The debate over Ed Sheeran's talent has been raging on for years.
"He falters along this blurry gray line where he is always straddling two states of being," wrote Vice. "At once charming and un-charming, a banger machine and anti-music, good at pop and bad at it, annoying and irresistible…" the list goes on.
Known as "The Sheeran Effect," Ed Sheeran's cheesy brand of buoyant love songs has been a moneymaker for the music industry since the ginger's inception into mainstream success in 2011. "The art of the former couch surfer's appeal when he emerged in 2010 was that he had little in common with the deity-like singers who had been occupying the charts before his arrival," wrote The Guardian. Sheeran's appeal was in his unappealing tendencies. "He growls with the fervour of a 26-year-old man desperate to be sincerely identified as an infant."
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Sheeran's global domination is no accident, and it definitely doesn't have anything to do with talent—though he'd love it if you thought it did. In an interview with Chris Evans, Sheeran was asked whether the disparity between "Shape of You" and "Castle on the Hill," the singer's first new singles in over 3 years, was coordinated on purpose to appeal to two different types of mainstream listeners. "It definitely came into the equation," Sheeran said. "Everyone said [Castle on the Hill] was a Radio 2 single and we need something for Radio 1. So your theory is correct."
In The Beautiful Ones, Prince's newly released memoir, which he was working on vehemently before his death in 2016, the late and great artist all but confirmed Sheeran to be one of a few tried-and-true weapons of the music industry: totally accessible pop, all gimmicks, no substance. "We need to tell them that they keep trying to ram Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran down our throats," he wrote. "And we don't like it no matter how many times they play it."
In fact, Sheeran is so universally despised that everyone from Mashable and Pitchfork to The Guardian and Slate have dedicated entire articles to unearthing the reason for the universal disdain directed at him despite his on-paper success. Every publication is eerily similar in its execution as they discuss everything from his "offensive inoffensiveness," his "tofu music," his "staunch refusal to 'glo up'" to his neediness and inability to communicate with his romantic partners. Sheeran's career would (hopefully) sink without the help of Big Brother, but as mounting accusations of plagiarism threaten to derail Sheeran's "nice boy" image, it seems like he's finally about to be revealed as what he truly is: an industry plant manufactured to cater to the lowest common denominator. Prince can rest easy knowing that authenticity will always triumph in the end.