Ed Sheeran announced his fifth studio album, “-,” will drop May 5, detailing his personal journey through “fear, depression and anxiety.” Pronounced “subtract,” the acoustic album will conclude his mathematical album era, which began over a decade ago with “+.”
The album was produced and written with Aaron Dessner of the National and follows his latest release “F64,” which dropped Jan. 19 and memorialized his friend and SBTV founder Jamal Edwards, who died last year at 31.
“I had been working on ‘Subtract’ for a decade, trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what I thought it should be,” Sheeran said in a statement. “Then at the start of 2022, a series of events changed my life, my mental health.”
Sheeran said writing the album helped him cope with his pregnant wife’s health struggles, Edwards’ death and defending his artistic integrity in court: “I wrote without thought of what the songs would be, I just wrote whatever tumbled out.”
The Grammy-winning artist’s previous studio album “=” dropped Oct. 29, 2021, featuring hits “Shivers,” “Bad Habits” and “2Step.” His Camila Cabello collaboration “Bam Bam,” released March 4, 2022, was nominated for pop duo at the 2023 Grammys. He is currently on his worldwide Mathematics Tour, which comes to the U.S. in May.
“For the first time I’m not trying to craft an album people will like, I’m merely putting something out that’s honest and true to where I am in my adult life,” Sheeran said.
See Sheeran’s full message about “-” below.
I had been working on Subtract for a decade, trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what I thought it should be. Then at the start of 2022, a series of events changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art.
Writing songs is my therapy. It helps me make sense of my feelings. I wrote without thought of what the songs would be, I just wrote whatever tumbled out. And in just over a week, I replaced a decade’s worth of work with my deepest darkest thoughts.
Within the space of a month, my pregnant wife got told she had a tumour, with no route to treatment until after the birth. My best friend Jamal, a brother to me, died suddenly and I found myself standing in court defending my integrity and career as a songwriter. I was spiralling through fear, depression and anxiety. I felt like I was drowning, head below the surface, looking up but not being able to break through for air.
As an artist I didn’t feel like I could credibly put a body of work into the world that didn’t accurately represent where I am and how I need to express myself at this point in my life. This album is purely that. It’s opening the trapdoor into my soul. For the first time I’m not trying to craft an album people will like, I’m merely putting something out that’s honest and true to where I am in my adult life.
This is last February’s diary entry and my way of making sense of it. This is Subtract.