It's been two-and-a-half years since Ed Sheeran's dropped a record and No. 6 Collaborations Project arrives with a caveat - let go of everything you've ever heard from Ed, because he's trying very new things here to pretty awesome effect.
He's explained it as a project where he wanted to work with a bunch of artists he loved and he's really delivered with these guest artists. The album is a cross-section of veterans of the industry (50 Cent, Eminem, Stormzy) and fast-rising newcomers (Camila Cabello, YEBBA, Khalid, H.E.R.) and it presents a youthful side to Ed we haven't really seen so far.
We went in and lay down our first thoughts on each song on the record with highlights including the incredibly diverse South Of The Border, Take Me Back To London, Feels and Antisocial. They may be our first thoughts but don't worry, we'll definitely be going back for more.
Beautiful People ft Khalid
An expansive, sophisticated pop song that sits really well with Khalid’s soulful rasp. Lyrically, maybe it’s a little similar to I Don’t Care - Ed really doesn’t like parties huh? - but a strong start to the record and one that’s gonna stick around long after today’s album release.
South Of The Border ft Camila Cabello and Cardi B
The Latin-crossover track featuring the two leading ladies of the genre right now. It’s not very far musically from what Ed’s released in terms of his past albums, but the two blockbuster features are obviously an incredibly enticing part of this track. Camila brings the saucy Spanish lyrics to this and Cardi comes armed with her trademark wit - “I think Ed got a little jungle fever!” is a highlight line.
Cross Me ft Chance The Rapper and PnB Rock
We’ve been familiar with this one for a solid little while and it’s choppiness and ‘80s synths brings a flavour to the record that we didn’t heard in the first two songs. It’s clear Ed’s lined up these songs in a way that shows maximum breadth - no two songs are alike, nor do they sit next to each other on the project. Chance‘s bars are sick and PnB contributes that glitchy “anything she needs, she can call me” line.
Take Me Back To London ft Stormzy
It’s cool to see two of Britain’s best in their respective genres teaming up for this. Stormzy doesn’t hold back and he’s already spit his rhymes within the first minute of the song. Ed and Merky’s parts are also more integrated on this grimy track; while the other songs allow the feature artists their own verses, here the two dudes are chopping and changing regularly, singing over each other and dropping lines interchangeably. The song is a huge flex - they’re both at their A-game and they decided to put it in a fire song.
Best Part Of Me ft YEBBA
What would an Ed record be without a classic lilting guitar ballad? This is the closest thing to Ed’s past work and perhaps the newest addition to the list of possible Ed wedding songs to choose from, but he’s decided to collaborate with a relatively unknown singer in YEBBA. She’s got a warm, Adele-esque voice - it’s a lovely, stirring song made better by the video shot in Abbey Road Studios.
I Don’t Care ft Justin Bieber
The head-turning leading single, I Don’t Care is gonna follow in the footsteps of Bieber’s Sorry and become an undeniable pop-dancehall playlist mainstay. Ed’s written pop gold like this for heaps of other artists before but this is the first time he’s kept a song like this for himself. Ed and Justin’s voices are fairly similar here but compliment each other well - the harmonies at the end really solidify the song. You’ll definitely have this stuck in your head during inopportune times (during a meeting, an exam, a fight with your partner, etc). Get used to it. It's a banger.
Antisocial ft Travis Scott
Probably the track with the most street cred, Ed’s teamed up with rap superstar Travis Scott for this fast-paced track. Travis could maybe have more of a spotlight on this given his cool bars, but Ed's at his energetic best and it's a collab that we can see open the door to a lot of rap fans for Ed.
Remember The Name ft Eminem and 50 Cent
First impression - how the hell did he get Eminem and 50 Cent on a track together? The song doesn’t feel like a rap track at all - it starts with storytelling Ed and guitars then gets meta as he mentions he’s always wanted a song with these two veteran rappers. Neither Em’s or 50’s verses are as feisty as we’ve come to know from them - this song’s clearly meant to be a fun one, rather than Take Me Back To London and Antisocial which are designed to make you gee up.
Feels ft Young Thug and J Hus
We’re back to an R&B/hip hop club feel now and Young Thug’s verses are trap gold, saturated in his usual vocal effects. Fellow Brit J Hus brings the Afrobeat flavour which is a strong point of difference from the other songs - this is a very different style of song and it’ll probably pay off for Ed.
Put It All On Me ft Ella Mai
This album is definitely showcasing that Ed’s got his finger on the pulse in terms of artists who are on the road to super stardom and Ella Mai is another young English star who’s well on her way. This is another love song, but it’s club-focused so it’s not overly sappy. Their two voices duet well together and the Ed co-sign should ascend Ella to even greater heights.
Nothing On You ft Paulo Londra and Dave
Ed calls on 21-year-old Argentinian rapper Paulo Londra and English grime MC Dave on this one and its another that’ll resonate with Ed’s growing Latin and grime contingents. Paulo’s verse is entirely in Spanish and Dave brings the grime flair. The two collabs are unexpected but like this album has shown us, nothing is off the table for Ed.
I Don’t Want Your Money ft H.E.R.
Leaning into Grammy-winning H.E.R.’s soulful voice, this song incorporates brass for a jazzy flair. It’s still a pop song and in a similar vein to the Ella Mai track, but think of it as two sides of the same coin. This definitely has more attitude and also focuses on the hardships of holding down a relationship while on the road.
1000 Nights ft Meek Mill and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie
This might be the song on No.6 Collaborations Project with the most directly personal lyrics. Ed's verses talk about the struggles of living an ephemeral life on the road, touring constantly and not knowing when he'll get some time off. Meek's up first and he's full of groove in this one reflecting on his own early years of financial struggle, while A Boogie features later on.
Way To Break My Heart ft Skrillex
This is the only song on the album that features only Ed on vocals and when the song starts, it's pretty hard to imagine that it's a Skrillex song. His production is downbeat and mature - no Jack Ü or Dog Blood bombast - but it's another surprising and unexpected team-up, though it's maybe the more lacklustre ones on the album.
BLOW ft Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars
Just when you thought you'd heard it all, Ed wraps up the record with a bluesy classic rock track. And let's us just say this - Ed enjoys and loves to take the piss out of things, so keep in mind that the trio are probably being cheesy on purpose. It's got groove, it's got soul and it's a super fun way to end what is a playful, diverse album.