British pop icon Ed Sheeran, set to perform at Dubai’s Seven Stadium on January 19 and 20, is an endearing portrait of a paradoxical existence — an alluring artistic anomaly, if you will.
Despite standing as one of the biggest pop stars of the 21st century, with an impressive collection of awards, including Grammys and chart-toppers, the singer-songwriter, known for his casual and laid-back style, seems acutely aware of the scepticism and jokes surrounding his career.
In a previous in-depth interview with Rolling Stone, Ed Sheeran famously claimed he’s the “ginger-haired interloper” who ascended into pop stardom by refusing to conform to expectations. In 2013, he even earned the dubious distinction of being named GQ’s Worst-Dressed Man, but that shade didn’t throw him off.
“I still wear skater hoodies, jeans, and skater shoes … I haven’t changed,” he declared after wearing that title on his sleeve with pride. He’s that ordinary talent who has achieved extraordinary feats, selling more than 150 million records worldwide.
Born on February 17, 1991, in Halifax, West Yorkshire, Ed Sheeran’s climb was marked by relentless grit. The Lego-loving and self-proclaimed nerd famously spent six weeks on Oscar-winning Hollywood actor Jamie Foxx’s couch when he was penniless and a non-entity in the music world. But he didn’t let it deter him from his chosen path of making stirring music.
“To be a successful musician, you have to be broke. You have to spend three or four years living on couches and relying on strangers being kind to you,” Ed Sheeran, 32, was quoted in an article published on Inc.
His success is evident in the unprecedented popularity of his tours, record-breaking streaming numbers, and his role as a prolific songwriter for artistes ranging from Justin Bieber to BTS.
As the British musical maverick gears up to captivate the audience in the UAE this weekend for two nights in a row on Friday and Saturday, it’s a testament to the enduring influence of an artiste who has carved his niche in the shadow of musical powerhouses.
“Just be you. That’s the best advice I can give. There are seven billion people in this world and there is no one like you,” said Ed Sheeran in a previous interview. We hear him.
With his soulful ballads like ‘Perfect’ and ‘Shape Of You,’ Sheeran has forged a distinct identity, amassing a fan following that transcends the boundaries of age and genre preferences. Ed Sheeran’s lyrics, much like Taylor Swift’s, are windows into his soul — honest, relatable, and deeply personal.
“I don’t just put songs out. If I’m working 20-hour days, I want to know that things I do will benefit me; that the work is in the right places. I put all my time and effort into making my music successful,” said Sheeran in an earlier interview with the Financial Times.
According to a young fan, Anoushka Nambiar, Ed Sheeran’s ability to write songs that speak to the human experience is what makes him so appealing to fans.
“His lyrics strike a deep chord with listeners as they explore themes of love, heartache, and self-discovery. Irrespective of the emotional melancholy of ‘Thinking Out Loud’ or the infectious optimism of ‘Shape of You,’ Sheeran’s lyrics and songs are universal and captivate a wide range of listeners … He stays refreshingly real, frequently sharing his own experiences and perspectives through his songs,” said Anoushka N over an email to Gulf News.
She’s also a big fan of Ed Sheeran’s non-starry persona on and offstage.
“His onstage persona reflects this genuineness, as he effortlessly interacts with the crowd to create an intimate concert atmosphere. Ed Sheeran’s versatility is perhaps another important component of his widespread fame. He effortlessly moves between several genres like acoustic ballads to lively pop tunes, and even hip-hop, displaying his flexibility as a performer,” she added.
His relatability with his fans is what makes him stand tall, she believes. While he’s notoriously private about his personal life, early part of 2023 saw him speak up about the turbulent episodes in his life.
While promoting his album “-“ (pronounced “subtract”), Ed Sheeran opened up about his family life and his childhood love and wife Cherry Seaborn’s diagnosis of an “inoperable” tumour during her pregnancy with daughter Jupiter. Compounding his trauma was the sudden death of his “best friend Jamal” in the same month, leading him into a whirlwind of “fear, depression, and anxiety.”
Early Years and Musical Beginnings
From an early age, Ed Sheeran displayed a profound interest in music, learning to play the guitar at a young age and experimenting with various genres. His early influences ranged from folk to hip-hop, a diverse mix that would later become a hallmark of his distinctive sound.
In 2011, Ed Sheeran burst onto the scene with his debut studio album, “+,” which featured hit singles like ‘The A Team’ and ‘Lego House.’ The album’s success marked the beginning of a remarkable career, showcasing Sheeran’s ability to blend poignant lyrics with catchy melodies.
The Rise to International Stardom
Ed Sheeran’s sophomore album, “x” (pronounced “multiply”), released in 2014, propelled him to international stardom. The album’s lead single, ‘Sing,’ showcased a more pop-oriented sound while maintaining Sheeran’s signature storytelling style. ‘x’ went on to become a global phenomenon, earning Sheeran multiple Grammy nominations and solidifying his status as a major player in the music industry.
Throughout his career, Sheeran’s lyrics have been praised for their authenticity and relatability. His ability to convey personal experiences and emotions through his music resonates with fans worldwide.
“I’ve only ever written songs from the heart. I don’t really see the point in making music if it’s not an expression of self or a form of therapy. I could go three months without writing a single song and in one week I write 20. But I never want to write a song just to have a hit. I write a song because I want it to make me feel better. Other people have different ways of letting off steam. Mine is writing songs,” said Sheeran in an interview with Charlie Ross of PBS. He also claimed that songwriting made him feel great about himself.
“Songwriting is my way of getting out anger, aggression, happiness, and love. It’s just about getting it out — and making you feel better … So it’s never been about the audience or pleasing people, or trying to fit in. It’s just been about myself and my love for music,” he added in the same interview.
His colleagues are equally in awe of his blazing talents. Steve Mac, the co-writer of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’, revealed the chart-topper was written in just 90 minutes.
“Ed is one of the best writers I’ve worked with … He has a brilliant flow, the way he creates his rap and then adds a melody to it,” Steve told Newsbeat.
Impact on the Music Industry
Ed Sheeran’s impact on the music industry extends beyond his chart-topping hits. In 2017, he released “÷” (pronounced “divide”), featuring the smash hits ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Castle on the Hill.’ The album’s commercial success further solidified Sheeran’s influence, making him one of the best-selling music artistes globally.
Ed Sheeran in the UAE
As Ed Sheeran prepares to take the stage in the UAE this weekend in concerts organised by All Things Live Middle East, fans can expect a captivating performance that showcases his musical prowess and connection with the audience. Sheeran’s ability to engage and resonate with fans of all ages has solidified his reputation as a live performer. It’s likely to be a glorious celebration of a remarkable artiste who has not only conquered the charts but has also touched the hearts of millions around the world, one great ballad at time.
Did you know?
Organiser All Things Live Middle East has arranged free bus shuttles to the concert venue, Sevens Stadium, on both Friday, January 19, and Saturday, January 20. Buses will run from Ibn Battuta Metro Station and Centrepoint Metro Station in Dubai, every 15 minutes from 3:30pm until 7:30pm. If you’re travelling from Abu Dhabi, there will be a free shuttle service from Khalidiya Parking Lot to the Sevens Stadium, running every 30 minutes from 3pm until 6pm. There’s a limited number of tickets available and are expected to sell out soon. For tickets, log on to www.edsheerandxb.com and www.platinumlist.net.