"Divide" opens with the kind of high-energy burst pop music is generally dependent on. "Eraser" packs an instrumental punch, but the lyrics leave the song adrift, a common trap Ed Sheeran finds himself in on his third effort. He experiments with different styles, but always returns to the same lyrical malaise about love and lack of love and searching for love. The Album creates a mixed bag, always straddling the line between chivalry and machisimo gone too far.

About the album

Before "Divide," Sheeran took a year hiatus from social media and as far as people knew, music.

The album finally came to light as 2016 turned to 2017. The official release came on March 3, 2017, when the two lead singles coming out two months earlier.

Unsurprisingly, Sheeran's first album since "x" broke all sorts of sale records and quickly became one of the most popular albums of the year. If "+" was the shy but assured introduction and "x" was the magnum opus, it's hard to say where "Divide" actually falls along the spectrum of the English singer's odd career.

A record sure to 'Divide'

"Divide" is a definition of a mixed bag. For every moment of intriguing instrumentation there's a hollow lyric that rings false. For every emotional beat, there is a sudden shift in tone a song later. Sheeran seems interested in doing it all, at the expense of doing nothing wholeheartedly.

"Shape of You" is the perfect example of this. Sheeran dives into rapper mode, as he often does for other people's tracks, weaving a story that's just catchy enough to hit the ear. But as soon as the listener invests in the premise, it dies with one of the most disappointing bridges a pop song can provide: stagnant repetition.

The momentum of the song leads nowhere.

"Castle on the Hill" gets less hype among the two singles, but it provides a lot more depth. The story seems to come from a much more earnest place, a place "Divide" doesn't explore often while stuck in its themes of love and lust. Sheeran shows off his range on the single and the bridge actually contributes to the story, a la Lukas Graham's "7 Years."

The album is at its best when Sheeran is experimenting with different styles.

"Galway Girl" takes on the cadence of an Irish jig, quick and succinct, while "Barcelona" and "Bibia Be Ye Ye" have an uptempo beat, with the former being more sensible than the latter. The last song on the deluxe version of "Divide," "Save Myself," sounds like the climax of a musical, while the preceding song, "Nancy Mulligan," sounds like a tale straight from biblical times.

Sheeran in his feelings

The album is at its worst, however, when Sheeran becomes more invested in his own emotions than in the message he tries to convey; that happens a lot.

"Perfect" takes on the same tone as "Thinking Out Loud," but Sheeran seems overly focused on the superficial. "Happier" is a slow and emotional song about seeing an ex enjoying a new relationship, but the next song, "New Man," seems to approach the same subject matter in a much more creepy way.

"Hearts Don't Break Around Here" is another nondescript breakup song, while "What Do I Know" earnestly makes you wonder if Sheeran knows what he's trying to do with the album.

Final thoughts

There are rumors going around that Sheeran may actually be on the verge of a retirement from music. While that remains unconfirmed, it begs the question as to what the legacy of "Divide" will be. Will it be remembered for the chances the singer took and how little help he needed to throw together a complete effort? Or will it be remembered as an album where Sheeran couldn't quite find himself through his music, as he seemingly intended to do?

Best Song: "Galway Girl" — a study abroad experience in Ireland makes the song stand out from a personal standpoint, but it also has a great vibe to it.

Worst Song: "Hearts Don't Break Around Here" — the hardest track to connect to on the album.

Rating: B