Ed Sheeran – ‘You Need Me EP’

A prime example of brilliant songwriting transcending glimmering production

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Harmonizing vocal lines, piano, bass, strings, percussion and guitar are all instruments commonly heard on most pop radio records in the 21st century.

Nevertheless, Ed Sheeran’s “You Need Me EP” employs only his soulful vocals and a three-quarter size Martin acoustic electric guitar. It was released in 2009 as part of an onslaught of musical releases in efforts to attract the interest of a potential record label.  The bare bones instrumentation on the EP serves as a platter, offering the five tracks at the most vulnerable level possible.

Without the benefit of additional instrumentation to cover up any mistakes, Sheeran’s blend of folk, singer-songwriter and pop melodies are out in the open for the listener to hear unfiltered.

“You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” serves as the EP’s opening song, and it is the boldest song of them all. The song has now become a fan favorite due to its rerecording for his debut album “Plus” and its mixture of rapped vocals, continuously updated lyrics and its message of self-righteousness.

The song showcases Sheeran’s ability to craft clever and catchy lyrical phrases and the continuous refrain of the words, “You need me man, I don’t need you” could make any person instantaneously more self-confident. However, the mood of the EP drastically changes with the next track.

“So” is one of the most tender and somber tracks in this discography. It boasts lines about post-breakup depression, not being able to move on and living in a hollow shell described as a new relationship.

The line, “I saw your eyes, and I saw Alice staring back at me” brings Sheeran’s depression and obsession to the forefront of the track. It is a showing example of the lingering feelings that remain after a long and meaningful relationship has ended.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it can also be interpreted as rather creepy.

“Be Like You,” the EP’s middle offering, is a track of admiration for one’s partner, but it takes an odd turn. The line, “I would squeeze into your dress, so I could feel like you” has the listener imagining an almost Caitlyn Jenner-like situation. The song is an ironic take on infatuation, but the EP soon takes a turn back into more traditional Sheeran song themes.

“The City” is the second song from the EP to be a heavy hitter on Sheeran’s 2011 debut album, “Plus.” It tells the story of Sheeran first coming to London as a teenager to pursue a career in music and how the city can be a magical place for a young adult. The song is a positive and cheerful one, but the EP does not end in such a fashion.

“Sunburn” is arguably the most haunting and captivating song of the entire project.

Sheeran would be described in the mainstream world as being a “ginger,” or a person who has red hair and freckles (and prone to sunburns). Sheeran takes this stereotype and instead applies it to love.

The song describes someone leaving your life and leaving a scar on your heart as being like a sunburn, which is something that never really goes away. This concept, accompanied by a lightly picked guitar line leaves the listener with tears forming in their eyes and money quickly leaving their wallets in order to purchase more of Sheeran’s music.

It isn’t as polished as his other records. It doesn’t have as many hit singles as his other works. It wasn’t made recently, but Ed Sheeran’s “You Need Me EP” is a masterwork of natural songwriting.

I highly recommend you download it, stream it, purchase it, spin it or listen in whatever other way you consume your music. It is a listening experience that you won’t regret.