Ed Sheeran’s X album shows no sign of losing momentum, months after being nominated for Grammys and almost a year after its debut. Fifth single Photograph, co-written with Snow Patrol band member Johnny McDaid, is another typically tender track from the loveable ginger. It’s no wonder that even alone on his guitar, his songs can captivate whole arenas and stadiums.
This tearjerker starts off with the usual acoustic guitar pluckings. Just as the chord progression sounds like another four chord song, it fortunately changes to something else. That tender voice just begs listeners to linger on his every word, as Sheeran tries to keep his past love locked away in something as tangible as a photograph, kept in the pocket of his ex’s ripped pair of jeans.
Sheeran initially sounds like he believes that things should get easier and he should move on, as if he were throwing away things from the past. The soothing ‘hoooo’s in the pre-chorus give way to his clear yet vulnerable falsetto, as Sheeran hopes that his love would eventually come home. Like a good story, Sheeran’s ‘no, no’ betray his doubt that he can get over his loss.
Producers Jeff Bhasker and Emile Haynie worked with acts such as fun. and Lana Del Rey respectively, so their arrangement on Photograph is of course infused with those artists’ dramatic gravitas. The track skilfully grows in volume and tension as the orchestra, organs, drums and other instruments come into the mix, yet without overwhelming Sheeran and turning the track into an overblown, soppy power ballad. As a result, it’s an earnest, perfectly timed and poised pop ballad that should be another hit for Sheeran. It would’ve soured even more with a stronger bridge and recalls a bit of Snow Patrol’s own Chasing Cars, but it’s certainly more original than the Let’s Get It On-sampling Thinking out Loud.