Ed Sheeran’s new songs open up an important discussion

Lindsey Schwalm, Contributing Writer

Ed Sheeran is relating to fans on a deeper level than ever before. In two of his new songs, the singer-songwriter talks about what it feels like to straddle between two social classes. This discussion is incredibly important as our society becomes more and more integrated. Tension between classes or subcultures can cause major feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and awkwardness. Straddling, like Sheeran describes, is becoming more common, as students from lower classes are receiving increasing opportunities to go to prestigious colleges, and as immigration and cultural integration occurs on a global scale. Sheeran’s songs have never been more relevant in describing the experiences of so many across the world.

This phenomenon is epitomized in the character of Sheeran. Before the singer-songwriter became famous, he spent two years living precariously off small underground gigs in London. After his career took off, he quickly acquired a position in the world of the wealthy. His experience has seemingly caused him difficulties because, while he no longer identifies with his impoverished past, the experiences of the wealthy still remain deeply unfamiliar.

This experience can be heard in the lyrics of two of his most recently released songs. “Beautiful People,” featuring Khalid, is a discussion about the singer being stuck in the middle and not fitting in, as well as his disconnect from the “beautiful people” — his new peers who own Lamborghinis, go out and party, and occupy the front row at fashion shows. The discomfort that Sheeran feels about this lifestyle is obvious, and the song documents his struggle to fit in a world that he doesn’t fully feel a part of.

This phenomenon appears again in his song “I Don’t Care,” featuring Justin Bieber. Sheeran speaks on the friction between his own disquietude about attending parties and the social mores which insist that he does; despite all this discomfort, however, Sheeran recognizes that the person he loves helps to make him feel like he is actually worth something. The lyrics further express the anxiety and awkward feelings which accompany fame, and how those closest to him help him feel truly valued. Not only does “I Don’t Care” recount Sheeran’s personal experience with class straddling, but it also provides a way to cope with it.

Straddling is a problem that many people across the world deal with, yet conversations about it remain infrequent. With the release of Sheeran’s songs, he brings light to the problem and openly speaks about his experiences being apart of two cultures, and the inner conflict and discomfort that accompanies this. So many others experience this conundrum as they form their identity in young adulthood. Deferring to the support of loved ones is one way that Sheeran has worked to adjust to these feelings. And, hopefully, others will also be able to work through these difficult feelings thanks to his songs.

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