Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage
Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber Are Not About That Party Life On "I Don't Care"
They last time the pop behemoths collaborated was on Bieber's 'Purpose' track "Love Yourself"
"Don't think I fit in at this party," they muse. "Everyone's got so much to say (Yeah)/ I always feel like I'm nobody, mmm/ Who wants to fit in anyway?"
Later, the boys say some more stuff we all think when we're feeling social pressure to be at a shindig. Over a bouncy beat, they expound on the pleasures of staying home with the one you love.
"'Cause I don’t care when I’m with my baby, yeah/All the bad things disappear/And you’re making me feel I like maybe I am somebody,” Sheeran sings, with Bieber’s backing vocals buoying the chorus. “I can deal with the bad nights when I’m with my baby, yeah/’Cause I don’t care/As long as you hold me near/You can take me anywhere/And you’re making me feel like I’m loved by somebody/I can deal with the bad nights when I’m with my baby, yeah."
This is the first time Bieber and Sheeran have teamed up since Sheeran appeared on Bieber’s 2015 Purpose single "Love Yourself." Produced by Max Martin, Shellback and FRED, "I Don't Care" is Sheeran’s first new music since 2017’s Divide.
Listen up below.
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/LP5/Getty Images for TAS
7 Ways Taylor Swift's '1989' Primed Her For World Domination
With the arrival of '1989 (Taylor's Version),' take a look at seven ways the original album prepared the country-turned-pop star for a global takeover.
When Taylor Swift released "Shake It Off" — the lead single from her fifth studio album, 1989 — in August 2014, she couldn't have known just how apt the lyrics "I never miss a beat/ I'm lightning on my feet" would be to her career nine years later.
Since then, Swift has never missed a chance to shake up the industry, whether she's redefining artist and fan relationships or fighting for her masters. And Oct. 27 marks a special day in the Swift world, as it's not only the day her groundbreaking, genre-defying, and two-time GRAMMY-award-winning album arrived in 2014 — it also marks the day Swift takes it back with the release of 1989 (Taylor's Version).
At the time of the original's release, its name was inspired by the singer's birth year to mark a symbolic shift as she transitioned from a country singer to a pop star. She was tired of speculation around her love life, finding creative inspiration in other things, like a move from Nashville to New York and her friend's romances.
1989 sold over 1.2 million copies in its first week, making Swift the first artist ever to have three albums sell over one million copies in their first week. The album also helped Swift make history at the 2016 GRAMMYs, as its Album Of The Year win made Swift the first female solo artist to win the accolade twice. (She's since furthered her record with a third AOTY win for folklore in 2021.)
In the original liner notes, Swift touched on 1989 being an album about "coming into your own, and as a result... coming alive." In a way, she was prophesying everything she'd do in the subsequent nine years — from surprise albums to a larger-than-life tour to everything in between — by consistently reimagining and redefining what it means to be a pop artist today.
Now, the 1989 rerecording represents a different type of rebirth — one that, through the rerecording process, has given Swift a new perspective that has allowed her to come into her own all over again. "I was born in 1989, reinvented for the first time in 2014," Swift wrote in a note to fans on Instagram upon the (Taylor's Version) release, "and a part of me was reclaimed in 2023 with the re-release of this album I love so dearly."
As you blast 1989 (Taylor's Version), dig into seven ways the original recording helped pave the way for Swift to become a global superstar.
It Proved Swift A Successful Genre Shapeshifter
After Swift's Red saw pushback from the country community for blurring the lines between country and pop, 1989 would see the singer take a hairpin turn and go full-on pop. The catalyst for a full-length pop album was Red's loss for Album Of The Year at the 2014 GRAMMYs — something that Swift admitted caused her to cry "a little bit" and then decide it was time to make the leap.
Like Shania Twain before her, Swift's move from country to pop caused controversy both within the music industry and in her own team. Her record label at the time were skeptical of the change — even prompting to suggest she still record some country songs — and required a "dozen sit-downs" to better understand why she wanted to leave country music behind.
Realizing that if she "chased two rabbits" by pursuing both country and pop she would end up losing them both, Swift opted to fully embrace the new chapter of her life that came with moving to New York, cutting her hair, and shaking off the media by leaning into where her music was taking her.
With racing production and synthesized saxophones, 1989's lead single, "Shake It Off," was a reintroduction to Swift's artistry — and hinted at the true mainstream pop star she'd soon become.
She Took A Stand Against Naysayers
As part of the campaign for 1989, Swift spoke about the critiques she's received as a female singer/songwriter that her male counterparts don't often face. In particular, she touched on artists like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, who also write songs about their love lives, but don't get similar pushback. Due to the autobiographical nature of her songwriting, love is a constant theme in Swift's work. But on 1989 she looked at it differently — and did so by taking aim at the media.
Where Red's "Mean" was written for the critics who never have anything nice to say, the tongue-in-cheek "Blank Space" is pointed directly at all those who suggest she's a maneater. Almost like a B-side to "Shake It Off" — which reminds that "the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate" — "Blank Space" serves as a satirical version of herself that gives a slight nod to how warped the media's perception is of her, singing "Got a long list of ex-lovers/ They'll tell you I'm insane/ 'Cause you know I love the players/ And you love the game."
She Enlisted Powerful Pop Producers
After working with Max Martin and Shellback on two of Red's biggest hits, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble," Swift recruited them again to bring their expertise and pop flair for her new era. (Martin co-wrote and co-produced seven of the 13 tracks, while Shellback worked on six of those seven; both were involved on two of the three deluxe tracks.) As a songwriter, Swift liked just how much writing with a pop mindset helped push her out of her own comfort zone, something she explored with Martin on Red.
Swift further expanded her list of pop-superproducer collaborators by teaming with Ryan Tedder on two tracks, "I Know Places" and "Welcome To New York." While it's the only time the two have worked together, it checked another dream collab off of Swift's bucket list.
1989 was also the first album Swift worked on with Jack Antonoff, who has since become one of her biggest collaborators. Though he only co-wrote/co-produced three songs ("Out of the Woods," "I Wish You Would" and deluxe track "You Are In Love"), Antonoff's work soon proved majorly successful for Swift and several other pop stars, including Lorde and Lana Del Rey. Antonoff even credits Swift as the "first person who recognized" his talent as a producer.
It Expanded On Her Narrative-Driven Storytelling
As Swift was growing up and becoming reflective, her music was mirroring that maturity. This led her to explore themes and moments in her life that would weave their way through the album and become part of a larger story. The secret messages she placed throughout 1989 detail how different songs work together as a larger picture.
After the release of "Shake It Off" and the announcement that 1989 would be a pop-centric album, some fans and critics were fearful that Swift's storytelling would weaken when placed in a typical pop format. Instead, the ethos of 1989 is entirely shaped by Swift's love of autobiographical writing. After becoming irritated by the media's obsession with her love life and calling her promiscuous, she pulled from larger creative artistic inspiration.
On the synth-heavy "Welcome To New York," the album's opening track, she sings about finding freedom after moving to the place that once intimidated her, whereas "New Romantics" is a call-to-arms that references the very synth-pop cultural movement in music in the '80s — something that inspired 1989 as a whole (more on that soon).
Songs like "You Are In Love," which was inspired by Jack Antonoff's relationship with then-girlfriend Lena Dunham, exhibits her ability to write about her friends' relationships. Even if she found inspiration in her own romantic life, she looked at it from a changed perspective — like on "Out of the Woods" which sound mirrored the anxiety she felt due to a fragile relationship. By using pop music as her own personal playground, she took what she learned as a songwriter in country music and created a place where pop music could be both catchy and emotional.
It Incorporated '80s Synth-Pop Production
At the time of release, 1989 was lauded as the most cohesive out of all of Swift's albums, due in part to the fact that she, Shellback, and Martin used 1980s synth-pop as inspiration. Citing the '80s decade being a defining era for experimentation in pop music, Swift saw how it mimicked her own journey as a redefined pop artist.
Despite 1989's exploration of heartbreak and pain, Swift and her producers juxtaposed the heavier themes with sounds that are similar to the larger-than-life tracks of the '80s, yet still resonated with listeners. It's a pairing and influence that Swift has incorporated throughout the albums that followed, like on "Paper Rings" from Lover, "Getaway Car" from reputation, and "Long Story Short" from evermore.
It Marks The Beginning Of Swift's More Mature Songwriting
Since most of Swift's songs were, at that point, mostly autobiographical and focused on her own love life, many cynics claimed that Swift should reflect and figure out why all of her relationships end in heartbreak. On 1989, she looks back on the experiences that shaped her — like losing a friend as heard on "Bad Blood" or predicting just how badly a relationship will haunt you on "Wildest Dreams."
"Clean," the final song on 1989, demonstrates Swift's prowess at using bigger concepts to both touch on her own personal experiences and still make it universally relatable. On the final track of the standard edition, she explores a broken relationship by using vices as a metaphor for being addicted to someone. It's a track that, since its release, has become a fan-favorite because of its relatable topics, like grief and healing.
Although songs across 1989 are tied together by love and heartbreak, Swift approaches the themes in a more introspective and independent way. Where earlier tracks like Taylor Swift's "Should've Said No" and Speak Now's "Better Than Revenge" are bathed in anger, on 1989 Swift views love with more experience, understanding that not everything is black and white — as heard on "Style" ("He says, 'What you heard is true, but I/ Can't stop thinkin' 'bout you and I'/ I said, 'I've been there too a few times'") and "This Love" ("When you're young, you just run/ But you come back to what you need.")
She Took Artist-To-Fan Engagement To A New Level
What has always set Swift apart from other artists is her level of fan engagement, whether on social media or in person. With 1989, she doubled down on her relationship with fans, introducing the Secret Sessions.
In the lead-up to release week, Swift hand-selected 89 fans from across the US and invited them into her home. Swift personally entertained the crowd by playing them music from the album ahead of its release date and gave them bigger insight into the album-making process. She continued the Secret Sessions with 2017's reputation and 2019's Lover.
As she continues on the Eras Tour and releases 1989 (Taylor's Version), Swift also continues to redefine what it means to be a pop artist. Her era of pop stardom officially began with the release of 1989, and with its re-recorded counterpart, we get to relive that era all over again.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photos: Kate Green/Getty Images & Venla Shalin/Redferns
How Skrillex & Fred Again.. Became Dance Music's Favorite Friendship: A Timeline
Before they both play Ill Points in Miami this October, journey back through the highlights of Skrillex and Fred again..'s party-starting bromance.
Few friendships in dance music have burned as brightly as the bromance between Fred Gibson, aka Fred again.., and Sonny Moore, a.k.a. Skrillex. In a few short years, the English phenom and Los Angeles-born bass don have forged a dynamic bond as DJ partners, co-producers, and mutual muses.
Brought together as fellow Ed Sheeran collaborators, their partnership went legit on "Rumble," an instant wobbly-bass classic featuring grime MC Flowdan, which Fred teased in his star-making 2022 Boiler Room set. Mere months after "Rumble" officially dropped that January, they closed Coachella with a historic set alongside their buddy and studio secret weapon Four Tet.
Alongside all the music and viral moments, the friendship has clearly given Skrillex — a producer always looking for his next musical evolution — a new lease on life.
After a pinch-yourself start to the year that also included a sold-out show with Four Tet at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Skrillex and Fred again.. will meet again this October at Ill Points in Miami. While billed separately, there’s no keeping these two apart. With much more expected from this superstar pairing, we’re taking a look back through their friendship so far.
2019: Before his breakthrough as a solo artist, Fred again.. earned his stripes as a producer for U.K. grime acts like Headie One, Stormzy and AJ Tracey, and pop stadium-filler Ed Sheeran. While hailing from different sides of the Atlantic, he and Skrillex were destined to meet some day.
Returning as a producer on Sheeran’s 2019 album, No.6 Collaborations Project, Fred again.. intersected with Skrillex (and producer/engineer Kenny Beats) on "Take Me Back to London," featuring Stormzy. Fusing pop hooks with grime swagger, the song hinted at the crisp basslines and drums to come from future Skrillex/Fred team-ups.
In this period, Fred played Skrillex an early iteration of "Rumble," which he’d been trading back and forth with Flowdan. "The first time I ever met Sonny, I played him the first version we had," Fred recalled in an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders.
Skrillex requested the "stems" (the individual isolated parts of a recording) and made a version that he worried missed the mark. "I didn’t like it," he also told Saunders. "I thought I ruined the song." He and Fred tweaked the elements until it clicked — and their friendship was born.
2021: With COVID-19 keeping artists grounded, Fred again.. released Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020), a collection of achingly personal electronic elegies that cemented his signature sound.
He followed it later that year with Actual Life 2 (February 2 - October 15 2021), which explored themes of grief and catharsis through a collage of electronic production, samples and audio clips from the producer’s "actual life." Skrillex, meanwhile, kicked off the year by releasing his collaboration with Four Tet and Starrah, "Butterflies," setting the stage for more transatlantic collaborations.
June 2022: To kick off summer, fast friends Skrillex and Fred again.. rented a house in the idyllic English village of Pangbourne to work on new music. As Skrillex recalled on Instagram, he had an album to finish, while Fred again.. was finalising music for his then-imminent Boiler Room debut. Four Tet agreed to come and hang out for a bit, bringing his toothbrush just in case he was compelled to stay. As Skrillex put it on Instagram, "This moment marked the birth of the Pangbourne House Mafia."
July 2022: When Fred again.. rolled up to his Boiler Room debut in London, no one could’ve predicted the energy to come. Surrounded on all sides by sweaty, screaming admirers, the producer blazed through a hybrid DJ-live set that blended house, U.K. garage, grime, drum & bass, and pop.
He also used the set to preview a few of his collaborations with Skrillex, including "Rumble," which sent fans clamouring for clues online. The Boiler Room session blew up on YouTube (where it now has 22 million views), catapulting Fred again.. and his to-be-released collaborations to a whole new level.
October 2022: While promoting his third album, Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022), Fred again.. sat down for an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe at Skrillex’s house in Los Angeles. "We’ve done a home swap at the moment," the producer told Lowe, "so he’s staying at mine in London and I’m at his in L.A." Now, that’s true friendship.
January 2023: After making fans wait, Skrillex and Fred again.. Kicked off the year with a bang and finally released "Rumble" via Skrillex’s OWSLA label. The pair also grabbed Four Tet for a surprise back-to-back-to-back DJ set at London’s Electric Ballroom, which featured a whirlwind of new and unreleased music. What started as a one-off show rolled into three extremely sold-out nights at different venues, with the trio of DJs clearly having the time of their lives.
February 2023: In a career-defining month, Skrillex released his much-anticipated album Quest for Fire, which featured collaborators like Porter Robinson, Missy Elliot, Mr Oizo, Bobby Raps, and — of course — Fred again.. and Four Tet. To celebrate the release, the "Pangbourne House Mafia" casually announced a show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden, which sold out within three minutes. To warm up, the trio created pandemonium with an impromptu DJ set in Times Square, where they trialled some new edits ahead of the big show.
April 2023: After selling out Madison Square Garden without breaking a sweat, and releasing team-up track, "Baby again.." in March, the unlikely supergroup of Fred, Skrillex and Four Tet went looking for the next high.
As it happened, that opportunity came on the second weekend of Coachella. With Frank Ocean relinquishing his Sunday headlining spot after a divisive weekend performance, the festival left a tantalizing TBA in the final slot. Before long, the cat was out of the bag, and dance music’s new favorite trio were headed to the desert with memeable merch bearing the slogan, OMG TBA.
"I didn’t think I was gonna be back with my brothers like this for a longgggg time," Fred again.. wrote on Instagram. "Until last night. And here we are."
Appearing on a circular stage deep in the crowd, the DJs closed down Coachella with the excitement of three friends who couldn’t quite believe their luck.
June 2023: With the members of the "Pangbourne House Mafia" returning to life as solo artists after Coachella, Fred again.. announced a three-night run at New York’s Forest Hills Stadium in October, followed by Ill Points in Miami, and then eight shows at Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles. With LA being Skrillex’s hometown, the two producers are sure to cook up something new - after, this is one friendship with a lot more to give.
Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images
11 Reasons Why 2023 Is Ed Sheeran's Definitive Year: Two Albums, Stadium Attendance Records & More
What may just be Ed Sheeran's busiest year yet has arguably also been his most career-defining. From epic special guests on tour to unique fan surprises, take a look at 11 ways 2023 has been monumental for the pop superstar.
It's hard to say that Ed Sheeran is having a "moment" — since his debut album + in 2011, he's had countless groundbreaking career milestones. But 2023 may just be his most monumental year yet.
Sheeran's banner 2023 came on the heels of what was arguably his hardest year to date, as his Disney+ documentary, Ed Sheeran: The Sum Of It All detailed. The four-part doc sees the star cope with losing his best friend, his wife's cancer diagnosis, and his copyright case for "Shape of You" — and in turn, channeling all of that pain and grief into his sixth album, Subtract. By the end of the doc, Sheeran says of his wife's positive prognosis and the pending album releases, "All great news. And heading into a year where, hopefully, it's all good news."
Fortunately for the four-time GRAMMY winner, 2023 has been all good news. Sheeran himself has said this year has been his best year so far, telling fans on Reddit, "The older I get, the more I feel I'm figuring it out and having more fun with it."
His latest 2023 achievement comes in the form of Autumn Variations, Sheeran's seventh album and second in just five months. What's more, the LP arrived just one week after Sheeran broke yet another stadium attendance record at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium, where he ended his North American Mathematics Tour on Sept. 23. (He'll play a rescheduled show in Las Vegas on Oct. 28 after experiencing production issues on Sept. 9.)
Below, check out 11 moments that helped 2023 become Ed Sheeran's definitive year.
Paying Tribute to Jamal Edwards
Sheeran started out the new year with a beautiful tribute to his late best friend, Jamal Edwards, on the YouTube channel for SBTV, which Edwards founded in 2006. Shot in Stamford Bridge — the home to Edwards' favorite football team, Chelsea F.C. — surrounded by candles, Sheeran raps about the anguish over losing his "brother" and vows to keep his legacy alive.
Edwards, who helped launch Sheeran's career in the early days, died suddenly from a drug-induced heart attack in February 2022. His death hit Sheeran hard, inspiring several songs for Subtract, including lead single "Eyes Closed." The F64 video relaunched the series for SBTV and garnered over 2 million views.
"Everyone remembers him the way the media is telling you — that he was a mogul and he set up SBTV and he was worth this and that," Sheeran emotionally told Zane Lowe in their Apple Music interview upon Subtract's May release. "But, he was just a really great, lovely, funny bloke."
Breaking Multiple Stadium Attendance Records
Throughout his Mathematics World Tour this year, Sheeran has broken several stadium attendance records — some of which were his own records. He first broke some in Melbourne, Brisbane, Wellington, and Perth in February and March;. at Melbourne's MCG Stadium, Sheeran initially broke the record by performing to a 107,000-strong crowd on March 2, but topped that record 24 hours later with 109,500 fans for this March 3 show.
"Ed loves to break a record and he's smashed this one," Matt Gudinski, CEO of Mushroom Group, the live entertainment management group for the Mathematics World Tour, said in a press release.
In North America, Sheeran continued smashing attendance records in Santa Clara, Minneapolis, New Jersey, Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Foxborough, Chicago, Nashville, Kansas City, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. As Sheeran noted on Instagram, his biggest US attendance was at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where he played to more than 82,000 fans.
"My dad told me if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, and today was really reminiscing about playing my first show at mercury lounge in 2012 to 130 people," he added in the caption. "It feels like a dream today."
Debuting A Disney+ Docuseries
In May, Sheeran released a documentary series with Disney+ alongside his Subtract release. It documented the process of the album, and showed a little more depth into Sheeran's personal life — one that he keeps very private.
His wife, Cherry Seaborn, came up with the idea of the documentary after she was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with their second child. Fortunately, it ended up being less serious than it was initially diagnosed, but it made her reflect on her own mortality — what people's perception of her would be and what she would leave behind.
"For Ed, the whole point is that he wants to say to people, 'I'm not just this music machine. I'm not just this robot that tries to get No. 1. I'm a father. I'm a son. I'm a friend. I'm a husband,'" Seaborn reflects in the docuseries.
Filmed throughout 2022, the series follows Sheeran as he processes his pain and grief over the loss of Edwards, while also working on his visual album. The four-episode series focused on the themes Love, Loss, Focus, and Release.
After the release of the album and documentary, Sheeran told Z100's The Elvis Duran Morning Show how much he enjoys hearing that people are connecting with both the record and docuseries despite its sad undertones.
"What I didn't want is like, 'sad pop star does sad documentary and sad album,'" Sheeran explains. "What I wanted was to do a sort of snapshot of grief and depression and have people connect it to their own feelings. The people that made the documentary for me, two of them lost their mothers whilst we were doing the documentary. They found the process cathartic by making it and watching it. I think it's good."
Subtract, the final album in Sheeran's mathematically titled series, arrived on May 5. It's the first of his albums to have a visual album alongside it — 14 different music videos created for each song.
During his press tour, Sheeran shared that he loved all of his albums, but Subtract reflected more of who he was at the start of his career as an acoustic singer/songwriter. Because of this, he felt uncomfortable about the release, unsure how it would do commercially.
"It's foreign territory for me," Sheeran told Zane Lowe. "Usually with Equals, Plus or Multiply, it's like you write for three years and pick the best songs and then that's the album, whereas this one I wrote for a month and all the songs came out. It's not even necessarily a risk because my fans originally liked me for my singer/songwriter stuff, but it's the unknown of not having 'Shivers' to fall back on. Each of my albums, I've always been like I've got this."
Subtract in fact has been a commercial success: Sheeran reached his sixth No. 1 on the UK Music Chart, becoming the UK's fastest-selling album of 2023 so far, shifting 76,000 chart units in its opening week. It also reached No. 1 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Scotland, and Switzerland, and hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S.
Winning Two "Thinking Out Loud" Copyright Lawsuits
Within two weeks of each other in May, Sheeran won two copyright infringement lawsuits involving his 2014 GRAMMY-winning song "Thinking Out Loud," which was sued for its similarities to Marvin Gaye's classic "Let's Get It On." He believes the verdict would help protect the creative process for songwriters in the U.S. and globally; Sheeran even claimed he would quit the music industry if he had lost the case.
"I am obviously very happy with the outcome of the case and it looks like I am not having to retire from my day job after all," he said after the rulings. "But at the same time I'm unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all."
Sheeran testified in court with his guitar, playing demos for the jury to prove the 1-3-4-5 chord progression at issue was a common "building block" of pop music and couldn't be owned. Music experts for the defense also proved that the chords were used prior to Gaye's song. After three hours of deliberations that followed the two-week trial, the jury were in favor of Sheeran, finding that he independently created his hit single.
Performing With Luke Combs At The ACM Awards
On May 11, Sheeran made his Academy of Country Music Awards debut with his Subtract track "Life Goes On," which he performed as a duet with country superstar Luke Combs. The duet version of the song was officially released following the show.
While it was Sheeran's first ACM appearance, it wasn't the first time he and Combs have performed together. Combs — who has covered Sheeran's song "Dive" many times — brought Sheeran out as a surprise guest while singing "Dive" during his C2C Festival set in March 2022. (Combs later released an official recorded version of his cover.)
Their friendship hit a whole new level after Sheeran posted a video on Instragram of the country star teaching him how to shotgun a beer. Combs finished his beer within three seconds, to which Sheeran said, "That's really impressive."
Surprising Fans All Over The Country
In conjunction with the release of Subtract in May, Sheeran teamed up with American Express to create a weekend Subtract Pop-Up experience in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, and Boston. Along with giving fans an interactive take on the album, Sheeran made surprise appearances to the pop-ups in NYC, LA, and Dallas, performing several songs outside each venue.
Sheeran made surprise appearances at iconic establishments on several stops of his tour — from performing "Lego House" at the LEGO Store at the Mall of America in Minnesota, to playing barista at the Starbucks' original Pike Place location in Seattle, to serving up cheesesteaks at Philadelphia's famous Philip's Steaks. He also sang "Thinking Out Loud" for not one, but two sets of newlyweds: one at his favorite karaoke bar in Nashville, and another at Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.
Before his Chicago concert at Soldier Field, Sheeran stepped behind the counter of The Wieners Circle, a restaurant notoriously known for hurling insults at their customers while serving hot dogs. According to a tweet from the establishment, Sheeran's stint seemingly held up his reputation as one of the nicest guys in the industry: "Our newest trainee @edsheeran has a lot to learn, he's way too proper and friendly."
He added to the fun with Autumn Variations, performing tracks from the album in fans' homes, which he unveiled in a series of videos and an album version titled Autumn Variations (Fan Living Room Sessions).
Giving Intimate Subtract Concerts
Alongside Sheeran's North American stadium shows, he played a series of intimate performances of Subtract in its entirety (as well as his biggest songs) at much smaller venues. The Subtract Tour was inspired by Sheeran's performance at London's Union Chapel, where he played the tracks in front of a crowd for the first time. As he was performing, he began to weep — a rare occurrence for the star, but an important learning moment.
"Every time you release music, it starts to just belong to the public. That's why music is really special because whenever an artist releases music, it does belong to you guys. It does become your stories and your thoughts," Sheeran said during his Subtract Tour show in Los Angeles. "And what I wanted with this album was to come out and play it more so I can feel less sad about it. It's kind of a grieving process for me to sort of stand on stage and sing these songs."
Performing Alongside His Heroes & Fellow Superstars
It's no surprise that a global superstar like Ed Sheeran would draw a number of famous folks to his concerts — like Chef Gordon Ramsey, Chris Hemsworth, Lil Nas X, and Matt Damon, who all paid Sheeran a surprise visit at his Metlife show.
But it was the guests that appeared next to him on stage that surprised the fans, too. Ontario-bred singer Shawn Mendes surprised the crowd at Rogers Centre in Toronto, where the pair sang Sheeran's 2011 single "Lego House" and Mendes' 2017 hit, "There's Nothin' Holding Me Back." Mendes had originally wanted to attend the concert, but Sheeran suggested, "You can't just come to the show. You gotta come up and sing a song."
When Sheeran's opener Khalid couldn't perform in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Sheeran called on some friends to help out: John Mayer on June 30 and Little Big Town on July 1. After Mayer opened the show, he later joined Sheeran on stage to sing "Thinking Out Loud" which they've performed together the 2015 GRAMMYs and again at Mayer's show in Tokyo in 2019.
"When Ed asked me, the idea was just too intriguing to pass up," Mayer wrote on Instagram. "I love the opportunity to help cover for two of my friends at the same time."
Two weeks later, Sheeran asked his Detroit crowd if he could perform a cover of the city's rap icon Eminem. In the middle of singing "Lose Yourself," Eminem emerged from beneath the stage and joined in on the song. They continued their duets with Eminem's 2000 hit "Stan," which the duo performed together during the rapper's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year.
"I remember spraying my hair yellow and rapping Eminem in the school talent show when I was 11, insane to be able to bring him out to my show in Detroit," Sheeran reminisced on Instagram. "Really a moment I will never forget, a real career and life highlight."
Sheeran continued the trend of bringing out a performer from their hometown with Macklemore at Lumen Field in Seattle. Sheeran caught up with Macklemore that day — as he told the crowd, they've been friends for 10 years — and invited him to perform alongside him that night."
The duo, who performed together back in 2014 at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, sang Macklemore's hits "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us."
Opening For John Mayer At The Wiltern
After opening for Sheeran at Gillette Stadium, John Mayer called on his friend to repay the favor to support a good cause at LA's The Wiltern on Sept. 19. The show benefitted the Heart and Armor Foundation, which supports the health of veterans of war.
Sheeran kicked off the evening with seven songs, including "Castle on the Hill," "Bad Habits," "Shivers," and "Shape of You." He later joined Mayer on stage to duet on 2006's Continuum fan favorite, "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room," and a cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin."
Following the duets, the two hugged and Sheeran told the crowd, "I just said to John, 'I feel like I'm going to watch that on YouTube for the rest of my life.' That was so special."
Releasing His First Album On His Own Label
As personal as Subtract was for Sheeran, Autumn Variations is truly his very own. It marks his first album released on his own label, Gingerbread Man Records.
Like he did on Subtract, Sheeran teamed up with The National's Aaron Dessner to create Autumn Variations, which he released on Sept. 29. Inspired by the composer Sir Edward Elgar — who composed Enigma Variations, where each of the 14 compositions were about a different one of his friends — Sheeran wanted to do the same about his own pals. In the fall of 2021, Sheeran and Dessner started working on music together, which Sheeran said in a statement "captured the feeling of autumn so wonderfully."
"When I went through a difficult time at the start of last year, writing songs helped me understand my feelings and come to terms with what was going on, and when I learned about my friends' different situations, I wrote songs, some from their perspectives, some from mine, to capture how they and I viewed the world at that time," he added. "There were highs of falling in love and new friendships among lows of heartbreak, depression, loneliness and confusion."
By going through his own record label, Autumn Variations will mark the first studio album that Sheeran will own the copyrights to. With ownership of his work, Sheeran has more freedom to release whatever he wants and however he wants to — and not worry about industry pressures.
As Sheeran revealed in an "Ask Me Anything" session on his Instagram stories on the eve of Autumn Variations' release, he has no expectations for the album to perform as well commercially as his past releases. The past year reminded him why he originally wanted to become an artist: to be able to release music that he wants out there.
"I haven't released an album independently since I was 19," Sheeran said. "I'm super excited to just put an album out for the sake of putting an album out and not having any sort of commercial pressures around that. And yeah, no singles, no videos and I hope you love it. It's meant to just feel like a warm hug."