Autumnal days are slowly creeping upon us again; red and golden leaves are settling on the ground, and the darkness hours and chilling cold are closing in. The rain has been relentless recently and sometimes this feels like pathetic fallacy— reflecting the mixed emotions of being at a great university in a beautiful setting with stress of assignments, flu, and missing friends away this semester. Despite this, autumn is my favourite season, a magical period for appreciating the little, cosy things. The sound of the season, for me at the moment, is Ed Sheeran’s new album ‘Autumn Variations’, released by his own record label. It is different from some of his other poppier songs– think Jack Johnson chillness and the perfect background music for a deep chat cradling a chai latte in a candlelit kitchen.
This album, like the rest of his before, reached number one in the UK. Somehow, he seems to know exactly what people need, and when. He can feel like a therapist that hits the nail on the head of your exact feelings and emotions. Maybe it’s something he needed too; the songs are personal. He was inspired to write the album by Elgar’s Enigma Variations, who wrote 14 songs based on different friends; Sheeran did a similar thing, with various songs representing different moments his own friends went through. On announcing the album this year, he said “last autumn, I found that my friends and I were going through so many life changes. After the heat of the summer, everything either calmed, settled, fell apart, came to a head or imploded”. Magical is about falling in love, American Town is about a relationship, whilst When Will I Be Alright and Amazing have more sombre tones, capturing the hopelessness that can hit us all sometimes.
Why is thеre this empty feelin’?
Losing hope and all reason
When will I be alright?
~ When will I be alright
Yeah, wish I could feel amazing
But this is all that I can feel today
Spring discusses feelings of inadequacy and failure but remains optimistic, advocating resilience until spring, which represents hope and light. Some lyrics hit uncomfortably close to home, especially as a student…
I said I’d do a sober month
I failed, but tried and wrote this drunk
In overwhelming silence
The smell of last night’s takeaway
Just tells me I’m a mess
But the song still feels hopeful, just like England, a song that makes me feel the most patriotic I ever have.
I find this country of mine get some bad reputation
Of being cold and grey
These lyrics are perhaps more relevant to Scotland, given the recent weather where a month’s worth of rain fell in one day. Yet Sheeran manages to bring out the little things that should be appreciated; ‘the air bites’, ‘Fairy lights on a building that’s supplying us power from the sea’, ‘the flame of sunrise cut in half by the sky’.
Ed Sheeran believes the song people will remember him by won’t be ‘Shape of You’, one of his most streamed pop songs. Instead, he thought it would be ‘Perfect’, a song that screams everything beautifully cosy and romantic. In some ways, this song sums up him as a performer — this album is comfort music, like comfort food. Sheeran even released bonus tracks of each of the 14 songs sung in a fan’s living room. Sometimes the songs are uncomfortable to listen to — some are too familiar in their themes, but that is the magic of the music and lyrics he creates.
Proceeds from ‘Autumnal Variations’ partially go towards Save The Music Foundation. The organisation aims to fulfil students’ potential through music. Sheeran has already donated guitars to several schools in LA and NYC. Many schools have faced budget cuts, and the arts are rarely favoured. Many school music departments have little funding, some not even enough to continue running as a study option. A £6.6 million budget cut to the arts body Creative Scotland was dropped after heavy campaigning however it was reintroduced in the autumn budget. Creative Scotland supports 120 organisations, providing many opportunities in the arts and culture sector over Scotland. Cuts could mean these opportunities might have to be reduced by 50%.
Music is a big part of our lives; think of the hours spent listening to Spotify in the library to get through some dreadful assignment. Research has shown that music can reduce anxiety, improve wellbeing, increase confidence, help child development, and act as an outlet and form of expression. Music is part of everyday life; background music in a café, friends playing guitars, local bands. Consider the impact the arts have on an individual. Semesters can be tough but music can be a coping mechanism. Listen to the album, or don’t. Music is subjective but it should be there for everyone when it’s needed.
Take a walk and feel like everything will be fine
It’s a new day and this is England Scotland