The Atlantic

The Puzzling Ubiquity of Ed Sheeran

The strummer’s No. 6 Collaborations Project reveals the blend of sentimentality, humblebragging, and hip-hop swiping that has powered his success.
Source: Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

Ed Sheeran has been compared to tofu, to a sponge, to microbes, and to other ubiquitous inoffensive things that take on the qualities of what’s around them. He strums and sings humbly about missing his hometown chip shop, and few observers have an airtight explanation of why that’s resulted in one of the most dominant pop careers ever. On Spotify, he has more followers than any other artist; his third release, Divide, was 2017’s most popular album; his newest, No. 6 Collaborations Project, will likely debut at No. 1.

Given his success, maybe it’s time to rethink the idea of Sheeran as filler. Or at least it’s time to recognize that if he’s tofu, he’s a specific kind—medium-firm, lightly seasoned, maybe. is, per its title, all collaborations with other

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