+ (Ed Sheeran album)

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+
Ed Sheeran + cover.png
Studio album by
Released9 September 2011 (2011-09-09)
RecordedJanuary–March 2011
GenreFolk
Length49:53
Label
Producer
Ed Sheeran chronology
iTunes Festival: London 2011
(2011)
+
(2011)
Thank You
(2011)
Singles from +
  1. "The A Team"
    Released: 12 June 2011
  2. "You Need Me, I Don't Need You"
    Released: 26 August 2011
  3. "Lego House"
    Released: 13 November 2011
  4. "Drunk"
    Released: 19 February 2012
  5. "Small Bump"
    Released: 25 May 2012
  6. "Give Me Love"
    Released: 21 November 2012
Alternate cover
HMV 2017 vinyl exclusive re-issue cover
HMV 2017 vinyl exclusive re-issue cover

+ (pronounced "plus") is the debut studio album by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. It was released on 9 September 2011 by Asylum Records and Atlantic Records. The album is considered Sheeran's commercial breakthrough. He previously released five EPs independently. Jake Gosling and Sheeran produced the majority of the album, with additional production by American hip hop producer No I.D.

Media interest surrounding + was heightened by its two preceding singles—"The A Team" and "You Need Me, I Don't Need You"—which peaked at numbers three and four on the UK Singles Chart, respectively. "Lego House" was released on 11 November 2011 as the album's third single and matched the chart success of its predecessors, peaking at number five in the UK. Three additional singles—"Drunk", "Small Bump", and "Give Me Love"—were released throughout the year, all charting within the top 25 of the UK Singles Chart. Worldwide, the album has sold more than 4 million copies.

The album was met with generally positive reviews from music critics. Upon release, + debuted atop of the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales exceeding 102,000 copies. The album performed well on the US Billboard 200, peaking at number five, selling 42,000 copies. The album was the highest debut for a British artist's first studio album in the US since Susan Boyle's I Dreamed a Dream in 2009. + is the ninth best-selling album of the decade in the United Kingdom.

Background[edit]

Sheeran performing at Academy 1 in Manchester.

After dropping out of school at age 16, Sheeran spent his student grant on rail tickets. Moving from place to place, he performed at open-mic nights across the United Kingdom, where he would sleep on his friends' sofas spending time self-releasing homemade EPs and albums.[1] After spending four years performing in the British live scene, Sheeran met singer Jamie Foxx in Los Angeles, and Foxx liked Sheeran enough to "put [Sheeran] on the path to success".[2]

In early 2010, Sheeran was having what he described as a "rough time" in the UK, and he spontaneously left for Los Angeles to spend a month "to see what could happen". After performing a gig in the city, he was approached by Foxx's contact, who produced open-mic nights endorsed by Foxx.[2] She invited him to perform, which he agreed to, and after the performance he was contacted by Foxx's manager, who then asked him to perform on Foxx's radio show.[2] After performing on the radio show, Foxx gave Sheeran his number offering studio time free of charge.[2] Sheeran took the opportunity to record several tracks in the studio and attended several parties with Foxx, describing the time as "surreal".[2] In addition, Sheeran's appearances on YouTube also garnered success when he uploaded a performance of track "You Need Me, I Don't Need You", which garnered over half a million views, making him "one of the most talked about UK acts".[2]

Following this, Sheeran signed to Atlantic Records and was signed to Elton John's management team called Rocket, which Sheeran discussed, saying: "Elton walked in and said, 'Where's Ed Sheeran?' I was like, 'F-ing hell! He knows my name!' It's surreal, growing up listening to his music and now he is one of the people who sings my praises and helps my career and rings me up and actually has an interest in me".[1] Sheeran started performing with the acoustic guitar aged 11 and his love for the instrument was what "got [him] into music and singing".[2] His musical inspirations from an early age surfaced from The Beatles and Bob Dylan, but he noted Damien Rice as a larger influence on his music whom he met after an intimate performance in Dublin.[2] Throughout the production of +, Sheeran knew "how [he] wanted every single song to sound", and because of this they only took around one day each to record, with the final product featuring "the same sound", which he described as an achievement.[2]

Music[edit]

"I'm always being introduced to new people that are really good. Being a songwriter myself, I love the way they put lyrics together. If you listen to Ghetts' flow, it's not necessarily like four-bar, four-bar, four-bar. He'll do a two and a half bar rhyme and then stop, and go into something else. And me as a songwriter, that sort of fascinated me, like how can you get away with that? That really interested me. I've started writing songs a bit more like that, lyrically."

—Sheeran explaining the influence of the "Grime" style on +.[2]

+ is influenced by hip-hop inspired duo Nizlopi and recording artist Damien Rice.[3] Sheeran performs throughout the record with a small acoustic guitar, with "no band" and "no beats". The Daily Telegraph found that the lyricism is based around subjects he cares about in his own life, performing with a "soft toned, flexible voice" with a hip-hop theme.[1] The record features "chipper" beats with staccato guitar riffs throughout. It differs between genres, with tracks such as "Grade 8" showing R&B influences, garnering comparisons to Bruno Mars, while the album also features folk-hop inspired tracks such as "Drunk", a "self-pitying, doomed attempt to resurrect a lost relationship".[4] Lyricism also derives from Sheeran's own "self-doubt" heard in tracks such as "Wake Me Up" and "Kiss Me", which has been compared to musician Van Morrison.[4] The record also visits a "darker side" on tracks such as "The City", which depicts homeless street-life and features Sheeran beat-boxing. The album concludes with the track "Give Me Love" and the Scottish folk song "The Parting Glass" as a bonus track.[4]

It is Ed Sheeran's only album to contain profanity, heard in the song "You Need Me, I Don't Need You". His next two subsequent albums ordinarily would contain profanity but they are censored on the album due to a deal he made with his taxi driver because his younger daughter is a fan.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic67/100[6]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3/5 stars[7]
The Daily Telegraph3/5 stars[8]
Entertainment WeeklyB-[9]
The Guardian3/5 stars[10]
The Independent4/5 stars[4]
London Evening Standard4/5 stars[11]
NME4/10[12]
The Observer2/5 stars[13]
The Scotsman2/5 stars
State3/5 stars[14]
"Experimentation with styles and the melding of musical approaches is to be commended, obviously; but to relate authenticity with consistent, similar output is something very wrong indeed, as not everybody singing the same song is coming from the same place. These charting mutations and variations have as much to do with our culture of instant gratification as they do with music growing out-of-date more quickly – and what better person to stand tall at the lectern than 20-year-old Ed Sheeran, whose unlikely combination of acoustic folk and grime has seen him become one of 2011's biggest domestic successes."

—Natalie Shaw of BBC Music.[15]

+ received mixed to positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 67, based on 9 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[6] Andy Gill of The Independent gave the album four stars out of five, finding that Sheeran was right to follow his own "instincts" and not conform to mainstream pop music, saying: "if he had followed the advice to tone down the crackhead portrait of 'The A Team', Sheeran might have wound up with a respectable, if predictable, career as a mainstream folkie singer-songwriter rocking the outer reaches of Radio Two" but found his "nimble hip-hop delivery rides a slick R&B groove" and his "blue-collar sensibilities cut through" after not attending schools such as the Brits school.[4] Alex Petridis of The Guardian gave the album three out of five stars, writing that, "at its worst, + is a pretty winsome business"; Petridis found the lyricism of tracks such as "Wake Me Up" weak, but stated that, "apart from his teen appeal, Sheeran's strength is his melodic ability, a way with a really strong, radio-friendly tune, as on 'The City' or 'Grade 8'". However, Petridis concluded his review by stating: "You can't help wishing he'd put said ability to slightly more edgy use, but then again, he still might: at least there's evidence that Ed Sheeran might still be around when the screaming girls grow up and calm down."[10] Jon O'Brien of AllMusic found that Sheeran failed to "capitalize on his unique selling point", stating: "Indeed, the unexpected hugely popular response to lead single 'The A Team', an achingly tender tale of a heroin-addicted prostitute (think a socially aware James Blunt) seems to have thrown him off course, as rather than pursue the more urban direction that set him apart from his contemporaries, the majority of Plus' 12 tracks feel like self-conscious attempts to replicate its sound".[7]

Natalie Shaw of BBC Music gave the album a mixed response, calling + at times "precocious" and "self-referencing", with the track "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" being listed as an example of this. However, in contrast, she found "Drunk" to be sweet, considered "Grade 8" a standout track, and positively commented on the chorus of track "The City". In conclusion, Shaw stated: "+ will give Sheeran's rabid fanbase a lot to love, but it'll also make him an easy target for critics hungry for new directions in pop, as it fails to really gel the man's loves of folk and rap. If he ditches his bottom-of-a-Tube-escalator ballads (see 'Kiss Me') and stops trying to show off, Sheeran could well become a thrilling proposition over an entire long-player, rather than just in all-too-brief moments of magic."[15] John Lewis of newspaper Metro gave the album a mixed review. He stating that Sheeran "is at his best when he combines both worlds. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, his lovelorn ballads will suddenly lurch into verbose, rhythmically complex rhymes that display all the verbal dexterity of a grime MC". However, Lewis also found that Sheeran failed to maintain the success throughout, performing "gloopy" and "anonymous" ballads.[16] Emily Mackay of NME gave the album four out of ten marks, questioning his authenticity as a musician. She wrote: "He's got the touches of 'urban' styling with flimsy hip-hop rhythms and Plan B-lite veering between half-arsed rapping and boyband emoting. He's got the 'issues' songs (the Dido-ish, maudlin 'Drunk', the omnipresent saccharine horror of the drugs/homelessness/prostitution triple-whammy of 'The A-Team')". She concluded her review by noting that "There's little here that moves on from the kind of trip-hop balladeers that abounded in the late '90s".[12]

Commercial performance[edit]

In the United Kingdom, midweek sales reports showed that + was set to top the UK Albums Chart, although Digital Spy reported that it still faced competition from Laura Marling's album A Creature I Don't Know.[17] For the week of 18 September 2011, + debuted atop the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 102,000 copies.[18] After the album topped the chart, Sheeran wrote on his Twitter account "No. 1 album and 2 songs in the top 20! mental! Thank you all so much!", and then added "Here's my THANK YOU for getting my album to #1! Hope you enjoy it", including a link to download a free EP.[19] The EP featured three tracks: "Fire Alarms", "She" and a remix of single "You Need Me, I Don't Need You".[19] By the end of 2011, the album had been certified Triple Platinum, indicating sales of over 900,000 copies.[20] As of June 2015, the album has sold 1,958,000 copies in the UK, making it the sixth-best-selling album of the 2010s and the 44th-best-selling album of the 21st century. It is also one of the longest-charting albums in UK chart history, with over 200 weeks on the UK Albums Chart.[21]

In Ireland, the album was placed in the top 10 for 8 consecutive years, from 2011 to 2018.[22][23][24][25][26][27] [28][29] In Australia, the album debuted at number 41 on the ARIA Albums Chart for the week commencing 31 October 2011, peaking at number one on 13 August 2012.[30] The album has been certified Triple Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). By January 2013, the album had spent 65 consecutive weeks on the ARIA Albums Chart and was still in the Top 5.[31] With 222 weeks, it is the all-time longest charting album in Australia.[32] It reached the top 10 in 6 non-consecutive years, in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018, including a placement at No. 6 in its 222nd charting week in March 2018.[33] In New Zealand, the album debuted at number 34 and ultimately topped the chart 54 weeks later.[34] + debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 in the United States, selling 42,000 units in its first week.[35] As of March 2017, + has sold 1.21 million copies in the United States.[36]

Tour dates[edit]

Ed Sheeran announced in May 2011 a 21 date UK & Ireland tour where he played songs from the newly realised album.[37] Sheeran then went on to add further dates for the start of 2012 and it was confirmed he would be playing his largest gig yet at Brixton Academy.[38] Ed Sheeran would be touring the US for the first time in early 2012 by supporting Snow Patrol on their Fallen Empires Tour.[39] It was announced that Sheeran would be touring Australia and New Zealand for the first time in the July and August 2012.[40] Sheeran then announced in January that he would be doing his first headline tour of the US and his largest headline shows to date in the UK.[41][42] Before supporting Taylor Swift on her The Red Tour, Sheeran embarked on an 18 date tour across the US [43]

List of concerts, showing date, city, country, venue.
Date City Country Venue
British Isles
2 October 2011 Oxford England O2 Academy Oxford
3 October 2011 London O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
4 October 2011 Bournemouth O2 Academy Bournemouth
5 October 2011 Falmouth Falmouth Princess Pavilion
6 October 2011 Brighton Brighton Concorde 2
8 October 2011 London O2 Forum Kentish Town
9 October 2011 Bristol University of Bristol Students' Union
10 October 2011 Nottingham Nottingham Rock City
11 October 2011 Birmingham O2 Academy Birmingham 2
13 October 2011 Leeds Leeds University Union
14 October 2011 Glasgow Scotland O2 ABC Glasgow
15 October 2011 Newcastle England Newcastle University Students' Union
17 October 2011 Manchester Manchester Academy 2
18 October 2011 Keele Keele University
19 October 2011 Cardiff Wales Wales Millennium Centre
20 October 2011 Reading England Reading sub89
23 October 2011 Norwich University of East Anglia
25 October 2011 Cambridge Cambridge Junction
1 November 2011 Belfast Northern Ireland Mandela Hall
2 November 2011 Galway Ireland Róisín Dubh
3 November 2011 Dublin Vicar Street
8 January 2012 Aberdeen Scotland Music Hall Aberdeen
9 January 2012 Edinburgh Edinburgh Picture House
10 January 2012
13 January 2012 Manchester England Manchester Academy
17 January 2012 Wolverhampton Wolverhampton Civic Hall
18 January 2012
19 January 2012 London Brixton Academy
20 January 2012
21 January 2012 Belfast Northern Ireland Waterfront Hall
Continental Europe
1 March 2012 Oslo Norway Rockefeller Music Hall
2 March 2012 Stockholm Sweden Debaser Hornstulls Strand
3 March 2012 Copenhagen Denmark Vega, Copenhagen
4 March 2012 Berlin Germany Heimathafen Neukölln
5 March 2012 Hamburg Docks
7 March 2012 Munich Backstage Werk
8 March 2012 Zurich Switzerland Kaufleuten
9 March 2012 Paris France La Maroquinerie
10 March 2012 Brussels Belgium Ancienne Belgique
11 March 2012 Amsterdam Netherlands Melkweg
Oceania
29 July 2012 Auckland New Zealand ASB Theatre
31 July 2012 Brisbane Australia QPAC Concert Hall
1 August 2012 Sydney Enmore Theatre
3 August 2012 Melbourne Palais Theatre
4 August 2012 Adelaide Thebarton Theatre
6 August 2012 Perth Riverside Theatre
Europe
2 September 2012[a] London England Roundhouse
North America
17 September 2012 Toronto Canada The Guvernment
18 September 2012 Montreal Olympia
19 September 2012 Boston United States House of Blues
21 September 2012 New York City Terminal 5
22 September 2012 Washington 9:30 Club
23 September 2012 Philadelphia Theatre of Living Arts
25 September 2012 Chicago Riviera Theatre
26 September 2012 Minneapolis State Theatre
28 September 2012 Denver Bluebird Theater
1 October 2012 Los Angeles Pellissier Building and Wiltern Theatre
2 October 2012 San Diego House Of Blues
4 October 2012 Vancouver Canada Commodore Ballroom
5 October 2012 Portland United States Wonder Ballroom
6 October 2012 Seattle The Showbox
British Isles
12 October 2012 London England Hammersmith Apollo
13 October 2012
14 October 2012
15 October 2012
16 October 2012
18 October 2012 Brighton Brighton Centre
19 October 2012 Newport Wales Newport Centre
20 October 2012 Bournemouth England Bournemouth International Centre
21 October 2012 Plymouth Plymouth Pavilions
23 October 2012 Swindon Oasis Leisure Centre
25 October 2012 Reading Rivermead
26 October 2012 Birmingham O2 Academy Birmingham
27 October 2012
28 October 2012
30 October 2012 Nottingham Motorpoint Arena
31 October 2012 Manchester O2 Apollo Manchester
1 November 2012
2 November 2012
4 November 2012 Doncaster The Dome Leisure Centre
5 November 2012
6 November 2012 Hull Hull Arena
7 November 2012 Blackpool Empress Ballroom
9 November 2012 Newcastle Newcastle City Hall
10 November 2012
11 November 2012 Edinburgh Scotland Usher Hall
13 November 2012 Glasgow Barrowlands
14 November 2012
North America
17 January 2013 Houston United States House of Blues
18 January 2013 Dallas The Palladium Ballroom
19 January 2013 Austin Stubb's BBQ
22 January 2013 Nashville Ryman Auditorium
25 January 2013 Cincinnati Bogart's
26 January 2013 Indianapolis Old National Centre
28 January 2013 Pittsburgh Stage AE
29 January 2013 Baltimore Rams Head Live!
30 January 2013 New York City Radio City Music Hall
1 February 2013 Louisville The Louisville Palace
2 February 2013 St. Louis The Pageant
3 February 2013 Kansas Midland Theatre
5 February 2013 Broomfield 1stBank Center
6 February 2013 Magna The Great Saltair
9 February 2013 Los Angeles Hollywood Palladium
12 February 2013 San Diego Spreckels Theater
13 February 2013 Tempe Marquee Theatre
14 February 2013 Tucson Rialto Theatre

Track listing[edit]

All tracks produced by Jake Gosling, except where noted; all tracks co-produced by Ed Sheeran.

Standard edition
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."The A Team"Ed Sheeran 4:18
2."Drunk"
  • Sheeran
  • Gosling
 3:20
3."U.N.I."
  • Sheeran
  • Gosling
 3:48
4."Grade 8"
2:59
5."Wake Me Up"
  • Sheeran
  • Gosling
 3:49
6."Small Bump"Sheeran 4:19
7."This" 3:15
8."The City"
  • Sheeran
  • Gosling
 3:54
9."Lego House"
 3:05
10."You Need Me, I Don't Need You"Sheeran
  • Gosling
  • Hugall
3:40
11."Kiss Me"
4:40
12."Give Me Love" (followed by the hidden track, "The Parting Glass")
  • Sheeran
  • Gosling
  • Leonard
 8:46
Total length:49:53
Deluxe edition bonus tracks[44]
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
13."Autumn Leaves"
  • Sheeran
  • Gosling
3:20
14."Little Bird"Sheeran3:44
15."Gold Rush"
4:03
16."Sunburn"Sheeran4:35
Total length:65:35

Notes

  • ^[a] signifies an additional producer.
  • "The City," "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" and "Sunburn" are all re-recorded versions from 2009's You Need Me EP, whereas "The A Team," "Little Bird," "Sofa" and "Homeless" originally appeared on the 2010s Loose Change EP; on later EP pressings, "The A Team" would be replaced with "Let It Out."

Personnel[edit]

Credits taken from Allmusic and +'s liner notes.[48]