The Bottom Line
Even though it has been a year and a half since its original UK release and it has been lauded with a prestigious Ivor Novello Award as well as Grammy Award nomination for Song of the Year, "The A Team" still sounds both gentle and powerful while delivering an unrelentingly dark, cautionary tale. Regardless of the future direction of 21 year old Ed Sheeran's musical career, this song is a classic that will be remembered for many years to come.
- Evocative, cinematic lyrics
- Powerful yet subtle production
- Gentle vocals
- No negatives here
- Written by Ed Sheeran
- Produced by Jake Gosling
- Released February 2012 by Atlantic Records
Guide Review - Ed Sheeran - "The A Team"
As an 18 year old Ed Sheeran performed a gig at a homeless shelter. It was there that he heard sometimes hard to believe stories about difficulties faced by residents. The song "The A Team" was born out of that experience. He has mentioned in interviews that he tried to make the song sound somewhat upbeat and not give away all of its dark content immediately. The title of the song relates to what are termed "class A" drugs in the UK, those that carry the most strict punishments for misuse and possession. Among the class A drugs are crack cocaine and heroin. "She's in the class A team" is a subtle, lyrical way of defining the song's protagonist as a drug addict.
The dark tale of a woman's downfall with a face that seems to be "crumbling like pastries" is beautifully delivered with strummed guitar, Ed Sheeran's intimate vocals, and controlled use of backing strings. "The A Team" is not only a breakthrough for Ed Sheeran but also for young producer Jake Gosling who is spot on here. The recording is haunted by an overall feel of sadness, but the unflagging tempo prevents the listener from being dragged down into an abyss.
"The A Team" was an instant success in the UK debuting at #3 on the pop singles chart, but it has been more of a dark horse in the US. However, on these shores it has slowly grown into a sizable hit lying just outside the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. Its fortunes are likely to grow even more after receiving a Grammy Award nomination for Song of the Year. The words of Ed Sheeran on "The A Team" are highly visual conjuring up mental images that match the words of decay and dissolution brought about by the ravages of drug addiction. Listen closely and you are nearly guaranteed to be moved.