I love Ed Sheeran. I really do. I’ve been following his music since he made the credits song for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. From there, I downloaded + and to be honest, he makes some pretty great music. I’m not a die-hard fan or anything, and I’ve definitely never been to one of his concerts, but I did wait around for Divide to come out, and X has been on my rotation for awhile now. That being said, my love of Ed Sheeran’s music doesn’t come in a vacuum. Ed Sheeran is one of those guys that I would call a “problematic fave,” because he’s basically been given a free pass to do all sorts of weird things that we’d skewer female music stars for. I like him, but it’s about time we call him out.
Ed Sheeran has made a few recognizable hits that like to burrow into your brain and live there forever. For example, I’ve spent the last three weeks obsessively listening to “Shape Of You” on repeat, and I’ve done this with a few of his songs over the years. However, recently he’s been making headlines for things that aren’t just unrelated to his music, they’re just dumb. I really enjoy his work and all (I’m literally listening to Divide as I write this), and it pains me to have to say this, but it appears the day of reckoning has arrived for everyone’s favorite (or least favorite) guitar playing ginger. Here are just a few reasons why Ed Sheeran might not be as likable as he wants us to think he is.
15. His Fans Are A Little Insufferable
It goes without saying that Ed Sheeran has a big fan base. I’m not sure if I count among that number, but I can promise you that even without me, Ed Sheeran has a huge fan base that’s totally crazy about him. On top of that, you don’t even have to be a fan of him to be a fan of him. Two of Justin Bieber’s hits, “Cold Water” and “Love Yourself,” were co-written by Ed Sheeran. Coincidentally, those were two songs that I played on repeat for days without knowing that they were Justin Bieber songs. Upon finding out, I immediately felt dirty, but that wasn’t enough to knock them off my music library. Sheeran also has the added benefit of being British, which makes even the most inexplicably banal guys at like 20% hotter for some reason.
Unfortunately, Ed Sheeran fans can be just as annoying as Beliebers or Directioners. Fans have cried floods of tears on TV over things he’s done, and with the Divide tour about to begin, that shows no signs of slowing down. On top of that, Ed Sheeran fans seem to think that their rabid fandom is somehow more superior to the Belieber or Directioner fandom because Ed Sheeran has better lyrics, making this fandom a good deal more pretentious. Pretentiousness is really annoying, guys.
14. He Lied About A Prank Knighting Ceremony
Back in November 2016, Ed Sheeran was seen with a big scar on his cheek, and the world was wondering how that happened. He eventually told a story involving a fake knighting, where Princess Beatrice did a pretend knighting and nicked him in the face in the process. It’s a great story, but he eventually said that he “wasn’t allowed” to talk about the story because of the royal family or something like that. Recently, James Blunt, who was also at the party, came clean. “Ed was drunk, messing around, and he cut himself,” Blunt told ShortList. “We made a fancy story up, people fell for it. It was very embarrassing.” He went on to come for Sheeran with a comment that must have cut deeper than that sword ever could. “It’s bizarre that people fell for it,” Blunt said. “I blame him. He must be desperate—he’s trying to sell records.” What I don’t understand is why he felt the need to lie in the first place. It’s like our moms said: people won’t be mad because you did something wrong, they’ll be mad because you lied about it.
13. He Thought It Would Be Cute To Come For Lady Gaga
Ed Sheeran recently made headlines for allegedly ‘shading’ Lady Gaga over her “flop albums.” He didn’t mention names, but he said enough that Lady Gaga’s little monsters were sure he was referring to her: “I don’t want to be the artist who had two big albums and then went up their own arse. I have to know when to listen to people. Otherwise, I’ll end up like artists that you’ve interviewed over the years who you’ve seen be the biggest artists in the world, and then suddenly they’re like ‘I know everything!!’ and then they’re not longer the biggest. The smartest thing to do is to listen to people who know what they’re talking about.” Fans of Lady Gaga thought he was referring to her commercial downfall after The Fame Monster and proceeded to roast him as only fans of megastars know how.
Look, I don’t think he meant to come for Lady Gaga. There are a lot of artists out there who’ve tanked after their second albums went out, and everyone knows that Lady Gaga is most emphatically not one of them. Sure, ARTPOP was less successful and less good than the rest of her discography, but anyone who tells me that Born This Way and Joanne were not triumphs in their own right is just wrong. Perhaps Ed Sheeran needs to not act like he knows everything.
12. He’s A “Nice Guy”
Ed Sheeran is pretty good at writing songs, but some of his songs are positively ‘cringey’ when it comes to that “nice guy” attitude. Every piece that’s been done on him always touches on the fact that he’s a super nice guy. However, his lyrics also catapult him to “problematic fave” status, because a lot of his lyrics show that attitude in spades. His “nice guy” songs tend to show off what a nice guy he is, and then lament that the object of his affections can’t see that for whatever reason. The songs then go on to reason that girls don’t like him because he’s too nice, or that women only view him as a friend and things like that. Even worse, they’ll warn that one day, the woman will see how much she messed up by letting him go. Good examples of this attitude in Ed Sheeran songs are “The Man, “Don’t,” and “One,” and I’m sure you could find more if you really looked. This is classic Nice Guy behavior, and it honestly deserves to get called out.
11. He’s A Sex Symbol Who’s Totally Unsexy
Personally, I don’t think I’d kick Ed Sheeran out of bed. He kind of reminds me of Ron Weasley if Ron had gone through a hard partying phase before The Cursed Child. The fact that no one has actually mentioned this blows my mind, come to think of it. However, my taste in men has been almost universally maligned by other women around me, and even I can admit that he’s not sexy in the traditional way. It can actually be argued that he’s not sexy at all, which makes his ascension to sex symbol status that much more confusing. After all, his lyrics paint him as a “nice guy” who’s constantly getting friend-zoned, which isn’t your first thought when you’re asked to describe someone explicitly sexy. Sure, he’s sexy to some people, but he’s definitely not a sex symbol, and its kind of like the general narrative is trying to make him a sex symbol.
10. He Wears Sneakers To Awards Shows
This is one of those things that actually annoys the crap out of me. Look, Ed, I get that your thing is relatability and that charmingly rumpled look, but the fact that I literally could not find any award photos of you without sneakers on is a bit mind-boggling. They’re not even sneakers meant to look like regular shoes, either. Sure, it was helpful at the Brit Awards when your girlfriend Cherry Seabron broke her Louboutin heels, but I can promise you that she would have been perfectly happy wearing your dress shoes too. I like your awards show style, too. Your suits aren’t quite as tailored as the suits of your counterparts and that kind of appeals to me. However, there are times where clean looks and dress shoes will just look better, and tailored suits and matching shoes will never go out of style. Try it just once, or at least wear sneakers that aren’t so bulky.
9. He’s Friends With Taylor Swift
Ed Sheeran counts Taylor Swift as a friend, and to be honest, I really didn’t understand why at first. Then I remembered that Taylor Swift is basically in the position she’s in now because she managed to capitalize on the Kanye West’s VMA situation, and has spent her career positioning herself as the victim in all things. She would have been able to keep doing that for years to come had she not been exposed by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj. That being said, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift have a few major things in common. Their music is all about relationships gone wrong, and they’ve made their careers out of positioning themselves as the “nice guys” all the time. Ed Sheeran isn’t quite as transparent about it as Taylor Swift is, but the fact that he’s put himself out on a limb defending her sometimes indefensible actions shows that he’s not quite as nice as his persona indicates.
8. He Doesn’t Belong On Game Of Thrones
News recently broke that Ed Sheeran is going to guest star on Game of Thrones, and as a Game of Thrones fan who read the books and has been a pretty faithful fan from day one, I’m really not understanding this casting. Sure, I’m happy that Maisie Williams, a longtime Sheeran fan, gets to work with him, but I just can’t picture him in this universe. I might be down with another rendition of “The Rains of Castamere,” given where we are in the show, and I could see him doing a good job with the song (in fairness, it’s a hard song to mess up), but I’m just having trouble picturing him as a named character traveling with the main characters. He’s far from the first music star to show up on Game of Thrones: previous music guests include members of Coldplay, Of Monsters and Men, and Sigur Ros. Members of Mastodon were even made up as White Walker wildlings! There’s no telling what Ed Sheeran might end up doing on the show, so I’m honestly hoping that things turn out okay.
7. He’s Basically The Justin Bieber Of England
A young boy with a lot of musical talent makes his reputation by playing on street corners, utilizing the Internet and making friends with big music stars before striking out and making a name for himself. He goes on to explode in popularity, putting out a string of hits and gaining international fame. He tours for years and gains a massive fanbase, but eventually, a backlash begins. He’s made less than advisable friends and done some pretty dumb things, and that’s led the tide to turn against them, so to speak. Now, am I talking about Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber?
I’m actually talking about both of them. We all know how Justin Bieber was discovered by Usher and rose to fame before falling from grace, only to come back with some admittedly good music (the aforementioned “Cold Water” and “Love Yourself”). However, you might not know Ed Sheeran’s origin story. He bought a ticket to LA in 2010, where he got discovered by Jaime Foxx, and from there, things took off. The difference between Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber is that Sheeran can still stop hurtling towards a major backlash in a way that Bieber can’t. Bieber even lampshaded this when he was asked about Sheeran on BBC Radio 1 Live: “Let’s hope he doesn’t… we gotta make sure he doesn’t do something stupid to mess it all up,” Bieber said. Take that advice, Ed. Bieber would know.
6. He Brags About Banging The Friends Of His Friends
Ed Sheeran’s status as the friend-zoned guy might literally just be all in his head. A few days ago, he went on record saying that he’s had sex with some of Taylor Swift’s famous friends when he was on tour with her back in 2011. “Taylor’s world is celebrity,” he explained, recalling their time on her Speak Now tour. “I was this 22-year-old awkward British kid going on tour with the biggest artist in America, who has all these famous mates. It was very easy. I would often find myself in situations just kind of waking up and looking over and being like, ‘How the f–k did that happen?'” In fairness to Taylor, she’s not all that upset about it. “No, she encouraged it!” Ed told Howard Stern. “She’s like the world’s best wingman.”
Taylor might have been cool with all of that but doing this clearly brought a lot of drama. Remember his song “Don’t?” It turns out the whole thing actually happened, and there’s a good chance that it’s about Ellie Goulding and that time that she spent the night with him, but was also seeing Niall Horan of One Direction fame while they were staying on the same hotel floor. Ellie Goulding has said that she was never with Ed, and holding his hand once doesn’t mean that they were together, but that wasn’t enough for him. “Normal people don’t hold hands if they’re just friends. It was going on, and now it’s not.”
Not only is this an excellent example of his penchant to write songs about failed relationships like Taylor Swift goes, it’s also a great example of his Nice Guy attitude in action. Also, as a general rule, don’t sleep with friends of your friends, especially if that friend has a hand in your career.
5. Can Ed Sheeran Actually Sing?
No, seriously, can he? We all know the man can write excellent songs, even if they’re mired in real drama sometimes, but there have been times where his singing has been called into question. One piece in The Guardian got into this in more detail, and their criticisms of his singing might even be considered savage. They wrote “Ed, whose whiny music makes him sound as though he’s got his tongue permanently trapped in a child safety gate. Who looks as though you’d get up close and he’d smell of Violet Bloom Febreze. Whose lukewarm monotones I fervently feel should be banned in cars, lest motorists are overcome with ennui and fatally fall asleep at the wheel.” The article goes on to say that Ed whimpers “like a dog falling down a well.” This is harsh criticism, and as a sort of fan of his music, I don’t quite agree with it. However, if you don’t like his singing voice, this is probably an accurate description of it for you.
4. There’s No Female Equivalent Of Him
Ed Sheeran’s brand of “nice guy,” unthreatening sexuality is a persona that only a man can use. Female singers are constantly feeling the pressure to use their sexuality and femininity, and women, in general, are more likely to be coerced into doing so. Ed Sheeran is a good example of how male singers are getting less and less explicitly sexy, and how that’s seen as okay, but when a woman elects not to use overt sexuality, she’s seen as frumpy or plain. It’s a double standard, and it isn’t fair. While Ed Sheeran didn’t make this double standard up, he benefits from it and doesn’t really call it out from what I can see. Ed Sheeran gets to be sweet in a vacuum, while women very rarely get that luxury.
3. Is Ed Sheeran A Rapper?
I’ve waited a while to comment on Ed Sheeran’s rapping abilities because this is probably the thing he gets the most heat from. Ed Sheeran has used rap throughout his career, even getting out his guitar to accompany himself in some sweet rap covers. He’s kind of like the J.Cole of the alternative set: both wax poetic about women, relationships, and their penises. This is pretty lucky because Ed Sheeran has said that J. Cole is his favorite rapper. While Ed Sheeran is a good rapper that manages to work it into his music well, many of his fans act like he’s God’s gift to rap, and he does it better than the majority of the rappers in the game. This is an incredible exaggeration. His rapping works well for his music, and his rap covers on the guitar are fun and all, but I really don’t see him being able to freestyle with the best of them over a sick beat or anything. He’s a great artist, but he’s not a rapper. If he’s a rapper, Kesha’s a rapper, too.
This is yet another example of the major hype that surrounds him and his music, and it goes to show that all of these incidents with made up fake knightings and Ellie Goulding might serve to make this guy crash and burn hard. I never thought I’d ever say this in my life, but Ed Sheeran really needs to take Justin Bieber’s advice.
2. Other Artists Do What He Does Better
Acting like Ed Sheeran invented writing great music and he’s the only one right now that’s doing that is ridiculous. There are a lot of male artists in the game who do the same thing that he does, and they do it with a lot less drama. Sam Smith is a good example of a guy who sings beautiful songs with vaguely Nice Guy lyrics. Bon Iver is a band, but they’re another good example, too. Hozier of “Take Me To Church” fame has made other songs and has the added benefit of not having so much Nice Guy in his lyrics. If you’re looking for something more upbeat, try anything by Adam Young of Owl City and Sky Sailing fame. James Blunt might not be as famous as he was when he released “You’re Beautiful,” but his later work is also really good. I can go on, but they’re all good places to start if you’re looking for music made by Ed Sheeran contemporaries. Have fun updating your Spotify playlists, everyone!
1. He Gets Free Passes For All Of This
What really boggles my mind with all of this is that Ed Sheeran has gone unchecked through all of this. If he’d been a female artist, he’d have been crucified by now. Remember when Adele made a crack about how her exes helped her win Grammies and the whole world came for her neck? Ed Sheeran’s public reputation has feats that are worse than that, and no one has really batted an eye. If anything, he’s been overblown to the point where the world thinks he can do no wrong. He’s definitely not someone who should be hated the way music acts like Nickelback and yes, Justin Bieber are, but he’s also not someone who’s above criticism, either. We’re so used to seeing people in black and white that even the mildest criticism is seen as hate, and because Ed Sheeran is so nice and unthreatening, no one really wants to have a nuanced conversation about him and his influence on music, which is pretty substantial. Personally, learning all of this didn’t make me not like Divide or any of his other albums or anything. Learning all of this just made me more aware of how the world is trying to make him happen when he should just be happening on his own.