The common perception of Ed Sheeran views him as an acoustic pop artist that makes hit love songs. While it is true that many of Ed Sheeran’s most successful songs are folk-pop, acoustic, or ballad love songs, Sheeran actually dives into many different genres in his collection of music. Sheeran also borrows elements of music from hip hop, rap, and rock within his discography. As the years went on, Sheeran seemed to evolve musically and incorporate more and more styles of music. His first studio album, + , remained mostly acoustic in terms of the actual music and sound. However, lyrically and rhymically, he balanced between fast beats and rap with slower simple beats. In his second studio album, X , he stayed true to his roots with the acoustic, folk pop vibe, but added more elements to it. Stronger beats, more complex tunes, and deeper lyrics made their way into this album. Moving onto his album Divide, in which the song “What Do I Know” is released, Sheeran continued with his growth and evolution. When discussing this album, Sheeran notes that the reasoning behind the title “Divide” is to depict the two different styles on the album. While about half of the album sticks to his style of acoustic love songs, the other half dive deeper into other genres. Elements of dance, rock, soul, and even other country cultures are present in these songs. 


Looking at his collection of music overall, Ed Sheeran can be defined as a Pop artist, but more specifically an Acoustic Pop or Folk Pop artist. The song, “What Do I Know” shares elements of all of these genres. Recognizing the difference between Pop and Acoustic/Fok Pop is extremely important when looking at an artist like Ed Sheeran. Ed Sheeran has made his living off of his acoustic “vibe,” for lack of better word. He is unique because of his one-man-show act. He makes himself stand out in a world filled with generic pop artists because of his immense skill in making acoustic and folk sound more interesting. He does so by creating interesting melodies, incorporating almost “rap” lyrics and rhythms, and blending harmonies and acoustic instruments all on his own. SoundLive defines acoustic pop as “the catchy, memorable melodies of pop music with instruments that create sounds naturally, without the use of amplifiers or electric magnification using instruments such as acoustic guitar.” This definition seems to apply to Ed Sheeran perfectly, especially with the song “What Do I Know?” 


More specifically, “What Do I Know?” only used an acoustic guitar, a slight drum beat, and Ed Sheeran’s voice. Despite just these three things, Sheeran is able to create a memorable, catchy, and meaningful song. The simplicity and authenticity of the acoustic pop genre allows for the lyrics to tell the story. In this song particularly, the music almost acts as a background for Sheeran’s message. In other words, the acoustic genre of this song allows people to really listen to what Sheeran is singing/saying. When listening to this song, you are focusing more on the lyrics than the music. This is what makes the acoustic and folk pop genres “authentic.” The musicians are focusing more on the story they are telling rather than focusing on making a flashy, loud, complex beat or melody. When looking at the Pop genre, it has usually been identified “as the music and musical styles that are accessible to the broadest audience.” In other words, the Pop genre consists of the music that sells the most, and becomes the most popular. This leads to the structure of a pop song, which consists of a verses and a repeated chorus. This leads to broad awareness and for listeners to easily sing along. Ed Sheeran definitely captures this aspect of Pop music as he sings his verses, but adds a very catchy, easy to learn chorus in “What Do I Know?” However, the twist is that he keeps it acoustic and folk-esque, creating a more authentic vibe, allowing the listener to really focus on the message and lyrics of the song.