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Accompanying the independent release of his seventh studio album, “Autumn Variations,” Ed Sheeran released an acoustic series called “Fan Living Room Sessions,” in which he goes to the house of a fan and records one of the new songs accompanied only by his guitar. It’s only fair to compare the albums, song-by-song, to determine which album version wins out.
Rules: 1 point for winning, 0 points for losing, 1 point each for a tie. Easy as that.
This song is boring (sorry). The acoustic version, though, has a much more interesting guitar backing, is sped-up — which helps it, frankly, end a little quicker — and displays some of Sheeran’s soulful vocals in a way that the production of the original stifles. Point for the living room.
I don’t think anyone wanted to hear Sheeran talk about the lack of road signs in England and how that’s supposed to be endearing. The production is soulless, but the lack of production also highlights the terrible lyrics. It’s a tie. (Can you tell I don’t like this song?)
The third in the trifecta of bad opening songs for this album. Sheeran is once again speeding up his acoustic rendition as if he’s scared of it getting boring (it will); the chorus is less unbearable in the acoustic version. Living room wins.
The piano and guitar doubling on this song is cool, and the drumbeat and riff does a lot for it, which is missing from the acoustic version. Also — rare on this album — the doubling of Sheeran’s vocals is more interesting than his voice alone. Point for the original.
The normal version is okay. The acoustic version is beautiful. Enough said.
The strength of this song is its genuine catchiness, which helps to take away from the dreadful subject matter (“English girl in an American town?” Really?). Point for the original for somehow making a decent song out of a pretty terrible premise.
“That’s on Me”
Sheeran’s acoustic performance of this is vintage: It’s almost reminiscent of his more rap-like singing, with the percussion from his voice filling the gaps in guitar nicely. The original is forgettable. Point for living room.
The raw emotions come across better in the acoustic vocals, but the harmonies do a lot for the original. Tie.
Fun beat! Giving this to the original.
The picking pattern that Sheeran does on the acoustic version makes the whole song. So so pretty. Acoustic, this one goes to you!
This song simply slaps. Both versions are good, but the build up on the original is unmatched. Easy decision, point for the original.
“When Will I Be Alright”
It’s easy to forget that Sheeran has a beautiful voice. I can’t decide. The original has piano — piano!! — but the acoustic is so nicely stripped down. Tie.
“The Day I Was Born”
I listen again and again and every time I’m flabbergasted that Sheeran genuinely made a song about no one celebrating his birthday. Like. Why does this exist. Excluded from the comparison entirely. It’s being scratched from the record.
“Head > Heels”
Piano is nice, but man it’s hard to beat just his voice and a guitar. Ultimately, that’s what a lot of the comparisons end up coming down to. Ed Sheeran has a beautiful, beautiful voice, and one that sounds like it was made to be alongside a guitar. Point for the living room, because it sounds like he’s genuinely serenading.
And… totals time! In the end we have:
Original 6-9 Living Room
Maybe this is surprising, but I don’t think so. The weak production on the original makes it hard to hide some of the lower quality writing, but when you strip all of that down, Sheeran’s incredible voice and talented accompaniment on the acoustic version actually complements the lyrics, or at least makes them easier to ignore. I know it doesn’t sound like I am one, but as a Sheerio, I’m glad this was released. It shows hope for the future, and makes it feel like this new album wasn’t a total dud.
—Staff writer Alessandro M. M. Drake can be reached at email@example.com.
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