Review: Ed Sheeran, Big Bang, Julie Byrne and Sam Hunt

by Long Do | 1/10/17 1:55am

“Shape of You,” “Castle on the Hill,” Ed Sheeran, ÷

Ed Sheeran has finally moved on from producing songs filled with the lulling sound of acoustic guitars, which should be great. The new track “Shape of You” marks a departure from Sheeran’s usual vibe.

Fused with electronic-pop sounds, the song has great potential to become the next radio hit. It seems, however, that Sheeran and producer Steve Mac have listened to female singer-songwriter Sia’s hits too much. “Shape of You” has her sound written all over it. Despite the new musical direction, the song lacks novelty and freshness.

In addition, “Shape of You” also boasts a number of awkward lines, with Sheeran taking on a different occupation in each one. He is a mathematician (“I’m in love with the shape of you”), a physician (“We push and pull like a magnet do”) and even an aromatologist (“And now my bedsheets smell like you”). Sheeran can do better than writing this generic, nondescript pop song.

Rating: 3/5

On the other hand, “Castle on the Hill” lives up to expectations. The song narrates Sheeran’s upbringing and teenage days. He personalizes his track with great details: “Driving at 90 down those country lanes / Singing to ‘Tiny Dancer.’” The singer-songwriter succeeds in recreating his memories with authenticity. Even in the most generic lines, “Castle on the Hill” is both genuine and relatable.

Sheeran takes advantage of his confessional, sweet vocal style in the track. Musically, the song is a giant, electric guitar anthem. Nothing can capture the epic feeling of looking out onto the world from a castle on the hill better than those soaring riffs. Still, even when nostalgia turns into grandeur in the chorus, the music does not overwhelm the passionate vocals. Sheeran never loses his intimate connection to listeners.

Rating: 4/5

“Last Dance,” Big Bang, MADE

“Last Dance” is one of the recent releases by Korean boy band Big Bang. According to the members, the song reflects the 10-year career of the band, and they want to dedicate the track to their supportive fans. “Last Dance” has a very pleasing melody, embellished by piano, guitar and soft percussion.

Heartwarming but not overtly sentimental, it makes sense that the song was released during the winter. The diversity in vocal types of Big Bang’s members adds more layers to the song’s emotional display. “Last Song” does not aim to be edgy or innovative. It is as quiet and straightforward as the band’s “Let’s Not Fall in Love.” Both songs remind listeners why the band’s best moments may lie in their simplicity.

Rating: 3.5/5

“I Live Now As A Singer,” Julie Byrne, Not Even Happiness

Julia Byrne’s soon-to-be-released album “Not Even Happiness” has already teased us with two excellent tracks: “Natural Blue” and “Follow My Voice.” Byrne’s latest cut from this LP is titled “I Live Now as A Singer.” Heavily backed by dreamy synths, the song is a departure from the guitar-folk arrangement of her two previous tracks.

In the song, Byrne addresses the hanging question of belonging in a calm but arresting performance. Her rich vocals perfectly match the song’s somber echoes of strings. The singer-songwriter said that she wrote this song while she was traveling one night. “And I have dragged my life across the country / And wondered if travel led me anywhere,” she contemplates. Even if listeners cannot relate to the song’s lyrics, they are still beautiful to hear.

Rating: 4/5

“Drinkin’ Too Much,” Sam Hunt

The newest single by country singer Sam Hunt is an apologetic track to his partner. The song is absolutely personal, with a great deal of spoken lyrics, including “I’m sorry I named the album ‘Montevallo’ / And I’m sorry people know your name now / And strangers hit you up on social media.” Hunt holds little back in showing his repentance. As a note of apology, this may work perfectly. As a song, however, “Drinkin’ Too Much” may suffer from a lack of selectivity. The song’s excessive details are certainly genuine but not necessarily effective.

Hunt mixes different genres in this new single, continuing the approach from his last LP “Montevallo.” The song is first and foremost pop-R&B, but as it transitions into the chorus, country elements fill the background. Even though the combination still feels as strange as it did on his last album, these contrasting elements were subtle enough to blend in without overshadowing each other.

Rating: 3.5/5