This past weekend, noted British singer-songwriter and FOTS (friend of Taylor Swift) Ed Sheeran performed on Saturday Night Live. It was a coming-out of sorts for Sheeran, a niche teen heartthrob who is attempting a crossover with his upcoming album, x (out June 23). It was also possibly confusing for the many adults who watched and thought, “this is what the teens are into?” To explain his appeal, resident teen-ologists Lindsey Weber and Amanda Dobbins held a Sheeran Symposium, complete with videos and real life Sheeran stories. Their findings, below.
Amanda: Lindsey, we are here to discuss Ed Sheeran, the Muppety British singer-songwriter who is inexplicably popular with the youth. As a young (at heart) person, you understand the appeal of Ed Sheeran. Could you please explain it to the rest of us?
Lindsey: Why, yes, thank you, Amanda. I am quite youthful! I think Ed Sheeran is a nice callback to the days of early John Mayer, maybe mixed with some Jason Mraz. His sound is pleasant enough; he’s actually talented; and let’s just say his look is extremely … nonthreatening? That goes over well!
Amanda: You just compared Ed Sheeran to “the days of early John Mayer, maybe mixed with some Jason Mraz,” and so I want to be sure: Do you actually want to keep going with this defense?
Lindsey: I am not “defending”; I’m just explaining. Also, you’re being a snob.
Amanda: Sorry. You’re right. So back to John Mayer and Jason Mraz: I get it generally — as long as there are teens riding around in cars with moms, then there will be goofy guitar dudes strumming inoffensive-to-mom songs. Fine. But I am a little perplexed about his heartthrob status, especially in the Anti-Guitar Era. Since when do acoustic jams earn this kind of Tiger Beat attention?
Lindsey: Since Mumford & Sons? That sound is creeping all over the place; even One Direction is in on it. I guess we’re all just on a Mumford hangover at this point, and Ed is the teen answer to that movement.
Amanda: You and I have both witnessed his teen appeal firsthand. Could you tell me about your Ed Sheeran experience?
Lindsey: I chaperoned a 16-year-old (okay, okay, I went with her) to Taylor Swift’s Red Tour at Gillette Stadium this summer and got to see, with my own eyes, the madness that is Ed Sheeran. These teens went crazy for Taylor, sure, but they were just as rabid for adorable Ed. Did you see Taylor by his side last night? You know their “friendship” is also part of this entire thing, right?
Amanda: I do, because I have seen Ed Sheeran not once, but twice, both times as part of a Taylor Swift concert. (The kids loved it. I’ve never felt older.) His T-Swift alliance — and the constant rumors about their relationship, which I don’t believe for a second — are savvy (and probably mutually beneficial) decisions, for sure. But can he exist without Taylor Swift? And related: Do you think he can possibly pull off this cuddly Justin Timberlake routine? That seems to be the idea behind his new album (see: “Sing” and “Don’t”), and … I am not buying it.
Lindsey: I agree with you that it’s a little stunt-y. But, while I’m not a huge fan of “Sing,” I like that he’s moving away (far, far away) from his weepy, mopey, completely boring older stuff. I think he can pull it off if he keeps working with the right people (more Pharrell) and maybe has Taylor do a few things on that new album? That can’t hurt.
Amanda: I will say this: The alleged backstory for “Don’t” is far and away the most interesting thing about Ed Sheeran. Did you know that he was very briefly linked to Ellie Goulding? And then she supposedly made out with Niall Horan (of One Direction) while they were all in the same hotel? I am intrigued by tabloid-y Ed Sheeran! If only the song were anywhere near as enjoyable as “Cry Me a River.”
Lindsey: It’s getting there! If Taylor has taught him anything about writing stab-you-in-the-back breakup songs, we should keep listening. You can’t argue with that.
Amanda: I could try, but fine. Can we at least agree that the Mraz-rapping has to go?
Lindsey: Yes. Please.
Amanda: Dear teens, if you want to listen to emotional post-breakup rapping, please Google “Drake” instead.