Ed Sheeran topped the UK charts on Friday with his latest album, the critically acclaimed Subtract, following a backdrop of challenging life events.
The singer-songwriter’s sixth studio album went straight to no. 1, continuing his “flawless string of top albums,” according to the Official Charts Company.
Subtract was written during a difficult year that saw his wife Cherry Seaborn develop a tumor while pregnant, the death of his close friend Jamal Edwards, and a copyright battle over his 2017 hit Shape Of You.
The record is the fastest-selling album of 2023 so far, shifting 76,000 chart positions in its opening week, nearly three-quarters of which were physical copies. It was also the best-selling vinyl album of the week.
Ed has said he used the album to channel the intense emotions that surfaced from this difficult time, describing the songwriting process as his “therapy.”
Congratulations: Ed Sheeran topped the UK charts with his latest album, the critically acclaimed Subtract, on Friday after a backdrop of challenging life events
After it topped the charts, the Official Charts Company added, “Subtract also sees Ed take a lead over The 1975 in the list of acts that have reached the top with all their studio albums, now with six to the last five.’
During an intimate show with Apple Music Live at London’s Eventim Apollo on Wednesday, the singer dedicated two songs to his late friend Jamal as he discussed his grief, revealing, “I’m still not over it, I don’t want to be.”
Ed was left heartbroken and battling depression after his friend’s shock death. He explained how he wished everyone would stand still “like when the queen died.”
While addressing the audience ahead of Eyes Closed and Life Goes On, Ed began, “Last time I was in this room was with my friend Jamal, to see a comedy show, and I haven’t been here since .
“The first time I played this song I cried when I introduced it, I cried at the beginning, I cried at the end and… I’m going to cry now.”
Bursting into tears, he wiped his face with a towel and continued, “I found this very cathartic to put out.
“I always say these songs are mine until I release them, and then they’re yours.
“When the Jamal died, I felt like I wanted the world to stop, just like when the Queen died.”
No. 1: The singer-songwriter’s sixth studio album went straight to No. 1, continuing his “flawless streak of top albums,” according to the Official Charts Company
He continued, “I just didn’t feel ready and I still don’t really feel ready. Everyone expects you to feel sad for a week or two and then everything goes back to normal. But I’m not over it yet and I don’t want to be.’
The album’s lyrics provide an insight into the depression and grief he has experienced over the past two years following the loss of his close friend Jamal, his wife Cherry’s health issues, and a plagiarism lawsuit.
In a recent interview, Ed said the collection of new songs was a “trap door to his soul,” with many of the lyrics using maritime metaphors to explain his depression.
Highlights include his song Eyes Closed, where he turns his sadness into a huge blue monster in the music video.
Ed sadly lost his best friend Jamal last February. He was only 31 years old when he died of cardiac arrest after alcohol and cocaine.
The chorus of Eyes Closed includes lines like, “Every song reminds me that you’re gone, and I feel the lump in my throat, ’cause I’m here alone.”
In addition to the loss of Jamal, his wife Cherry was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor while pregnant with their second child and was told she could not have surgery on it until she gave birth.
Another track has Boat going deeper into his depression as he sings about “not knowing if his scars will heal,” while Life Goes On describes his mental health struggles as “waves tumbling down around him.”
His success comes a week after winning a US lawsuit over one of his greatest hits.
Ed was cleared of charges related to his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud.” illegally copied Marvin Gaye’s 1973 song Let’s Get it On in Manhattan federal court—a verdict he says would help protect the creative process for songwriters worldwide.
He had previously threatened to leave the music industry if found guilty of ripping off Gaye’s classic love ballad.
Ed, who strongly denied the accusation that his hit song stole fundamental musical elements from Marvin’s song, had faced a £79 million lawsuit brought by the heirs of the song’s co-writer, Ed Townsend .
But he heard a verdict Thursday that he was free after a jury of three men and four women deliberated for less than three hours before reaching their decision.
Out of court, Ed – who is worth £158 million – said: ‘I’m just a guy with a guitar who likes to write music for people to enjoy. I am and will not allow myself to be a piggy bank.”
Ed’s lawyer had said the case ‘should never have been brought’, and the singer put his career on the line by saying during the trial that he would be ‘done’ with music if found guilty.
The copyright lawsuit was first brought in 2018 by the estate of the late Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the 1973 R&B classic with Gaye.
It said that Ed and his co-writer Amy Wadge “copied and exploited the composition of Let’s Get It On, without permission or credit,” copying various elements, including the “melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing vocals, tempo, syncope and looping’.
Ed said he missed his grandmother’s funeral in Ireland because of the trial and that he “will never get that time back.”
Grief: Subtract was written during a difficult year in which his wife was diagnosed with a tumor during pregnancy, the death of his close friend Jamal Edwards (pictured with Jamal)
Victorious: It comes after Ed was cleared of charges that his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud” ripped off Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” in Manhattan federal court last week
The verdict concluded a two-week trial with Sheeran appearing in court as the singer insisted, at times angrily, that the trial posed a threat to all musicians making their own music.
A year ago, Ed won a copyright battle in the UK over his 2017 hit ‘Shape of You’.
Outside of court, Ed said he doesn’t want to be abused. “I’m just a guy with a guitar who likes to write music for people to enjoy,” he said. “I am and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake.”
Thinking Out Loud was released in 2014 and won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year.