We live in a strange time. YouTube can lift the profile of certain artists (PsY, Ed Sheeran) into the stratosphere. I fail to comprehend, even slightly, the frenzy associated with Ed Sheeran, irrespective of whether his music resonates with me or not. Six billion YouTube views, 70 million online followers. His 2018 Australian Tour is fast shaping up to be one of the biggest in Australasian touring history. A 14 date run. This announcement sees Sheeran becoming the joint title-holder of the most stadium shows on a single Australian and New Zealand tour, sharing the record with AC/DC’s 2010 tour. Whilst Tour Promoter Michael Gudinski is rubbing his hands with glee and can hear the deafening ‘ca ching’ of the cash register, the fact that Sheeran is breaking box office records set by Australia’s much loved rock icons leaves me somewhat bewildered.
In June 2015, Forbes Magazine listed Sheeran’s earnings at $57 million for the previous 12 months, and ranked him the 27th-highest-earning celebrity in the world. On 19 October 2015, Sheeran received an honorary degree from the University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich for his “outstanding contribution to music”. Really ? Is he really THAT talented to warrant such astronomical success and associated accolades ? Let’s look at that question a bit further.
Ed Sheeran is who kids dig nowadays. One reviewer called him the ‘Paul McCartney of his generation’. Really? The Beatles aside, do people forget how big Wings were ? Or McCartney’s solo career?
Here is my take on why he is so big. The frenzy has more to do with social media overload than quality of the material. The hype surrounding this guy is like an avalanche. People get swept up along the way. People think they are missing out on something if they don’t follow along. Have you not considered that Sheeran could be nothing more than the result of a social media tsunami that has concertedly pushed him along at a unprecedented rate, and elevated him to a level that does not in any way equate to his talent? He is really, in many ways, one of the handful of crossovers who have transcended social media (YouTube/Facebook/Spotify) to mainstream traditional forms of media (radio, TV) and then into stadiums/arenas. If he had of come up before YouTube, it is arguable that he would have had the same amount of success. Objectively, chew on that thought for a while.
His appearance also draws people. With his average kid next door looks – red hair, freckles, cherubic – he’s a composite of Ginger Meggs and Ron Weasley, the antithesis of the predictable chisel-jawed stereotypes of Ricky Martin or Robbie Williams etc. The everyday look has broad appeal. Susan Boyle is a good example of this.
I’ve listened to the songs, ‘Thinking Out Loud, The A Team’. Is this a good representation of the guy’s work? They are OK. Listenable even. But they ain’t classics in the sense of ‘Hey Jude’, ‘You’ve’ Got A Friend’, ‘Heart Of Gold’ or ‘Rocket Man’ even. He sings clean pop with quirky lyrics, broken hearted themes, but my God, McCartney he ain’t. Time will tell if he will be around for as long as McCartney, and have as big an impact on the western world’s social culture as McCartney has.