Ed Sheeran’s back. And he’s a vampire now. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The immensely popular British singer-songwriter has built his career on sensitive, earnest, acoustic ballads. But his latest hit—the lead single from his forthcoming fifth studio album, called = (Equals)—sure suggests Ed’s been absorbing some different musical influences lately.
The synth-pop, dance-y vibes here combine to make this brooding song about a deeply dysfunctional relationship quite the earworm. It sounds like something we might expect from The Weeknd, not Ed Sheeran.
But though you (or your kids) might feel the impulse to put this catchy tune on repeat, the messy romance we find isn’t lifegiving at all. More like two people sucking the life out of each other.
The best that we can say here is that the main character knows he’s stuck in toxic romance: “Every pure intention ends when the good times start/ … I only know how to go too far.” He is self-aware enough to see that his poor choices have yielded little but loneliness: “My bad habits lead to late nights endin’ alone.”
OK, I won’t keep you waiting any longer. The video for this song features Sheeran as a vampire with long teeth, spooky eyes and a lot of sparkly makeup. He and some similarly undead—and hungry—vampire friends hunt people in an urban area, using telekinetic-like blasts to knock them down.
The feel of the video recalls the ’80s vampire movie The Lost Boys. Here, though, the vampiric theme also illustrates how empty Ed’s life is as he repeatedly tries to suck vitality out of his unfortunate victims.
As for the lyrics, they tell a story of a lonely man who’s failing to find meaning in casual hookups (“Conversations with a stranger I barely know/Swearin’ this will be the last, but it probably won’t”). Inevitably, he drifts back into a soul-deadening relationship he can’t extricate himself from: (“Every time you come around, you know I can’t say no/ … Yeah, I was looking for a way out, now I can’t escape”).
There’s a moment of pleasure before a predictable collapse into a darker place: “I can feel paradise before my world implodes.” Listening closely to the lyrics makes it clear why Sheeran’s chosen vampirism to illustrate this dead romance.
So here’s the deal: There are, objectively speaking, many, many songs out there in the musical world that are much more problematic than this one. Sheeran avoids explicit language, and he mostly avoids suggestive imagery, too. Let’s give him credit for that restraint.
That said, unlike many of Sheeran’s previous hits, there’s really nothing positive or lifegiving here, either—something to consider if this song’s admittedly infectious hooks tempt you to add this sad story to your playlist.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.