Friday 15 December 2017

Ed Sheeran is so dull that even our mums love him

Comment: Mammies should be telling us to turn down our tunes, not asking if it's 'that lovely Sheeran boy', says Ciara O'Connor

Tickets for Ed Sheeran's 3Arena gig sold out in record time. Photo: Damien Eagers
Tickets for Ed Sheeran's 3Arena gig sold out in record time. Photo: Damien Eagers

This week it emerged that our own Saoirse Ronan may have "pranked" Ed Sheeran into getting a tattoo that read "Galway Grill" instead of the title of his new display of musical incontinence, Galway Girl.

I like to think it wasn't charming tomfoolery between friends as reported, but a passive-aggressive howl of indignation on behalf of Irish girls all over the world who've had to suffer the attentions of a dude like Ed.

Galway Girl describes Ed's wet dream in which he meets a "pretty little" Galway girl who "plays the fiddle in an Irish band", drinks him under the table and beats him at pool.

There's ceilidh, there's trad tunes, there's Van on the jukebox.

He stops just short of fiddle-dee-dee and potatoes. As an Irish girl who lived in London, I know Ed's sort. They'll be beside you at the bar on a night out, when you try to get the server's attention they'll give you a conspiratorial smile and say: "Is that an Irish lilt I hear?" You will concede that yes, yes it is. They will nod smugly and say, with the wisdom of ages: "I knew it. I thought you would be somewhere with a bit more craic than this?" You will smile.

They'll tell you about their Irish granny. They'll ask you where you're heading after this place closes because you're a Paddy so you'll know where to continue the party. If they're after a few, they will insist repeatedly and passionately that you sing a song, "an Irish song".

Ed will have made this much, much worse. Like all of his songs, Galway Girl will be played on a loop in public for months, maybe years. I don't know when it will be safe for me to leave the house again. I am angry with Ed.

The "original" Galway Girl hit the big time in 2008, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that a reworking was premature. It's worth remembering, however, that a large proportion of Ed's listeners couldn't tie their own shoelaces in 2008. The rest of them won't really have listened to music before Ed.

Either way - it was ripe for the picking.

This is what Ed Sheeran does. He is to real music what baby food is to a nice roast dinner. Bland, easily digestible facsimiles of the real thing, requiring absolutely no effort at all.

I don't think he's copying anyone: I think he's just so aggressively generic that even if you haven't heard it somewhere before, it feels like you have. His boring music sounds like Matt Cardle's boring music because it's all boring.

There's just not that much you can do with a 2-minute catchy pop song that is guaranteed to sell.

He is open about the fact that he writes his music to commercially appeal to as wide a demographic as humanly possible: the result is records so bland you wonder whether you're hearing them at all.

I put on Shape of You while writing this - I only realised when it finished that it had been playing. And not quietly. It seems, after the first 10 or 20 seconds, I simply ceased to hear it. That is the music of Ed Sheeran. He is the comfort zone made flesh: he demands nothing of you at all.

Last week, to the surprise of nobody at all, Ed featured in Time magazine's 100 most influential people.

His best friend, walking Brunch ice cream Taylor Swift, wrote, in a truly remarkable feat of saying absolutely nothing at all: "Whether by choice or an unconscious evolution, when he decided on his musical ambitions, Ed became less of a boy and more of a tank."

She's more right than she knows. Ed is a tank, unstoppably mowing down music with no care for the consequences.

When his album came out he occupied nearly all of the slots on the top 20.

All music is Ed Sheeran now. Even the music that isn't Ed Sheeran is Ed Sheeran. He writes for Justin Bieber, One Direction and Taylor Swift, to name but a few.

He's putting together a boy band to churn out more of it.

The consensus among grown-ups is "it's nice to have on in the background". This is what Ed is doing to music. Music used to be something to engage with. It challenged you, forced you to listen. It used to be something your mystified parents would shout at you to turn down when you were blasting it in your bedroom.

Now it's noise to fill the silence. Nothing too distracting. Teens now have their mammies popping their head around the door, asking: "Is that that nice boy Ed Sheeran?"

I have just remembered something: I've seen Ed live. I was one of his Wembley Stadium gigs where it was just him and a guitar. The ticket was free - I'd nothing else on.

I've just spent a long time trying to scavenge the depths of my memory for something, anything, about that night, something to add a bit of personal colour.

I remember the hordes of young girls and their parents. But Ed? The music? Nothing.

There's not a single solitary thought or memory from that night, other than a vague feeling that I wouldn't do it again.

It was insistently forgettable and utterly unaffecting - but maybe that's the point?

Sunday Independent

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