Ed Sheeran Will Explore Grief on ‘Subtract’ Single ‘Eyes Closed’: ‘I Guess Music Helps Heal’
On his wedding-ready single “Perfect,” Ed Sheeran reminisced about dancing in the dark with his true love. That was on Divide, his third studio album following a long-planned succession of mathematics-themed titles. As the singer approaches the fifth and final installment, Subtract, out May 5, he is previewing the record with a snippet that finds him once again dancing in the dark, but under different circumstances.
“So I’m dancing with my eyes closed/Cause everywhere I look I still see you,” Sheeran sings on “Eyes Closed,” the album’s first single set for release on March 24. “Time is moving so slow/And I don’t know what else that I can do/So I keep dancing with my eyes closed.”
The snippet video sees the British musician sitting at his piano, playing the instrument with one hand before really diving into the chorus.
“This song is about losing someone, feeling like every time you go out and you expect to just bump into them, and every thing just reminds you of them and things you did together,” Sheeran shared in a recent statement. Last year, the singer’s best friend Jamal Edwards died of a heart attack at age 31.
“You sorta have to take yourself out of reality sometimes to numb the pain of loss, but certain things just bring you right back into it,” he added. “Blue was Jamal’s colour, but now is all I feel. And I guess music helps heal, so I’m dancing with my eyes closed to try get through it.”
When Sheeran began working on Subtract a decade ago, he said envisioned it as “the perfect acoustic album.” That was his style from early on in his career, just his voice, some stripped-back instrumentals, and a loop pedal when he was on stage.
Based on what he’s shared with “Eyes Closed,” Subtract seems to be less of a return to form topically but more so sonically. The National’s Aaron Dessner produced the album after Sheeran scrapped the foundation he built over the course of ten years in favor of a stronger reflection of where he currently stands as an artist. He has stated that the project will explore his spirals through fear, depression, anxiety, grief, and more.
“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,” Sheeran explained in a statement. “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.”