Album Review: "Autumn Variations" - Ed Sheeran
Photo Credits: Tyler Morning Telegraph
While critics haven't been too wowed by Autumn Variations, fans have been rejoicing over Ed Sheeran's second album of 2023. The album was released through Sheeran's own label, Gingerbread Man Records, a move he made to make the project purely independent. Stepping away from typical pop releases, the megastar chose to release Autumn Variations without any singles, major advertising, or music videos, taking a break from the pressures of his usual releases. Following the album's release, Sheeran stated, "So Autumn Variations is out now! This is an album purely for you, the fans. There’s no singles, no videos, it’s on my own label, so no pressure for anything. I just want you guys to have a soundtrack for autumn/fall that feels like a warm hug. I hope you love it. Lemme know what your fav songs are and il see some of you this week at random pop ups we are doing. Love you all x." Though the album didn't have all the typical fanfare that normally accompanies Sheeran's releases, it hasn't disappointed and is perfect for the upcoming fall season.
4. Plastic Bag
6. American Town
7. That's On Me
12. When Will I Be Alright
13. The Day I Was Born
14. Head > Heels
Enjoying much success since his music industry debut, the 32-year-old singer-songwriter has made waves in the pop world with tracks like "Thinking Out Loud," "Shape of You," and "Bad Habits." Sheeran's charming, folk-pop sound has captivated audiences all over the world, turning the humble and beloved redhead into a pop superstar. Autumn Variations follows on the heels of his first 2023 album, Subtract, being the first album to follow his mathematics series. The charismatic singer's light, folksy sound is perfect for the warm, cozy atmosphere he creates on Autumn Variations, giving us a flawless soundtrack for fall.
Starting soft and relaxed, Sheeran kicks off Autumn Variations with “Magical.” The track features warm harmonies and laid-back instrumentation, demonstrating how much Sheeran can evoke with a simplistic song. Lyrically, “Magical” describes the fuzzy feelings of being in love, repeatedly asking the question, “is this how it feels to be in love?” Picking up the pace, “England” is up next, giving us a tour of some English sights. The track was inspired by Dungeness, a unique spot in Kent, England. Light and upbeat, “England” features a warm fondness for a place many of us may have never heard of, making us want to adventure there alongside Sheeran.
Light and jazzy, “Amazing” comes in with irresistible melodies and driving percussion. Sheeran continuously sings that he’s “tryna feel amazing, but [he] can’t get out of [his] way,” making it a relatable song as feeling good is just out of his reach. It’s surprisingly optimistic and upbeat in the face of struggling to find happiness. Turning to a classic Ed Sheeran style, “Plastic Bag” mixes commercial-pop with a hint of folk. The track has an essence like hits “Overpass Graffiti” or “Collide” but with the twang of Sheeran’s folksy acoustic songs. “Blue” moves away from the commercial-pop style and goes straight for folk-pop with a sound reminiscent of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love.” The track showcases Sheeran’s falsetto over a simplistic, acoustic guitar-laden background. Though “Blue” is noncomplex, it has a modest, rustic air about it that leaves a lasting impression.
“American Town” is a cute little ditty, reminiscing on the times Sheeran visited his wife when she was in America. The track is upbeat and cheery, narrating several of Sheeran’s happy memories in the U.S. “That’s On Me” has a similar vibe to some of Sheeran’s previous tracks, featuring some rap-like lines mixed with sung lines and choruses. Moving back to a soft atmosphere, “Page” is an epic ballad featuring acoustic guitar riffs and heavy pop beats. The track is reflective, highlighting the inner turmoil of one’s inability to move on from a past relationship. Sheeran references this in the chorus’ signature line, “I’m stuck on a page.”
Exploding into one of the peppiest tracks on Autumn Variations, “Midnight” takes the spotlight as a classic Ed Sheeran pop tune. The track has an infectious energy driven by fast-paced beats and light guitar riffs. Making it one of the more memorable entries on the album, “Midnight” is filled with catchy, unforgettable melodies and fuzzy feelings for a significant other. Slowing things down a bit with a midtempo ballad, “Spring” reflects on a year gone by too fast. It’s a relatable track, conveying feelings of seasonal depression—something many of us struggle with when fall and winter come around. Sheeran repeats the sentiment that “we can’t let winter win. That’s why I’m holding out for spring.” Seasonal depression often feels like an uphill battle, but there’s always hope with spring on the horizon. Keeping things slow and soft, “Punchline” is a guitar-driven, midtempo ballad. It’s one of the melancholier songs on Autumn Variations but beautiful, nonetheless.
“When Will I Be Alright” takes on Sheeran’s inner struggles, exploring some of his mental health battles. It’s a relatable song, asking a question many of us have wondered ourselves: “when will I be alright?” Simple yet lovely, “When Will I Be Alright” features acoustic guitar riffs, folksy fiddle lines, and supporting piano chords. Picking the mood up a bit, “The Day I Was Born” is next with a sound reminiscent to Train’s “Drops of Jupiter.” The track is a relaxed, midtempo ballad, featuring acoustic guitar riffs, piano, and rich harmonies. Ending the album on a positive note, Sheeran gives us a sweet, sappy love song with “Head > Heels.” If there’s one thing Sheeran is a master at, it’s creating moving ballads that make you want to lose yourself in someone’s arms. “Head > Heels” is Autumn Variations’ “Perfect,” making the song love incarnate.
Some might feel the album is a bit mundane compared to Subtract and earlier releases, but it perfectly captures the essence of everyday life. Sheeran aimed for an album that didn’t fit the mold of a typical, commercial-pop megastar release, so it’s fitting that Autumn Variations would paint a picture of something ordinary. The album feels like it’s as much for the fans as it is for Sheeran, showing that he’s human, too, and enjoys the same simple pleasures we do. So what if critics think it’s as basic as pumpkin spice? We, the fans, love it, and that’s all that matters.
Written By Cheyenne Johnson
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