Taylor Swift bestie and duet partner, writer of songs for One Direction, management client of Sir Elton John, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran comes into his own on his sophomore album “x” — pronounced “multiply.”
If his slow-burning hit 2011 debut “+” — pronounced “plus” — helped break Sheeran thanks to “The A Team,” a hushed lament about a drug-addled prostitute, “x” will be remembered for the redhead letting loose his inner soulman and MC. It works thanks to his own keening croon and assistance from a wide spectrum of producers known for their work with rock and hip-hop artists, including Rick Rubin and Pharrell.
While many of the spare acoustic tracks creep up on you with their tunefulness a la “The A Team” — including burbling opener “One” and the haunting “Photograph” — others take charge right out of the gate.
“Sing” has a danceable snap similar to producer Pharrell’s own “Happy.” “Bloodstream” is one of several tracks to include an irresistible hum and simultaneous sense of ease and intensity. But “Don’t,” a scathing, cuss-laden takedown of a paramour who betrayed Sheeran while they were staying in the same hotel is his masterstroke, combining a singer-songwriter’s eye with a contemporary groove for lacerating-but-danceable results. (Out now)
Ed Sheeran plays the Xfinity Center Sept. 9.