The Year in Music 2017: “Divide” and Conquer — Ed Sheeran ruled the year

Mark SurridgeOn January 6, 2017, Ed Sheeran released two brand-new singles simultaneously — and then proceeded to dominate the charts, and the headlines, right through December.

On New Year’s Day of 2017, Ed announced that new music was coming, and then on January 6, he released both “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill,” two songs from this third album, Divide.  “Shape of You” debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, while “Castle on the Hill” entered at number six.  That made Ed the first artist ever to have two songs simultaneously debut in the Billboard top 10.

“Shape of You,” originally written with Rihanna in mind, went on to top the chart for 12 non-consecutive weeks.  It set a new record for most weeks in the top 10 — 33 — and ended up being the year’s top-streamed song on Spotify, with 1.4 billion streams.

Later in the year, the writers of the TLC hit “No Scrubs” were added to the songwriting credits of “Shape of You,” because of perceived similarities between the songs.  TLC member Chilli told ABC Radio that she personally didn’t hear the similarity, and would like to work with Ed in the future.

As for Divide, it debuted at #1 upon its release in March, with over 450,000 units sold.  By November, it was the best-selling album of the year, but then Taylor Swift‘s Reputation blew it out of the water. Given that Ed was featured on Reputation, on the song “End Game,” he likely didn’t mind. 

Ed was also as a featured artist on his idol Eminem, new album Revival. In addition, he co-wrote singles for several other artists, including Liam Payne, James Blunt and country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

Ed kicked off his Divide world tour in March, and announced a world stadium tour for 2018.  In October, he was forced to postpone several tour dates in Asia after a bicycle accident left him with a broken wrist, elbow and rib.

In July, Ed made a cameo appearance on the season seven debut of Game of Thrones, playing one of a group of Lannister soldiers whom Arya Stark stumbles across on her way to King’s Landing.  The Twitterverse attacked his appearance, with many expressing disappointment that Arya didn’t kill him in the episode.  Ed will also appear January 7 in an episode of The Simpsons.

In August, Ed was named Artist of the Year at the MTV VMAs.  In November, many assumed that he would dominate the Grammy Awards nominations, but he was snubbed in the major categories, and only received two in the Pop field.  In December, Ed was made an MBE — a “Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” — by Prince Charles, at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Also in December, Ed surprised fans by re-releasing his single “Perfect,” which was already a hit, as a duet with Beyonce.  It went on to top the Billboard Hot 100. 

A couple weeks later, Ed again re-released “Perfect,” this time as a duet with opera superstar Andrea Bocelli. This version, partially sung in Italian, was titled “Perfect Symphony.” The multiple versions of “Perfect” goosed sales and streaming enough in his native U.K. to hand Ed the coveted “Christmas #1.” 

Also in December, Ed’s album Divide hit the one-million sales mark in the U.S., only the second album in 2017 to do so.

Also in 2017, Ed’s growing popularity led to a backlash, which led him to delete his Twitter in July. He eventually reinstated it, but no longer uses it, preferring Instagram instead.  He also said in several interviews that he no longer has a mobile phone.

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