The album encompasses his pop and rock sides.

By Brian Ives

After keeping a low profile for much of 2016, Ed Sheeran releases his long-awaited third album this week: ÷ (pronounced “divide”).

The album encompasses his different styles: “Castle on the Hill” has a rock influence, while “Shape of You” seems custom-made for the pop charts (Sheeran originally wrote it with Rihanna in mind).

Of “Castle on the Hill,” he tells, “That song came after a lot of listening to Bruce Springsteen, and in particular ‘The River,’ and really wanting to write a song that looks back on childhood and childhood friends and how people grew. And I wrote a few like that, and that was by far the best of the bunch. My song isn’t as detailed as ‘The River,’ or as good, but that was the kind of idea was to show the happiness and the innocence of youth, but also show the kind of darkness, the reality of growing up I guess.”

Related: Interview: Ed Sheeran Talks Bruce Springsteen, Elton John

“Shape Of You” started out with a sparse arrangement. “It was just the marimba and the vocal [originally].” And at first, he considered giving “Shape of You” to Rihanna, but then decided that the line about “Putting ‘Van the Man’ on the jukebox” — a reference to Van Morrison — might not work for her. He later told that he might have been wrong about that, and that, in retrospect, the lyrics may have worked for Rihanna. On the other hand, he’s glad that it’s on his album.

“I’m glad I kept it, I don’t want to be just a one-trick pony and just do acoustic songwriter ballads, so it’s nice to have something like that to put out there. ”

÷ is due out this Friday, March 3.

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