And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, Ed Sheeran has announced his next album. Ed Sheeran’s album titles have had an odd pattern. The first album, released in 2011, was called +; three years later, the follow-up was called x; and the next one was called ÷. So the obvious candidate for the next album was “–,” the one major operation of arithmetic left unused. So, imagine my surprise when it turned out that Sheeran decided to take it in a bit of a different direction; he named his fourth album =.
And, to commemorate the announcement, he released another song from the album, an album track called “Visiting Hours.” It’s not the actual version on the album, but a live performance (and a remarkably elaborate one for an artist who’s used to performing with only his guitar, a looper he calls “Chewie,” and maybe whatever primitive synth is necessary to do the hook for “Shape of You”) recorded from an undisclosed location where he’s on holiday.
Press material accompanying the album’s release reveals that the song is about Sheeran dealing with the loss of his mentor and friend, Michael Gudinski.
The lyrics “I wish that heaven had visiting hours / So I can just swing by and ask your advice” might seem like corn straight off the cob, but, to be perfectly frank, it’s a rather heartfelt tribute to a friend and mentor of his, the late Michael Gudinski, a man who I’ve never mentioned here, mostly because he’s actually Australian and, odds are, if there’s an Australian pop star who crossed into the Northern Hemisphere in the past 40 years, he probably had a hand in their success. Sheeran wrote it as a way of getting through his grief and performed it for the first time at Gudinski’s public memorial in March, and managed to record it in quarantine in Australia, with a few of Gudinski’s other friends and proteges, specifically Kylie Minogue and Cold Chisel’s Jimmy Barnes singing backup.
Ed Sheeran said of the album: “= (Equals) is a really personal record and one that means a lot to me. My life changed greatly over the past few years – I got married, became a father, experienced loss, and I reflect on these topics over the course of the album. I see it as my coming-of-age record, and I can’t wait to share this next chapter with you.”
See the album cover art, painted by Ed Sheeran and a friend here.
It will be available on October 29; preorder it here.
The album’s tracklist:
- ‘First Times’
- ‘Bad Habits’
- ‘Overpass Graffiti’
- ‘The Joker And The Queen’
- ‘Leave Your Life’
- ‘Stop The Rain’
- ‘Love In Slow Motion’
- ‘Visiting Hours’
- ‘Be Right Now’