Sheeran pushed “Castle on the Hill” forward with a vigorously strummed, double-time guitar riff and his urgent, wistful lyrics about teenage memories – listening to Elton John, rolling cigarettes, drinking cheap booze. The bassist played buoyantly and the pianist added sparse melodies. When the band arrived at the song’s hook, the drummer bashed his cymbal on every beat.
Sheeran’s two backing vocalists were especially effective. Their soft “oohs” swelled grandly during the lean, driving verses. And they occasionally joined their boss to harmonize on a single phrase, adding resonance to somber lines.
“Castle on the Hill” appeared on Sheehan’s ÷ album last month. Sheeran co-wrote the track with Benny Blanco, who also has credits on inescapable hits like Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”
Sheeran announced “Castle on the Hill” as the second ÷ single last week. It’s already at Number 28 on Billboard’s Adult Pop Songs chart. Meanwhile, ÷‘s first single, “Shape of You,” has been at Number One on the Hot 100 for 12 consecutive weeks.