Ed Sheeran: a breed of pop star as rare as a unicorn

Ed Sheeran © Rex Features
Ed Sheeran: “the authentic rock’n’roll brio of a busking Furby”

The news that Ed Sheeran will be headlining the Glastonbury festival has received a mixed reaction. “Someone imbued with all the authentic rock’n’roll brio of a busking Furby is going to be the last man standing, serenading the crowds at the self-styled most important music festival in the world,” as Barbara Ellen put it in The Guardian, continuing a run of Sheeran-slagging that began with Harriet Gibsone’s review of his latest album ÷ (Divide).

“A flagrant sense of scheming behind every lyric, piece of instrumentation, expression of sentiment and change of mood,” says Gibsone. “This is a slick, potent album – one that reeks of nostalgia and comfort, campfires, scented candles, spilt pints of Guinness and, for those not enthralled by his algorithmic songcraft, the sharp stench of a salesman’s cheap cologne.”

Still, I doubt this will have troubled Ed much. Less than 12 hours after being released, ÷ topped the iTunes chart across the world. He has 16 singles in the UK top 20. His net worth – estimated at £45m – is climbing all the time. Yet Sheeran remains an unusual pop star, with a strangely simple and uncomplicated lifestyle. “Where [other stars] had demons, Sheeran seems to have angels,” says India Knight in The Sunday Times. “Happy, well-adjusted pop stars are still as rare as unicorns, yet here he is.”

By here, she means his home in Suffolk, where he is often to be found in a pub or a café or just, as she puts it, “going about his business”. He gives clothes to the local charity shop near his home; pops into his local care home to cut a ribbon; generally “potters about. Nobody has a bad word.”

Hugely famous, he is quite unfazed by fame. He doesn’t fall out of nightclubs or make a fool of himself on social media. In 2014, he explained that he still used the same bank account he had as a teenager, giving himself a monthly allowance of “maybe a grand”. Knight puts his behaviour down to his upbringing and schooling – his parents banned TV and computer games but provided him with books and a guitar.

Sometimes he thinks he had so much more fun when he was broke: “I felt more of an artist,” he tells Alexis Petridis in The Guardian. Mostly he realises that life with money is better than life without – he sometimes had to sleep rough after gigs – but he finds money “weird”. He can’t go to pubs any more, except one near his home where he can hide away in the corner with his girlfriend. “At the end of the day, I make music to make music… It’s fun now, in my 20s, but there’s more to life than selling millions of records.”

It probably helps being a solo act – there’s less scope for the battles that go with being in a band. The Times had a piece this month about the newly knighted Ray Davies and the Kinks, a band in which life was rarely smooth. At one gig, the drummer, Mick Avory, “fired a cymbal” at the head of Ray’s brother, Dave, “almost decapitating him”, while Ray himself got a “lifetime ban” from a Welsh town for attacking his brother in a dressing room. “For 95% of the time the Kinks were in disarray,” says Ray. It doesn’t seem like we’re ever likely to associate that word with Ed Sheeran.

Tabloid money… ”Leave Wills alone!”

• If George Osborne can edit a newspaper, there’s no reason why I can’t be chancellor of the exchequer, says Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail. So here’s what I would do. “I’d abolish most government departments, starting with the Scottish Office; international development; Culture, Media and Sport; whatever the Min of Ag calls itself this week; anything to do with climate change or ‘diversity’; and every single quango from the equalities commissariat to the Welsh Language Commission.” The Treasury and HMRC wouldn’t escape the chop, either. “With simpler taxes, there’d be no need for so many civil servants.”

• Prince William has been chastised for going on a skiing holiday in Verbier, where he “had a few nights out and did a fair bit of dad dancing”, and consequently missed the Commonwealth Day service – an event “even his work-shy uncle Prince Andrew managed to drag himself to”, says Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday. “Maybe we feel we aren’t getting our money’s worth out of ‘our’ prince, but I think he does a good job.” Bear in mind that our royals “never get to be 100% off duty”. “The bottom line is, William has been caught having fun – and we don’t like it. We think we own him because we pay for him and perhaps we just want him to be as miserable as the rest of us. So, to all you mean-spirited moaners out there: Leave Wills alone!”

• “Men love their businesses as if they were their babies,” says Vanessa Feltz in the Daily Express. Finnish scientists have found that “if you show a chap his business’s logo, the synapses of his brain respond as if he’d seen a snap of his toddler”. And female bosses? “What do you think? So, next time a man… refers to his café or hairdressing salon or blue-chip company as ‘my baby’… try to forbear from scoffing. He, almost literally, means every word.”

Merryn

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