The undeniable appeal of Ed Sheeran

Pop megastar Ed Sheeran plays two shows in Vancouver.

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Ed Sheeran + – = ÷ x Tour

When: Sept. 1, 8 p.m.

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Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre,

When: Sept. 2, 6:30 p.m.

Where: B.C. Place

Tickets and info: Ticketmaster.ca

He’s the hit-making machine from Halifax. West Yorkshire, U.K., that is.

That is where one Edward Christopher Sheeran was born and raised and developed his mash-up mix of sensitive singer/songwriter balladry, hip-hop, pop, dance and what-have-you music making heard on songs such as Eyes Closed.

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Dating to his early teens, Sheeran pursued a music career. Few fans have probably heard 2004’s self-made Spinning Man or even 2005’s EP the Orange Room, but the style that has made him one of the most popular artists of the past two decades was already taking shape on these records.

Many would say that stardom had already arrived when 2010’s grime-tinged No. 5 Collaborations Project dropped, because of the top-rate acts that joined the sessions such as P-Money, Ghetts, JME and other U.K. rap stars. Then, 2011’s self-titled debut and the breakout smash the A Team, first heard on the Loose Change EP, broke Sheeran globally.

Having honed his live show to a razor sharp edge with just him, an acoustic guitar and a lot of foot pedals, tracks and loops, Sheeran was tapped by Taylor Swift to open on her 2013 Red tour, which gave him just the forum he needed to solidify a devoted fan base. Within no time at all, the shuffling everylad was co-writing hits for everyone from One Direction to soundtracks for films such as The Hobbit.

And, in 2014, he received a Grammy nomination in the best new artist category.

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Jump ahead to today and all six of his albums are top 10 releases, singles such as Shape of You broke Spotify streaming records, and he has collaborated with everyone from Swift to J Balvin, Bruno Mars, Chris Stapleton and many more. His rumoured collab with black metal legends Cradle of Filth is still pending.

Truth is, Sheeran seems to bring a Midas touch to anything and anyone he works with. At a time when pop stars fizzle out as fast as their layered auto-tuned vocals, there is something quite basic about this megastar who brings his strum ‘n’ groove to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and B.C. Place this week.

Here are five qualities that all add to his appeal:

Ed sheeran

1. He’s a busker made big

Sheeran’s so-called tough days on the street busking and showcasing at open mics are a tad overblown. As Jarvis Cocker would note in Common People, Sheeran was always someone who could call home for cash, if needed. But he did play upwards of 300 shows a year in the early days, and that included appearing on the stage of public opinion with his guitar case on the sidewalk. That builds a kind of genuine connection to crowds that works in a small group or a sold-out arena.

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Ed sheeran
Ed Sheeran accepting the Artist of the Year award onstage during the MTV Video Music Awards 2017, in Inglewood, Calif. Photo by JEAN-BAPTISE LACROIX /AFP/Getty Images

2: He has “everyone” appeal

Markewatch.com pegs the artist’s wealth at an estimated US$200 million, yet you would be hard-pressed to find a bit of bling on or around him. Sheeran shows up at award shows looking like a dishevelled college professor and performs in much the same way. When it looks like your tattoo sleeve is worth more than your outfit, it reinforces a sense of dressed-down realism that listeners identify with.

Ed sheeran
Ed Sheeran leaves Manhattan Federal Court and speaks to the media after he was found not guilty in a music copyright trial on May 4 in New York. Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld /Getty Images

3. He doesn’t back down from a fight

Recent years have seen considerable uptick in court cases launched against musicians, and Sheeran has faced a few. His recent win over a suit brought against his song Thinking Out Loud alleging it infringed on the Ed Townsend co-written Marvin Gaye smash Let’s Get It On, may put a freeze on such cases in future. This not only gives other artists some breathing room when writing, but also looks like an artist standing their ground for art. Never a bad look.

Ed Sheeran
Himesh Patel stars in the new Danny Boyle-directed and Richard Curtis-written film Yesterday. Photo by Universal Studios /PNG

4. He is funny onscreen

From turning up on Game of Thrones as a sad-sack singing soldier bound to have his eyelids seared off by a dragon, to the hilarious appearance in director Danny Boyle’s fantasy Yesterday, Sheeran seems ready-made for more acting gigs. In fact, many consider the suggestion of Sheeran-playing-himself in the film that the Beatles’ Hey Jude should actually be Hey Dude a fine idea. Better yet, lose the overrated and tediously long song altogether. I’d rather hear Lego House of Drunk any day.

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Ed sheeran
Kraft Heinz and Ed Sheeran are ready to tingle with the launch of a new bland-busting hot sauce: Tingly Ted’s. jpg

5. He has hilarious product tie-ins

So what kind of product endorsements do you do when you’re one of the biggest-earning musical acts on the planet? Not luxury cars or gold-plated alcohols. Sheeran stumped for Heinz ketchup in a hilarious Super Bowl 2020 clip as well as collaborating on Tingly Ted’s hot sauce. Best of all, Sheeran apparently pitched the advert from a DM he sent to Heinz. No word on whether these products will be available at the merch tables at the local shows.

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