When you think of pop stars who are described with admiration or dislike as “calculated,” Taylor Swift is probably the first name that comes to mind. It could be Beyonce too. But let’s not lose sight of global superstar Ed Sheeran, who has written many hit songs, too, who filed a lawsuit to (albeit jokingly) dethrone Lennon/McCartney in the movie. Yesterday.
This is an artist who is on the verge of releasing the final installment of his long planned series of five math-themed albums, which began with his debut album in 2011. + (Plus) then 2014s x (To hit), 2017s ÷ (Divide), 2021s = (equal) and this week’s – (sticker). So, yes, the man is literally calculated.
32-year-old Sheeran tends to exude a normal air of indifference; He’s charming, smiling and seems like someone you’d want to have a beer at the bar he owns in London. But as we learned in Sum of AllPremiering on Disney+ today, the four-part documentary series about Sheeran always planned to be a star, even when every record executive didn’t count on her and was meticulous in every aspect of her career. The nuances of her unlikely path to superstardom are mercifully inspired here – nothing can be more frustrating than reading a Wikipedia-like summary of a major pop star’s rise to fame – and we quickly learn that she’s surprisingly confident and confident on stage. and closed. You can say calculated.
This probably sounds like Sum of All It’s a stereotypical underdog story about a stuttering, beatboxing Englishman who took over the music world with a guitar and a loop pedal – and if that’s the case, it would be a complete bore that doesn’t deserve to be beat. However, what makes this interesting and ultimately watchable is that it’s a documentary series about the complete unraveling of a controlling, dominating pop star.
It was originally conceived as a documentary about the making of her fifth album. stickerComing this Friday, Sum of All takes on Sheeran after a turbulent period in his personal life. In early 2022, his wife, Cherry Seaborn, was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with their second daughter; Involved in a plagiarism case on “Shape of You” (which eventually won); and tragically, his best friend Jamal Edwards died that February at the age of 31 after suffering from a heart rhythm disorder caused by cocaine use.
Edwards’ death is approaching The Sum of All. Sometimes it feels like a story about Sheeran as well as about him. We see the musician visiting a mural of his deceased friend, dining at his favorite restaurant, filming a music video at Stamford Bridge for a tribute song, embracing Edwards’ family at a memorial service on the anniversary of his death, and contemplating how grieving he is. forced him to grow up. We also see Sheeran crying – a lot. At one point, Seaborn mentions that she had never seen her husband cry on stage before, and it was extremely rare to see him cry. But not in this document – in a crucial scene, we see her burst into tears as she performs a song she wrote about Edwards at an intimate concert at Union Chapel in London. When asked a few days later, Sheeran reprimands himself: “I was embarrassed because… my job is to be an entertainer and I didn’t feel like an entertainer that night. I just felt like a man.”
Not just because he was embarrassed, but as his wife pointed out, he had devoted himself to his work and shot 14 music videos in a row for 14 years. sticker instead of taking the time to process your grief. Seaborn’s insight and involvement in this series is crucial, and also extremely rare and unexpected. He and Sheeran have kept a very low profile as a couple throughout their entire relationship – he describes their marriage as “the greatest thing in my life that anyone has really known”. Apparently, that was the impetus for this documentary as well: Seaborn says he wonders what mark he will leave on the world after being diagnosed with cancer and facing his own mortality.
“I’ve been telling Ed I would never agree to do something like this before—never, never, but it’s got me thinking all year about how people will perceive me if I die?” says. “What will I leave behind?”
Sheeran says she’s wondering the same thing: “He wants to tell people, ‘I’m not just this music machine.’ I’m not just this robot that’s supposed to be number one.’”
To this end, the doctor manages to allow us to see Sheeran in moments he calls embarrassing but actually completely humanizing; when he “fails” at his job as a human instead of an entertainer. She doesn’t seem all that happy or comfortable, though, and she’s torn between being proud of herself for writing songs about her deepest, darkest thoughts. sticker and worrying about them connecting with a huge fan base more accustomed to churning out beloved ballads like “Perfect” or radio-friendly bops like “Shape of You.”
As she explained, after the life-changing events of early 2022, her album took a rather bleak turn. At first, he says he doesn’t care if people like the end result, but later contradicts himself by pointing out that his career as a professional, touring musician depends entirely on whether people like it or not. He cannot pursue another “Shape of You” or another Divide Tour that he describes as the “high” of his career. (The 2017-19 run set the records as the highest-grossing concert tour ever.) And he’s probably right—it won’t be number one forever (though he still seems to be trying, whether he admits it or not; you don’t want a big record, though. Don’t include hitmakers like Max Martin or dance-great Fred Again).
I mean, maybe Sheeran really doesn’t care how good he is. sticker He will do it because his wife, two daughters, and idyllic home in Suffolk will resurrect him against any commercial or critical disappointment. Or maybe it’s part of his big calculus that he’s trying to convince us that he’s more than just a “music machine” in his life.
The second line of thought is the far more cynical one—and savvy viewers will point out that the timing of this documentary series auspiciously coincides with another high-profile lawsuit filed against him (this time, he’s been accused of defrauding Marvin Gaye). There are so many things that make him extremely cute. However, no matter how sarcastic you choose to be, Sum of All she manages to pack a surprising emotional punch as she watches a superstar overcome love, loss, and loneliness—in other words, being “just a man” for once.