Ed Sheeran Autumn Variations: A Warm Musical Hug For Fans
It's time for me to fangirl over Ed Sheeran again...
In May of this year, Ed Sheeran released what is assumed to be the final iteration of the math titled albums, "-" or Subtract. The album described his personal experiences with grief that he managed to turn into beautiful art for his fans to enjoy. Alongside the captivating storyline and motifs of the visual album, overall subtract was a powerful statement created from sorrow-induced artistry.
Soon after the release, I attended my first concert, seeing Ed Sheeran live during his Mathematics tour. Even from my nosebleed seats with Ed looking like an ant on stage, I could feel the pure talent radiating off him. Knowing that not too long prior, he was dealing with overwhelming grief only adds to the impressive nature of the concert.
Just last month in September, Ed Sheeran released his seventh studio album and the second album of the year, Autumn Variations, under his new label Gingerbread Man Records.
Similar to the release of Subtract, I wasn't in the right headspace to enjoy and truly appreciate new music from my favorite musician. Frankly, it's been a challenging year for me, and it almost felt like I didn't deserve the pleasure that comes from listening to Ed Sheeran's music, but Autumn Variations basically told me, "That's okay. I'll be here when you're ready."
On Instagram, Ed described the new album as "for the fans" and "a warm hug."
My first listen came when I watched the fan living room sessions. For each song, Ed visited a fan at their home and sang them a song in their living room. It was a far cry away from the cinematic nature of Subtract's visual album or the grandeur of the Bad Habits music video. Watching these videos from the comfort of my own living room, even through my TV screen, the intimacy was palpable. I was almost embarrassed when my ferret woke up mid-song and started scratching at her cage as if the noise would interrupt his performance. Each video is beautifully lit to accentuate the warm and endearing nature of these fan encounters.
Immediately after, I watched the lyric videos. Each video resembled the cover art stickers and had the same color scheme as Ed's outfit during the living room sessions – black and white. The videos were simple, with stickers fading in and out on a loop. Personally, the simplicity was welcomed. The simplicity made me feel like I was watching the work of one of my closest friends who made something he's been working tirelessly on, not the creation of a four-time Grammy award-winning musician. It was special, like a best friend sharing something they're proud of.
As a writer who writes about art, I went online to read the reviews once I finished watching the hilarious infomercials and the Amazon Music Live sessions. I guess critics weren't a fan of the album. But to me, it was exactly what I needed.
In terms of the story of his music, Autumn Variations is a beautiful sequel to Subtract. What do you want most when you're sad and crying? To feel better, and sometimes that comes in the form of a warm hug, aka exactly how Ed described Autumn Variations. It's about the moments between the grief when it's not so bad, but you're still sad. The album isn't all sunshine and rainbows like a summer day, but it is not entirely dark and sorrow like a winter night; instead, it falls right in the middle like an autumn afternoon. It's brilliant.
Ed Sheeran accomplished precisely what he set out to do. He created an album that sonically induces the feeling of a warm hug, and he made it for the fans. That's probably why critics had so much to say about it; it wasn't for them.