Since the announcement of his mysterious ‘No. 6 Collaborations Project’, there was an expected swirl of excitement surrounding who would feature on Ed Sheeran’s latest album.
Featuring a long list of big names across a range of genres, including Khalid, Camilla Cabello, Cardi B, Justin Bieber, among many others, the album is a collection of feel-good, sincere music that isn’t necessarily memorable.
Starting off with ‘Beautiful People’ featuring Khalid, the opening is very typical of an Ed Sheeran song; littered with “relatable” humblebrag lyrics and a pop-esque soundscape. The song is strong and likeable, but nothing surprising.
Following is ‘South Of The Border’ featuring Camilla Cabello and Cardi B, which sees Camilla crooning in Spanish lyrics playing to her strength. Acoustic track ‘Best Part of Me’ featuring YEBBA is a romantic offering that goes the way of the acclaimed ‘Perfect’ as two lovers serenade each other as they swirl in their insecurities – “you love me, why the hell you love me when you could have anyone else” they sing- and it strikes a chord simply for its honesty.
Next comes Justin Bieber collaboration ‘ I Don’t Care’. Upbeat and with a beat that prompts you to bop along without care, the track is definitely one of the better productions within the 15-track album, for the careless abandon it encourages with its catchiness. The same can be said of ‘Put It On Me’ with Ella Mai, a track that’s by no means unique but still a great listen. The first few tracks bring nothing new to the table. It’s everything that you expect from an Ed Sheeran album.
But then tone shifts dramatically. ‘Take Me Back To London’ featuring Stormzy welcomes powerful verses cut by Sheeran’s surprisingly well delivered sing-song rapping, while trap- tinged ‘Antisocial’ with Travis Scott becomes the first highlight within the production as its booming sonics pulls listeners in.
A similar “hype” vibe resurfaces on ‘Nothing On You’ featuring Paulo Londra and Dave, as the first notes blare establishing itself another highlight. With the end of the next track ‘ I Don’t Want Your Money’ with H.E.R, comes the end of a phase of experimentation on ‘No. 6 Collaborations’ as the tone shifts once again. Following track ‘1000 Nights’ in collaboration with Meek Mill and A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, and penultimate offering ‘Way To Break My Heart’ featuring Skrillex, are slow love songs that make for a good listen, but prompt any replays.
The album is far from perfect as many songs including ‘Cross Me’ with Chance The Rapper and PnB Rock, ‘Remember The Name’ with Eninem and 50 Cent, and ‘Feels’ feat Young Thug and J Hus,feel out of place and fail to impress despite the involvement of such acclaimed artists.
However, final track ‘BLOW’ with Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars makes up for every failing as the guitar-led screeching rock track comes through with beats that bounce off ears becoming the perfect end to a long-winded journey.
Overall, ‘No 6 Collaborations Project’ is an eclectic mix of songs, some familiar, some forgotten after the first listen and some deeply impactful. Refreshing as it whirs away from Ed Sheeran’s tried and tested formula of love songs, it’s worth a listen to catch those glimpses of experimentation.
Words: Malvika Padin
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