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Album Review

Hailing from the distinctly non-ghetto Suffolk, ginger-haired Van Morrison devotee Ed Sheeran may not be the most obvious affiliate of the U.K. grime scene, but ever since a spellbinding performance on YouTube channel SB.TV caught the attention of hip-pop act Example, he's amassed a growing fan base of established rappers just as keen to work with him as they are Kanye and Jay-Z. Making full use of this illustrious roll call, Sheeran's last independent release before signing to Atlantic Records, No. 5: Collaborations Project, boasts an impressive array of guest stars on eight tracks that effortlessly fuse harsh urban rhythms and quick-fire MC skills with gentle acoustic folk-pop and tender poetic lyrics. Other than the warped basslines and haunting beats of the dubstep-infused P-Money duet "Family" and the aggressive Dizzee-esque tones of Ghetts on the soft rock singalong "Drown Me Out," the menacing undertones of the grime sound have been largely eschewed in favor of a more accessible mainstream sound, which is particularly ironic considering the diatribe against "cordial pop" on the JME team-up "Radio." "You" and "Goodbye to You" are emotive odes to lost loved ones from the usually cocksure Wiley and Dot Rotten, respectively; Random Impulse, Sway, and Wretch 32 join forces on the funky guitar licks and soothing aquatic synths of "Nightmares"; and "Little Lady" (a retitling of Sheeran's surprise Top Three single "The A Team") sees rising star Mikill Pane help provide perhaps the most tender song about a heroin-addicted prostitute you're ever likely to hear. Co-produced with Jake Gosling (Mark Ronson), it's not difficult to see why everyone from England footballer Rio Ferdinand to Oscar winner Jamie Foxx have been raving about Sheeran, and while there's no doubt the star-studded lineup has helped put him on the map, No. 5: Collaborations Project suggests that Sheeran shouldn't have any trouble sustaining its success when he goes it alone. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi


Born: Liverpool, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s

Flame-haired singer/songwriter, beatboxer, and guitarist Ed Sheeran's eclectic blend of acoustic pop, folk, and hip-hop has been championed by everyone from the underground grime scene to American Oscar winners. Born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England in 1991, Sheeran released his first EP, The Orange Room, while still at school, and his first two albums, his self-titled debut and Want Some, by the age of 16. After moving to London to gain more live experience, his performance of the self-penned...
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No. 5 Collaborations Project, Ed Sheeran
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