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× (pronounced `multiply`) is the second studio album by English singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran. It was released on 20 June 2014 in Australia and New Zealand, and worldwide on 23 June through Asylum Records and Atlantic Records. The album received positive reviews from music critics. It was an international commercial success, peaking at No. 1 in 15 countries, while topping both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200. x also reached the top five in seven other countries and was the best selling album of 2014 in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Five singles were released from the album: `Sing`, `Don`t`, `Thinking Out Loud`, `Bloodstream` (a collaboration with Rudimental), and `Photograph`.
The lead single, `Sing`, became Sheeran`s first UK number-one song, reached number 13 in the US and peaked inside the top 10 in several other countries. The second single, `Don`t`, peaked at No. 8 in the UK and number nine on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Sheeran`s first top-10 single in the US. The album`s third single, `Thinking Out Loud`, achieved international success, peaking at No. 1 in 12 countries, and the top five in 12 more. It became Sheeran`s second UK number-one single and has been certified 3× Platinum, with sales of over one million copies in the UK. `Thinking Out Loud` also became Sheeran`s biggest hit in the US at the time, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, until he released `Shape of You`, which debuted at No. 1. It has been certified 4× Platinum, with sales of over four million copies in the US alone. The album`s fourth single, a remix of `Bloodstream`, peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the fourth-consecutive single from x to hit the top 10 in Sheeran`s native country. `Photograph` was released as the album`s fifth and final single. It gave Sheeran his fifth consecutive top 10 single from the album in Australia and New Zealand, peaking at numbers nine and eight, respectively.
In December 2014, Spotify named x the most-streamed album in the world for 2014, racking up more than 430 million streams for the year. x has been certified 10× Platinum in the UK with sales of over three million copies, making it the third best-selling album of the 2010s and the 20th best selling album in the history of the UK. The album has been certified 3× Platinum in Canada, 6× Platinum in New Zealand, and 4× Platinum in the US, with sales of over four million copies. It also became the first album ever to be certified Diamond in Australia. Also, x broke Adele`s record for the longest charting top 10 album in the history of the United Kingdom. In 2015, x won the Brit Award for British Album of the Year, and at the 57th Grammy Awards it was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year.
Background and recording
Around the time his debut album, +, was released in 2011, the first songs for Sheeran`s second album were written, `One` being the album opener, Having written `hundreds` of songs, Sheeran entered the studio with Rubin and they cut that down to the 15 new songs that are feature on the album, excluding `I See Fire`, which was recorded separately and saw release on the soundtrack for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Sheeran stated that he `started off making another acoustic record, and it turned into a neo-soul-funk record,` due to the influence of working with producers like Rubin and Benny Blanco that `pulled [him] out of [his] comfort zone.` Getting into the studio with Rubin to `rerecord all the songs` after two years of writing them made the songs sound `raw and interesting`, at a time when Sheeran was getting tired of them, giving him a chance to `actually set up the album instead of just putting it out.` However, doing an entire album with Rubin `just wouldn`t work on pop radio`, so after working with Rubin he wrote the songs, `I`m a Mess`, and `Thinking Out Loud`, both about his girlfriend at the time, with a different producer. Jake Gosling, who co-wrote and produced the majority of Sheeran`s debut album, has no writing credits on this album, while new collaborators include Snow Patrol`s Gary Lightbody and British drum and bass band, Rudimental.
Music and lyrics
This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. Please consider splitting content into sub-articles, condensing it, or adding subheadings. (March 2015)
`One` was the first song Sheeran wrote for the album, and is `particularly quiet`. Written on a guitar made out of wood from a whisky barrel in a hotel room whilst on tour in Perth in 2011, the song was the last song written about the love interest that was the focus of the previous album.
`I`m a Mess` was one of the last songs written, after the recording sessions with Rubin. It is one of two songs written about his then-current girlfriend. It is described as a simple song, and was `written in the shower.`
In an interview with Zane Lowe for BBC Radio 1, promoting the first single, `Sing`, Sheeran talked about getting in the studio with Pharrell and him `playing [Sheeran] a lot of things, and then it stuck on this one riff,` which eventually became the basis of the track. He stated he has always been a fan of R&B, but was just `trying to find the right way to make it.` Sheeran expressed wishes to create an entire album with Pharrell, and `Sing` was to be a song for that project, but several musical peers, including Elton John, Taylor Swift and Pharrell himself, urged Sheeran to release it with X. Justin Timberlake`s debut album, Justified, was a favourite of Sheeran`s, which he consciously tried to channel for `Sing`. On working with Pharrell, Sheeran told MistaJam on BBC Radio 1Xtra that they had written two other songs together that were in the style he `usually did`, but for `Sing` he was pushed `out of [his] comfort zone` which made the track stand out. Pharrell reportedly said that he wanted to `shake the world`s view of [Sheeran] up` and make pioneering songs that no singer/songwriter has done before rather than just `a cool record`. A remix of the track has been made with Korean recording artist Psy, and the music video for the song was based on a night out with the artist.
`Don`t`, which is about a girlfriend who cheated on Sheeran with a close friend, has been linked to several of Sheeran`s fellow singers, including Ellie Goulding and Taylor Swift, but Sheeran has said it is `100 percent not about Taylor`, but that he has played her the song, and she `never want[s] to piss [him] off that much.` It started off `as a riff on his phone`. `Don`t` was planned to be released as the first single from the album, but it was decided that the chorus, especially the line `Don`t f- with my love,` was not suitable for a first single. The song was recorded first with Benny Blanco, then again with Rick Rubin, and the two producers came together to produce the final cut. The song almost didn`t make it onto the album, as Sheeran felt it was `a bit personal`, but was urged by those who had heard the demo to release it, as it was `an alright song... so it ended up on the record.`
`Nina` was written with Johnny McDaid, and was the first song the pair wrote for the album. According to McDaid, it is a `self-deprecating` love song about `heartbreak... where he basically calls someone up and advises her not to be with him.`
`Photograph`, also written with McDaid whilst touring with his band Snow Patrol in May 2012, is a `timeless ballad`. Sheeran plays `photograph` with careful piano keys and acoustic strums and carefully adds in arenasize drums. It started life as a `piano loop playing on [McDaid`s] laptop` which Sheeran started singing along to. Sheeran has stated `it will be the one that will change my career path`, and believes it to be the one song that will sell the album, even `if the rest of the album is shit.` Described as `[Sheeran`s] Angels`, the song is a `ballad with big drums, set in New York.`
`Bloodstream` is about Sheeran`s experience of taking MDMA during a friend`s wedding party in Ibiza.
`Tenerife Sea`, first played in demo form at Sheeran`s sold out Madison Square Garden shows, is `trademark acoustic balladry`. Sheeran wrote the song about his mother. Ed told the media that his mothers eyes were crystal blue - `the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen` - and that`s what this song was based on.
`Runaway` is the second and final track from the album that is produced by Pharrell Williams. Described as `finger-clicking`, it draws from the same influence, the sound of Justin Timberlake`s debut album, that `Sing` does. Sheeran intended for the song to feature on a future project with Pharrell, but it was put on the album when he was persuaded to include `Sing`.
`The Man`, produced by long-time collaborator Jake Gosling, features Sheeran rapping in a style similar to that of Mike Skinner from The Streets. The song focuses on a failed relationship, whilst touching on the subjects of marriage, chemical dependency and his career in the music industry.
`Thinking Out Loud` was the last song written for the album, and it is also Sheeran`s favourite. Written about Sheeran`s then-current girlfriend after the recording sessions with Rick Rubin were over, it is a `soul` song, and Sheeran `pinned [it] as the `walking down the aisle` song.` He described it as `the only happy song on the album`, and he wrote it in his kitchen.
`Afire Love` was written about Sheeran`s grandfather `two weeks before he passed away`. He had suffered with Alzheimer`s disease for twenty years, and Sheeran has been thinking `What if [he passed away]? And then he did.` Sheeran finished writing the song at his funeral. It explains the aftermath of his death, with his family reuniting for the funeral, and explains the deep love between his grandparents.
`Take It Back` is the first track exclusive to the deluxe edition of the album. In it, Sheeran claims not to be a rapper, whilst delivering four rapped verses. In the same vein as previous single `You Need Me, I Don`t Need You`, he talks about `his personal struggles and his rise to fame.`
`I See Fire`, the final track on the electronic deluxe edition (the physical deluxe version has a seventeenth track, `All of the Stars`, the song used in the credits for the film The Fault in Our Stars), was previously released on the soundtrack for the second installment of The Hobbit film series. Sheeran was asked to write the song for the closing credits by the film`s director, Peter Jackson, whose daughter was a fan of his work. After flying to New Zealand to watch the film, he wrote the majority of the song in a single day, performing all the instruments, apart from the cello, including a violin, which Sheeran taught himself to play for the song. The track was produced by Sheeran himself, and mixed in Abbey Road studios by Peter Cobbin and Kirsty Whalley. It was released on 5 November 2013 as the first single from the soundtrack.
The album was to originally include profanity, most notably in the songs `Sing`, `Don`t` and `The Man`, however a taxi driver convinced Sheeran to censor the album due to his young daughter being a fan. As a result, the album does not bear the Parental Advisory: Explicit Content sticker.
Artwork and packaging
In a live webcast on YouTube, Sheeran stated that he `feel[s] every single one of [his] records should have a theme that runs through it, even if it`s just a colour. The first one was orange, throughout, everything [he] did was orange. This one`s going to be green throughout, and everything [he does] will be green in terms of artwork.` He cited Coldplay as an influence for this, as they keep with the image of each album they release `for the next two years`.
The physical versions of the album come packaged in a green jewel case.
The countdown to the unveiling of the first single was posted on Sheeran`s Facebook page, but it was accidentally announced early by Zane Lowe that he would have the first play of `Sing` on 7 April 2014, as his `Hottest Record in the World`. The song was played twice in a row, and Sheeran discussed the album and working with Pharrell to produce the single. Sheeran performed `Sing` and `Don`t` live for the first time on Saturday Night Live on 12 April 2014. He then went on to do an exclusive acoustic performance of `Take It Back` on SB.TV on 16 April. Sheeran later performed `Sing` on 27 April at the 2014 Logie Awards held annually in Melbourne, Australia. On 2 May, the singer released an acoustic version of `One` on his YouTube channel. The song was given away on 16 May to people who had preordered the album on iTunes.[better source needed] On 5 May, Sheeran played three `Multiplyed` gigs, starting at the Steamboat Pub in Ipswich, going on to Koko in London, and finishing in Dublin, where his entire show was streamed live on his website. The next day, he played a session for BBC Radio 1 at their Maida Vale studios, where Zane Lowe made a live rendition of `One` his `Hottest Record in the World`. Sheeran stated that until the album was released, he would play very few new songs live, as fans `want to hear the hits`, but once it is released he will play a lot more new songs, as `that`s going to be what people want to see.`
Sheeran played `Sing` on Later Live... with Jools Holland on 20 May, and showcased songs from the record on the extended version on 23 May, including the TV debut of `Thinking Out Loud.` His live performance was exactly three years since his last appearance on the show. Sheeran performed `Sing` on the finale of The Voice, alongside a duet with contestant Christina Grimmie of his song `All of the Stars`, which features on the soundtrack for The Fault in Our Stars. MTV announced that a behind-the-scenes documentary of Sheeran`s life, titled 9 Days and Nights of Ed Sheeran, was being filmed, to be aired 10 June. The show would `show every aspect of [Sheeran`s] life` while he is on tour, `with extraordinary intimate access to Sheeran`, something he has never done before. Taylor Swift and Pharrell Williams appeared in the feature. After the music video for `Sing` was released, which featured a puppet version of Sheeran wearing a pair of Beats by Dre headphones, it was announced that Sheeran, and his then unreleased song `Don`t`, would feature in the advert for the latest Beats by Dre headphones, the Solo II. On 5 June, Sheeran appeared in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge for Annie Mac, performing `Sing` and a cover of Sam Smith`s `Stay with Me`, both with a live band. `Don`t` was serviced to US contemporary hit radio on 15 July 2014 as the album`s second official single.
To promote the album, Sheeran embarked on the X World Tour. He will hold several shows in Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand until December 2015.
The special `Wembley Edition` was released on 13 November 2015. This edition includes bonus tracks and a DVD of the Jumpers for Goalposts concert film.