Ed Sheeran hasn’t been around long, but he’s already feeling what it’s like to have a short cycle of success.
His new album, “No.6 Collaborations Project,” debuted at number 1 yesterday, but selling not as well, at all, as his previous album, “Divide.”
And No. 6 is star studded, with collaborators like Khalid, Cardi B, Justin Bieber, Camilla Cabello, Eminem, 50 Cent, Bruno Mars, and Chris Stapleton among others.
But the new album is down 62 percent in its opening week sales from “Divide,” released in March 2017. “No. 6” first week sales were a total 171,000 compared with “Divide”‘s 451,000.
In pure CD and download sales, “No. 6” had just 75,000. “Divide” did 322,000.
The drop is much worse in the UK, where Sheeran sold 672,000 copies of “Divide” in its first week. “No. 6” has sold just 125K. That’s a decrease of 81.4%. Where did everyone go?
Sheeran is just 28, it’s a little early to declare him “over.” But changing tastes, the fickle audience, so many platforms with which to reach the audience– all of that hurts.
Plus, “Divide” had very sharp, delineated hits like “Shape of You,” “Perfect,” and “Castle on the Hill,” and “Galway Girl.” (Of course, “Shape of You” turned out be a cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs.”) The new album has hit singles because of all the guest stars, but it may be a case of more is more, too many stars masking the songs’ individuality. It will take time to absorb the 15 tracks. Many of them may not find a foothold for months.
Sheeran is also doing a swell job right now co-starring in the hit Beatles movie, “Yesterday.” I thought that might help, but apparently not.
Still, 171K is nothing to be ashamed of, and “No. 6” has weeks to percolate. But “Divide” may turn out to be Sheeran’s high water mark even ten years from now. Sales are not what they used to be in this record business. Just ask Madonna.