugging his new album on Britain’s Got Talent, The Graham Norton Show, Later with Jools Holland, BBC Breakfast and The One Show. And there he was on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury last Sunday.
But it’s on social meeja, that he’s King of Kings. His YouTube official channel has had 454 million views; he has 6.5 million “likes” on Facebook and 9.5 million Twitter followers. All these platforms were under a three-line whip to “create anticipation” around the release of this new album.
Over on radio, they were falling over themselves to play him in heavy rotation. He broke all-known records for the most ever upfront (ie pre-release) plays. His lead-off single was made Single of the Week on more big stations than you can count; he also got Album of the Week and a few “Hottest Record in the World” accolades.
The TV promo spend was very clever. Realising that all units of the BBC were already in his pocket (see above), all the new album money was thrown at E4 – a channel “that is mainly aimed at the lucrative 15-35 age group”.
The BBC’s slavering is worrying as it comes just a few years after the broadcaster had to admit it breached its own editorial independence guidelines in the disgraceful, over-the-top media orgy they conducted for the release of the last U2 album. Then they admitted that their obsequious coverage amounted to “undue prominence for commercial products”. Nonetheless they’ve put the foot to the floor with the new Ed Sheeran album. You wouldn’t exactly be looking for Jeremy Paxman to ask Sheeran “Why are you so shit?” but their coverage so far makes a mockery of journalism.
Sheeran is by all accounts a lovely guy. But how much of all this love-in is down to the fact that he’s a nice, bright, white, middle-class musician who just plays his sweet songs, throws in a few self-deprecating anecdotes and leaves everyone with a smile on their face?
As much as there should be room for the likes of Skrillex and Wiley, Sheeran deserves his space in the music world and his time in the sun. But a bit of balance would help. His was not the only new album released last week but to possess such media hegemony as he did last week and this week does everyone a disservice.
You could argue that the biggest selling album of the year so far deserves the appropriate level of exposure, but the fact remains – Sheeran’s new album is not very good .
We’ve been here before this year with the new Coldplay album and that Hello! Magazine style of questioning in which the most challenging question asked is: “Why is your new album so brilliant?” It’s not healthy for either the consumer or the artist.