Worst No. 1 Hits of 2014 – No. 1: “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran

I decided that I was going to review every song to make it to No. 1 in the UK charts. I managed to review about four. Instead, I’ve organised the songs into a list and will review the ones I liked and disliked the most. Here’s the one I particularly disliked:

05

I hate this song. I hate it. It doesn’t work. It’s meaningless. It’s pretentious. It’s hollow. It’s boring. It’s awful. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

Big Problem #1: listen to how much effort Ed Sheeran has to put in in order to make the song sound earnest. He’s tries so hard to make the song sound sincere, which therefore means it can’t be sincere because, if it was, he wouldn’t have to try so hard to make it sound as such. By having to go through the lengths he does to make this sound truthful, he thus reveals that this song isn’t the truth at all. This song is a con, ladies and gentlemen; a overly designed, self-defeating con. It’s a lieEd Sheeran doesn’t love the song’s focus at all.

Big Problem #2: it’s called “Thinking Out Loud” but all of the lyrics are him telling someone how much he loves them: the lyrics of the song thus can’t be thoughts because we don’t think directly at people. If they were thoughts, the first lyrics wouldn’t go “When your legs don’t work like they used to before / And I can’t sweep you off of your feet”, they’d go “When her legs don’t work like they used to before / And I can’t sweep her legs off of her feet”. These aren’t thoughts, these are quotations. Also: “I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways”. No you’re not. Even if you accept the idea of this song as being comprised of thoughts, none of this song is about how people fall in love. It’s about how the narrator’s already in love and about how he thinks the love will last, but none of it – none of it – except for that one line is about how people fall in love. Do you even know what this song’s about, Ed Sheeran? Because it’s about falling in love, no it’s about being in love, no it’s about thinking about love, no it’s about confessing your love – WHAT IS THIS SONG ABOUT, ED SHEERAN?!? PICK A TOPIC AND FUCKING STICK TO IT!

So a summary so far: the song is patently insincere, the register is completely wrong and it doesn’t even seem to be able to decide exactly what it’s talking about (thinking about? Oh who cares?). But hey, maybe there’s a couple of good lines in the song. Maybe there’s a few moments where it’s not entirely incompetent?

NOPE.

“Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes / Hoping that you’ll understand” – The whole point of a long-term relationship is to learn from your mistakes and become a better person through your love for your partner. The relationship Ed Sheeran apparently is envisioning here is one where he’s a horrible idiot who never learns anything and his wife puts up with him just because. He’s basically imagining being The Simpsons. Such emotional investment he has with this relationship.

I fall in love with you every single day” In order for Ed Sheeran to fall in love with his partner every single day, he’d have to fall out of love with her every single day too; you can’t fall in love with someone you’re already in love with.

“Your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen” – Evergreen trees grow old; they just don’t lose their leaves in winter. The actually accurate lyric would be “Your soul could never be bald; it’s evergreen” – ridiculous yes, but only slightly more than the original.

“Baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory” – A valid enough sentiment, if it wasn’t for the fact that four lines ago, Sheeran mentions the time “when my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades”. So what he’s basically saying is “You will always be in my memory, unless my memory of you goes”, or “You will always be in my memory until I eventually forget you”. What a great observation.

“Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?” – That doesn’t sound like you’re talking about kissing, that sounds like you’re talking about blowjobs.

And I could carry on. None of this song works; not a single line, not a single note, not a single word. It’s completely incompetent. It’s sub-teenage poetry level bad. This is a song written by a man who does not understand metaphors, syntax, register, voice, the way two lines contrast against each other, how to write, or seemingly anything at all. It’s not sincere, it’s not romantic, it’s not clever, it’s crap. In every single way, crap.

AND IT’S FUCKING EVERYWHERE.

I watched Christmas Top of the Pops this year; he performed the song on that. I watched Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny; he performed it on that. I listen to the radio; they appear to just be playing it on repeat. He’s received several awards for this song. It’s one of the biggest selling songs of the year. Why doesn’t anyone seem to be able to see that it’s terrible?! It’s just not good, yet we’re treating it like it’s the next Bohemian Rhapsody. Why? How? When will it end?

One last song lyric: “When my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades / And the crowds don’t remember my name”

Oh how I await that day. “Thinking Out Loud” – Worst song of the year.

Advertisements

11 comments

  1. I think by “evergreen” he means the meaning of evergreen songs to be honest. So in that case it would make sense as those evergreen songs are ever popular. Forever. I don’t think Ed Sheeran thinks of trees when writing songs.
    And I feel like you just want to understand the song in that negative way. But actually it does make sense.

  2. May I be honest? I’d rather listen to Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black than to this garbage. Again, strictly my opinion. If you enjoy it, good for you. Just make sure I’m not present to hear you play it. I’ve never hated a song before until this. Perhaps it has to do with everyone playing it all the time and that ONE line at the beginning of the song. I hope the artist breaks his legs so I can laugh at the irony. Too cruel? Maybe, but what can I say? I turn into a monster when I think of it. This song makes me want to puke. I honestly don’t see why people enjoy it? I know it depends on music taste. But I can’t see it. The chords are lame, the voice is annoying, the lyrics are boring, and the song itself is a disaster – it makes me cringe. Oh well, just my opinion I suppose.

  3. Thank god I’m not the only one who feels this way! You nailed everything I hate about this nails- on – chalkboard mashup of the Beatles “When I’m 64″ and stolen Marvin Gays ” lets get it on” overlaid with bad tween-sitting-in-class- writing – shitty- poetry!

  4. you guys are just hating on Ed Sheeran there’s nothing wrong with him. why is everybody hating on him he’s not bad he’s not a bad guy.

    1. I actually quite like Ed Sheeran: his song “Sing” was No. 5 in my Top Songs of 2014 list and his songs “Don’t” and “Bloodstream” are great too. I just think that he doesn’t play to his strengths enough (he works best the smaller in scale he goes) and that this song in particular is terribly written (for the reasons stated above).

  5. Firstly. ARE YOU DUMB? How can you say Ed doesn’t understand metaphor or syntax? Have you heard the rest of his music? He has an amazingly good handle of the English Language for someone who quit school during his A Levels. If you honestly believe that he didn’t mean every word when he wrote this song, you clearly haven’t done enough research into the relationship that inspired it. The lyric “I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes, hoping that you’ll understand.” shows us that Ed knows his flaws and knows he won’t change, and hopes that his girlfriend will love him, warts and all. Relationships don’t require change. They need acceptance and compromise. If you’re changing the person you’re dating, perhaps you shouldn’t be dating them at all.
    Ed has a legion of fans and I for one will always remain one. I have adored his lyrics since his old EP days, and I’m confident when Ed and I are both old and grey, I will still adore all his lyrics. They are clever and relatable, and they do make sense.
    ‘Thinking Out Loud’ has won Ed many awards, including two Grammy awards. If that doesn’t mean anything to a supposed music critic, perhaps you’re in the wrong job.
    The song is clearly about when he’s looking at his girlfriend and all the cringy things he thinks when he sees her. You don’t think about people in the third person when you’re looking at them.
    And making the line about the “taste of [his] love” a sexual reference just shows how immature you are. The song is not an ode to teenage love, it’s not about sex or making love, it’s just about him thinking cute things about his relationship.
    There’s been a million songs that are clearly worse than ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and there is a reason that this is the world’s wedding song.

    1. This is hideously long, for which I apologise. You gave an impassioned defence though and deserve a line-by-line response:

      “Firstly. ARE YOU DUMB?”

      Sometimes. Also; hi.

      “How can you say Ed doesn’t understand metaphor or syntax? Have you heard the rest of his music?”

      When I say that Ed Sheeran doesn’t understand those things, I more accurately mean that he shows little understanding of those things in this song. When I review something, I try to treat it as a singular text in it’s own right; I only bring in other texts when they’re needed to illustrate exactly why I like/dislike the one in question. A good text stands on it’s own. To that end, maybe I should’ve written something closer to “This song sounds like it was written by the man who doesn’t understand [blah blah blah]” so that it doesn’t sound like as much of a overarching critique of Sheeran himself (then again, the bit you’re referring to is meant to be the denouement where I’m in full rant mode and fully setting down how little I like this song so it might break the voice slightly; I’ll still consider changing it).

      (Also: unrelated but I have reviewed other songs written by Sheeran in the past and have been quite complementary to them. “Sing” was my 5th best song of 2014, for example, and I think that “Don’t” is wonderful. “Thinking Out Loud” doesn’t do it for me though. I like my Ed Sheeran when he’s at his most poppy and is working at the smallest of scales; his attempts to make all-encompassing statements about love and life are too out of his depth for me and sometimes make him seem like a clumsier artist that he is.)

      “If you honestly believe that he didn’t mean every word when he wrote this song, you clearly haven’t done enough research into the relationship that inspired it.”

      Again, a text should be able to stand on it’s own; I’m not interested in the intent or inspiration that goes into a song but only in the end result and what it says by itself. I subscribe to “The Death of the Author” argument which argues that the people in charge of how a piece is received are it’s audience: it doesn’t matter what the artist was thinking while singing it, what matters is how you react while listening to it. This means that an artist’s performance can be entirely sincere and not sound like it. More than that, if something is sincere but doesn’t sound it, that means it’s a bad performance. That’s my argument: Ed Sheeran puts in a bad performance in this song because he sounds too much like he’s trying and ends up sounding overwrought, which in turn stops his performance from sounding natural, which in turn stops it from sounding sincere. Whether the lyrics are sincere or not doesn’t change this.

      “The lyric “I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes, hoping that you’ll understand.” shows us that Ed knows his flaws and knows he won’t change, and hopes that his girlfriend will love him, warts and all. Relationships don’t require change. They need acceptance and compromise. If you’re changing the person you’re dating, perhaps you shouldn’t be dating them at all.”

      But compromising is changing; it’s the act of reconfiguring exactly how you see your lover and how you act with them to benefit of both parties. As such, while you shouldn’t want your partner to change, you should be willing to change for your partner. Relationships are about personal betterment; you’re meant to want to be with someone who makes you a better person. Sheeran doesn’t want to be better; he just wants to be the same clown he always is. It’s not just me; Todd in the Shadows has exactly the same issue.

      “Ed has a legion of fans”

      Oh trust me, I know; I’ve grown to fear and respect Ed Sheeran fans in equal order after posting this review.

      “and I for one will always remain one. I have adored his lyrics since his old EP days, and I’m confident when Ed and I are both old and grey, I will still adore all his lyrics.”

      That’s great, but other people liking Ed Sheeran doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like this song.

      “[His lyrics] are clever and relatable, and they do make sense.”

      More often that not, yes. I disagree when it comes to this song though, for the reasons posted above.

      “’Thinking Out Loud’ has won Ed many awards, including two Grammy awards. If that doesn’t mean anything to a supposed music critic, perhaps you’re in the wrong job.”

      I have to disagree with this statement on several levels. A) As previously said, I try my best not to concern myself with anything except for what’s inside a song while making my opinion about it. Intent doesn’t factor into it; other people’s opinions don’t factor in; and neither do awards. We can assume that if I cover a song on this blog, then it’s received a lot of success and plundits – I deal with chart hits; I don’t talk about works which aren’t usually popular and respected. The question is whether I as a critic believe its success to be deserved and whether the work says anything about our society at the time. When it comes to Thinking Out Loud, I don’t think it fulfills either criteria. B) Absolutely nowhere is it required that a critic respect an award ceremony. The Grammys aren’t even that respected in music circles; the Simpsons were making jokes about how few people cared for them in the 90’s. So yeah, I don’t take awards into consideration when writing my reviews, but that doesn’t mean I’m in the wrong profession. C) I feel that part of this argument is the idea that “it’s popular so it has to be good” which I do not subscribe to at all. Very flawed items can become successful because they fit a popular niche, or because they become a meme, or because the market just forces the song onto the listeners so much that they eventually relent; then things like award ceremonies usually give preference to acts which sold well, bumping up sales, and thus the cycle continues. A bad song can sell well and a bad song can win awards. That’s what happened in this case.

      “The song is clearly about when he’s looking at his girlfriend and all the cringy things he thinks when he sees her. You don’t think about people in the third person when you’re looking at them.”

      But you do look at the person you love and immediately start thinking of mangled metaphors about evergreen trees, images of an older you balding and the multitude of other oddities contained in this song’s lyrics? I still don’t buy the song’s conceit.

      “And making the line about the “taste of [his] love” a sexual reference just shows how immature you are. The song is not an ode to teenage love, it’s not about sex or making love, it’s just about him thinking cute things about his relationship.”

      A fair enough complaint; that was a joke lobbed onto the end of the review that didn’t really land (though see my review of Meghan Trainor/Charlie Puth song ‘Marvin Gaye’ for my opinions on cute things and relationships).

      “There’s been a million songs that are clearly worse than ‘Thinking Out Loud’”

      Yes there have, but that doesn’t automatically mean that ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is good.

      “There is a reason that this is the world’s wedding song.”

      The fact that most songs played at weddings are stereotypically crap?

      Which I think is all just me saying “We’ll have to agree to disagree” but using even more words to say it than I used for the entirety of the original review.

  6. What I’ve come to hate about the song is that’s everywhere, more than because I completely disagree with Ed – I go to Disney World and there by the lake next to House of Blues is a little 3-piece band and they are playing that song, I go get dinner at Jason’s Deli and it comes on there, etc.

  7. One remark only. He is going to love her until they are 70. And then what??? Leave her for another younger model? THAT is why this song will never make sense. I suggest people listen to Tom Odell’s “Grow old with me” for a far better getting old together song. And for the record, I think Ed Sheeran is probably the most over rated singer of our time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s