Monday, October 22, 2012

8th Grade Playlist: #1. Give Me Love By Ed Sheeran

I asked my 8th graders to share me songs by their music heroes.  Here are my reactions to these songs.

She really likes One Direction.

The first couple classes of this year she asked repeatedly if we could play a One Direction song. I have a suspicion that the One Direction photos that have cropped up around the middle school may have something to do with her. So when she mentioned that her musical hero was Ed Sheeran, an artist who co-wrote a One Direction song, I was expecting something similar to the One Direction songs that I knew (like this one I've wrote about earlier).

What I got was something very different.

Ed Sheeran is a English singer and songwriter. He is in his early twenties and had his breakthrough song with “The A Team,” which charted on the British charts giving Adele a run for her money. Like Adele, there’s a sense of musical tradition and authenticity in his music. Sheeran sets lyrics with an Elton John like ease with musical arrangements that sound comforting in their acoustic quality but surprisingly fresh.

“Give Me Love” like Spain’s “Spiritual,” is a heart wrenching song. The expression in this song has glimmers of hope but lives in a world full of sadness, regret, pain and desperation. Every way you could imagine someone expressing the words “give me love,” are revealed here in a musically simple but emotionally complex composition.

The song pulls no punches like Elton John’s “I Want Love.” The first verse sets the tone beautifully with the Bob Dylan-esque line “Paint splatted teardrops on my shirt.” He’s made a commitment to fight for a girl but this leaves him empty as he drowns his sorrows, simply wanting to hold this person that is beyond his grasp.

The sadness of the first verse is brushed aside as Sheeran tries to convince his love to give him some time or “burn this out.” He wants a chance to fix this relationship or he wants her to simply let it collapse in on himself. We get a sense that there is something unsettled in this relationship as he tries to “turn this around.” While there is hope in these words, in the second verse, he is taken back to the pain of how much he needs her.

Ed Sheeran ends the song boldly, repeating a statement of want. This is the kind of thing that is really tricky to pull off. Sheeran makes this work by going through a range of emotions by getting softer and then getting louder, growing in intensity. It almost becomes uncomfortable to at a certain point as he sings “love me” with a mix of rage and pain. Right when you feel like you can’t take it anymore he arrives at an optimistic almost spiritual singing of the words “give me love.”

The repetitions of the words give us musical space to think about what these words really mean not only to Sheeran but to all of us as the listener. This song is a reminder of how painful the want for love can be. More than that, what Sheeran expresses is that the want for love is only painful because of how great it can make us feel and how central it is to the human experience.

Don't judge a book by its cover and don't judge someone's musical taste on one song or artist that they like.  Don't disregard someone's musical taste because you don't like one artist they are into.  You never know what you will discover if you simply ask and listen.


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