Gone is the pop and folk-centric Ed Sheeran as he dives deeper into R&B and rap in his new album “No. 6 Collaborations Project,” released July 12. He brings together his “A Team” with an insane lineup of collaborations, giving the album it’s name.
Sheeran explores coping with his social anxiety and the pros and cons of fame with help from 20 different superstar feature artists, including Travis Scott, Justin Bieber, Cardi B, Eminem, 50 Cent, Chance the Rapper and Camila Cabello.
His biggest success of the album? Giving the audience a clearer image of who exactly Ed Sheeran is — a regular human who struggles with anxiety. His one saving grace? His wife, Cherry.
The artist has always painted himself as a regular guy, despite his A-List celebrity status. “No. 6” is no different. Part of the album is dedicated to his hatred of parties. He asks people not to touch him on “Antisocial” and is excited at the idea of leaving to spend time with his woman in “I Don’t Care.”
On “I Don’t Want Your Money” he describes the stress created by releasing an album, the tour schedule that comes with it and how it weighs on his marriage. Despite the stress, he portrays he wants love and affection as much as everyone else.
Throughout the album he talks about all the places he’s been to and quickly brags about the money he’s making in “Take Me Back to London” — “grossed half a billi’ on the Divide Tour.” But no matter the positives, it’s apparent he’d be happy to just enjoy a night in with Cherry.
It all comes together in “Best Part of Me” — arguably the best song in the album due to Sheeran going back to his usual sound. He talks about his experience with anxiety in life as he asks the question, “Why the hell do you love me? / ‘Cause I don’t even love myself.”
The “you” in question is Cherry. This song beautifully shows how he leans on her to get through it all as he sings “Baby, the best part of me is you / And lately everything’s making sense too / Oh baby, I’m so in love with you.”
While Sheeran’s tried to showcase his rapping skills in earlier albums, it’s “No. 6” that really gives him the opportunity to shine but it falls through in “Remember The Name.”
He opens up “Remember The Name” with lyrics that are rapped eloquently, and if he was alone in the song it would’ve sounded good. When alongside in the rhymes of iconic rappers 50 Cent and Eminem, Sheeran’s raps leave much to be desired.
His voice blends between genres for the most part, but with such a star-studded ensemble behind him, his skills often seem lackluster in comparison.
In “South of the Border” featuring Camila Cabello, his creative risk of slipping into Spanish turns the mood a bit sour. Cabello’s Cuban ethnicity gives her the exquisite lilt to sing “te amo mami,” but when Sheeran sings the same lyrics opposite of her, it sounds out of place.
Meek Mill and A Boogie wit da Hoodie both sound like they need a nap on their respective verses on “1000 Nights,” which doesn’t match well with Sheeran’s genuinely upbeat and awake voice.
That’s not to say that Sheeran doesn’t succeed in some lights. His melodic voice in “Cross Me” paired with Chance the Rapper’s quick lines create and upbeat song inspired by his dedication to his girl as he sings, “Anything she needs, she can call me / Just know if you cross her than you cross me.”
“No. 6:” is defined by Sheeran’s attempts to incorporate hip hop styles and signifiers into his music, but given his previous music, it’s too far of a stretch for him to pull off across the board.