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The 11 best Ed Sheeran songs

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are our 11 favourite Ed Sheeran songs, ranked

It’s been almost twelve years since Ed Sheeran’s ‘The A Team’ entered the charts and set the singer on his way to being one of the most successful artists of all time. Since then, Sheeran has won Grammys, sold out stadiums and topped charts across the world. With four incredibly successful, mathematically-named studio albums under his belt and a fifth on the way, he’s had a multitude of hits both within the UK and beyond. But how does one sort the great from the greatest?

In anticipation of Sheeran’s two night residency at the Royal Albert Hall in November, we’ve ranked his 11 best songs of all time – with apologies to ‘Perfect’ and ‘Photograph’…

11. Tides

(=, 2021)

The absolute wall of sound that introduced listeners to Sheeran’s fourth studio album, this was definitely not what fans were expecting from a singer who made a name for himself with lyrically dense, stripped-back guitar tracks. But the unexpected sound of ‘Tides’ served to highlight how loud and noisy Sheeran’s life has gotten since those days – apart from in the precious, quiet moments when he holds his infant daughter in his arms. The huge, racing verses contrast with soft dreamy choruses in a representation of the double life that Sheeran leads ever since marriage and children.

10. Shape Of You

(÷, 2017)

Did we all want to surgically remove this song from our brains by the end of the summer of 2017? Absolutely. ‘Shape Of You’ may have suffered from being overplayed, but when it was released earlier that year it didn’t sound like any summer anthem that preceded it. The subject matter isn’t anything groundbreaking – Sheeran meets a girl he likes and sings about it – but there’s something irresistibly catchy about ‘Shape Of You’. It’s a very successful earworm.

9. Thinking Out Loud

(x, 2014)

The song that soundtracked a thousand weddings. Couples were choosing ‘Thinking Out Loud’ for their first dance within days of its release. Whilst Sheeran has written a multitude of love songs throughout his career, ‘Thinking Out Loud’ remains one of his most popular, speaking to the idea of a love that lasts after youth, beauty and attraction fade. Lyrically the song is simple but very effective, and Sheeran’s vocal performance is incredibly compelling.

8. Afire Love

(x, 2014)

The dramatic strings, the piano riff, Sheeran’s urgent performance… ‘Afire Love’ looks at loss from a unique perspective, musically, to great success. Although the singer songwriter has since written excellent ballads about grief – as we’ll cover – this offering from x blends pop, rock, folk, gospel and orchestral sounds to create something individual. Sheeran unpacks the loss of his grandfather, first to dementia and then altogether, pairing verses that depict depressing hospital visits and funeral scenes with joyful choruses about what the man might have been like as a teenager in love.

7. The A Team

(+, 2011)

Sheeran’s first hit, ‘The A Team’ was famously inspired by a young woman Sheeran met whilst volunteering at a homeless shelter. One of very few songs Sheeran would release throughout his career that wasn’t centered on his own personal life, the track was nonetheless still an indication of what was to come: the skill in the lyricism is undeniable. Examples of fantastic construction are in abundance, but here’s a personal favourite: “And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland/Or sells love to another man”.

6. First Times

(=, 2021)

In keeping with much of =, Sheeran sings about how all the big milestones he’s been chasing in his career can’t hold a candle to his relationship with his wife. Although he kicks it off with a humble brag about Wembley Arena, most of the track details all the firsts he’s had in his relationship, and all the new things he’s excited for the two of them to experience. It’s Sheeran’s most personal love song and certainly his most beautiful.

5. Nina

(x, 2014)

Sheeran reflects back on a relationship with another young artist in this lyric-heavy track from x. Although the singer can and has rapped, his lines sound best set to melody. In ‘Nina’, he sings directly to his ex-girlfriend, fondly recalling the time they spent together but explaining why their break-up was inevitable. “Mixing business and feelings will only lead to complications,” he tells her sadly. It’s an honest and detailed look at a failed relationship that manages to present both parties as three-dimensional human beings in under four minutes.

4. Supermarket Flowers

(÷, 2017)

This infamous tearjerker is a stellar depiction of grief. Sheeran focuses on the admin surrounding a loss – the clearing out of the hospital room, the deciding what to keep and what to throw away – before addressing his grandmother directly in the chorus. His vocals are incredibly emotive but still clear and melodic, and the track is perfectly produced, building up just enough before pulling back for Sheeran’s final lines.

3. Castle On The Hill

(÷, 2017)

Sheeran rattles through his life story in this upbeat single from 2017. Taking us from a broken bone at six to his latest trip home, he describes how the relationships, friendships and settings of his hometown made him the person he is today. The folk influences all over ÷ can be felt here too, a twangy guitar backing Sheeran before he leads us into a big pop rock chorus. It’s cheesy in the right way and endlessly smile-inducing.

2. Don’t

(x, 2014)

There’s some great riffs to be found in x, but the opening of ‘Don’t’ contains maybe the best. The song also features some of Sheeran’s smartest lyricism, an incredibly catchy chorus, and some spectacular breath control. In short, it’s everything Sheeran does well, done at its best.

1. Visiting Hours

(=, 2021)

‘Visiting Hours’ is the older sibling of ‘Supermarket Flowers’ – more emotionally mature, more grounded, and with even better writing. Sheeran gives a brilliant vocal performance as he addresses a lost friend, or family member, or whoever – don’t we all have someone we wish could see us now? “So much has changed since you’ve been away,” he tells them. Most movingly, he wishes he could bring his daughter to their bedside and introduce her. The end of the song sees him accepting the absence in his life, and vowing to make sure that everyone around him still feels their presence. It’s an incredibly affecting piece of songwriting.  

Ed Sheeran is playing two nights at the Royal Albert Hall in November. Find tickets here