Ed Sheeran has announced his fifth studio album, = (pronounced equals), to be released on 29 October.
Sheeran had trailed the album with an image of a chrysalis, with butterflies featuring on the album cover itself. Speaking on Instagram Live while on holiday with his family, he said the imagery represents “new life – I’ve been through, over the last four years, different experiences in life, including getting married, having a kid, losing a friend”.
He performed a new song during the live stream, Visiting Hours, which has also been released alongside the announcement.
The album features 14 songs, which Sheeran said he cut down from a much longer list in a “painstaking process. They all have their place – I love it, I think it’s the best piece of work I’ve done, it’s cohesive and it feels great,” he said.
In July, lead single Bad Habits became his 10th UK No 1 hit, and has spent the last seven weeks at No 1. The next single from = will be released on 10 September.
In a written statement alongside the album, Sheeran said = is “a coming of age record. I’ve never been more proud of a body of work”.
After releasing his third album, 2017’s ÷, Sheeran embarked on a world tour that lasted two and a half years and became the highest-grossing and most-attended tour of all time, generating £567m ($776m) from 260 concerts and 8.5m tickets sold.
During the tour he completed a collaborative album with stars including Justin Bieber, Eminem and Stormzy, No 6 Collaborations Project, released in 2019. Like all of his studio albums it reached No 1 in the UK. It also spawned five UK Top 5 singles, three of them reaching No 1.
His biggest album success remains 2014’s x, which is the 49th biggest-selling album ever in the UK – ahead of the likes of Paul Simon’s Graceland and The Sound of Music soundtrack.
÷ was nevertheless an enormous hit, and produced his most successful song to date: Shape of You, the most-streamed song in history. Divide was also the third fastest-selling album ever in the UK, behind Adele’s 25 and Oasis’s Be Here Now, selling 672,000 copies in its first week.
Sheeran is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his debut album + by playing it in full at a concert at the relatively intimate venue, London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire, on 2 September. Fans had to apply for tickets via a ballot system, which is now closed.
In September 2020, Sheeran announced the birth of his first child, Lyra Antarctica Seaborn Sheeran, with wife Cherry Seaborn, who he married in 2019.